When it comes to rice, side dishes are front and center, as new findings published in Nutrition Today suggest that a serving of rice improves overall diet quality and reduces risk for many chronic conditions. The study found that rice reduced risk for obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.

New Research Shows Rice Eaters Have Better Diets and Reduced Health RisksBuilding a Scientific Consensus

Researchers analyzed data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) datasets. The research included available data on the diets of more than 25,000 children and adults. NHANES surveys are considered the most accurate representation of Americans’ eating patterns.  

Of the four age groups studied, nearly 3,000 participants reported eating rice. The results show that children and adults who ate rice had diets that contained higher amounts of several key nutrients such as folate and other B-vitamins, potassium, fiber and vitamin A. In addition, those who included rice in their diet had less total fat, saturated fat and added sugars, and more beans and fruit.  

Further, research shows that people who eat rice reduce the amount of added sugars in their diet by four teaspoons (16 grams) and reduce highly saturated solid fats by seven grams.

These findings reinforce previous published research of rice eaters using NHANES and additional government nutrition surveys to show that the diets of those who reported eating rice were more consistent with nutrition recommendations.  Rice eaters ate more vegetables and grains, less total fat and saturated fat and had more fiber and iron in their diets. Together, these studies strongly confirm that rice eaters have healthier diets and face less risk for chronic diseases.

Supporting Dietary Guidance

“As Americans are encouraged to cut saturated fat, sugar and sodium intake to improve their health, they can feel good about some easy switches that can have a positive impact on their overall health,” explains Julie Upton, MS, RD, a study author. “A serving of rice — brown or white — is a simple and enjoyable way individuals can have a better diet and reduced risk for disease. Rice is low in calories, nutrient-rich and is great-tasting.  It pairs well with other healthy foods like beans, vegetables and lean proteins making it easier to meet nutrition recommendations,” says Upton.

Improving Health Parameters

The researchers also looked at the overall health profiles of rice eaters, and learned that the 19- to 50-year-olds who ate rice were less likely to be overweight or obese, had a 34% reduced risk for high blood pressure, 27% reduced likelihood of having abdominal obesity and increased waist circumference and 21% reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.  No associations could be drawn for children ages two to 13; however, in children ages 14-18, body weight, waist circumference, triglycerides and diastolic blood pressure were lower (P G .05) among those who ate rice.

“This study shows that eating rice can improve overall diet and reduce risk for the major conditions that afflict more than half of all Americans — heart disease and Type II diabetes,” states Upton. “Rice is a practical solution to help consumers meet dietary guidance to eat more plant-based foods.”

Rice by the Numbers

U.S. national nutrition surveillance records show that rice eaters have healthier diets and less risk for chronic diseases compared to non-rice eaters. The researchers reported that rice eaters are:

  • 1/3 less likely to have high blood pressure;
  • 1/4 less likely to have a high waist circumference (often linked to obesity and diabetes risk);
  • 1/5 less likely to have metabolic syndrome.

Research shows U.S. rice consumption has increased steadily over the past 20 years, with current per capita consumption at 26 pounds per person.  Surveys show that rice is most frequently served as a side dish or one pot meal.

The research was supported by a grant from the USA Rice Federation.  The USA Rice Federation is the global advocate for the U.S. rice industry, conducting programs to inform consumers about domestically-grown rice. U.S. farmers produce an abundance of short, medium and long grain rice, as well as organic and specialty rices including jasmine, basmati, Arborio, red aromatic and black japonica, among others.  Farmers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas grow some 20 billion pounds of rice each year according to the highest quality standards.  Eighty five percent of the rice Americans consume is grown in the USA. Look for the U.S. rice industry’s “Grown in the U.S.” logo on packages of 100% domestically-grown rice.

For more information about the benefits of rice and recipes, visit www.usarice.com.


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