Healthy Alternatives to White Rice

For many home cooks, white rice is a go-to starch. It fills you up fast and acts as a blank canvas for spices, herbs, and delicious sauces.

However, in the process of making white rice, the rice seed is polished to remove the husk, bran, and germ in order to prevent spoilage and extend its storage life. Unfortunately, this polishing process also removes several important nutrients that are important to each person's health. Therefore the polished white rice grains are enriched with B1, B3, and iron, which are lost in the process.

Instead of choosing an enriched, highly processed product, why not try something new? Whole-grains are a big topic on, and recipes often suggest turning to many white-rice alternatives. Here is a guide to different varieties to try instead of the white variety, which has fewer nutrients.

Short-Grain Brown Rice: Similar in shape to your standard white rice, brown rice retains the layers of husk, bran, and germ. It takes longer to cook than the rice variety, but the payoff comes in nutrition rather than in time. A study by the Harvard School of Public health found that eating two or more servings a week of brown rice was associated with a lowered risk of diabetes. (Harvard School of Public Health) Try brown rice in a basic GRAB meal or with roasted vegetables. Brown rice has magnesium, which is lost in the processing of white rice.

Brown Basmati Rice: Though you may have often enjoyed white Basmati rice with Indian cuisine, it is also found in the brown variety. Basmati rice is grown in India and Pakistan, has a longer grain, and is very fragrant. Slightly lighter than short-grain brown rice, it retains that delicious nutty flavor, and works well in everything from stew to rice pudding. Tip: Some suggest rinsing the rice before cooking since it can be a very starchy grain.

Quinoa: This seed is an ancient source of protein, which the Incas considered sacred. Delicious in pilafs, salads, or with some vegetarian chili on top, quinoa has a unique texture that feels almost like a pop in your mouth. It has roughly 14 grams of protein per 100 grams of uncooked quinoa and contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it a very complete protein source. Before boiling, the saponins on the grains must be removed. Some varieties come pre-packaged with the saponins removed, but in many case you will have to do it yourself. Soaking the grains before use or running them under cool water will handle this easily. Try quinoa with mushrooms in this Sprouted Bean and Quinoa Salad with Crispy Shiitakes recipe.

Couscous: Made from durum wheat, couscous is a semolina pasta that is a staple of cuisines around the world, particularly in Northern Africa. In Morocco, couscous is served on Fridays after going to the Mosque. Traditionally, couscous is steamed three times, but modern preparations come par-boiled, allowing for quick cooking times. Try couscous with shrimp or ground turkey patties for a healthy and filling meal.

Do you cook with any of these white rice alternatives?

Photo Credit: Lindsay Hunt