How Many Types of Rice Are There (and Which Is Best for Health)?
Humans have been cultivating rice for thousands of years. And according to the Rice Association, there are over 40,000 varieties today! If you’re wanting to eat better and wondering what rice is the healthiest, it might seem like your work is cut out for you. Where do you even start?
Thankfully, you don’t need to know every rice type to make a decision. Rather than asking “how many types of rice are there?” it’s best to look at what’s available in your area.
We’ll cover the most common types you can find at the grocery store and how they’re different. You’ll also learn the health differences in white vs brown rice.
Long Grain vs Short Grain Rice
Maybe you’ve seen rice described based on the grain length. Is long or short grain better? Is there a nutritional difference?
There are actually three types of rice lengths:
- Short-grain rice
- Medium-grain rice
- Long-grain rice
The differences mostly come down to texture and how the grain cooks. Short-grain rice contains more starch than medium- or long-grain rice. Short varieties tend to be stickier and softer when cooked, while longer grains are drier, fluffier, and don’t stick as well.
Now, let’s look at the different varieties of rice you can choose from.
White Rice vs Brown Rice
The two most common rice colors are white and brown, and the color difference has to do with the grain structure.
A rice grain has four parts:
The hull is a hard outer shell on the rice grain. You cannot each the hull, so it’s removed on all types of rice.
The bran is underneath the hull. It might be tan, black, or red in color. Some whole-grain rice contains the bran, but it’s often removed during processing.
The germ is under the hull, and it’s rich in nutrients. According to a study in the journal National Product Research, rice germ contains:
- Essential amino acids
- Fatty acids
- B vitamins and vitamin E
- Iron and magnesium
Besides nutrients, the germ is what gives brown rice its color.
If you remove the bran and germ, you’re left with the endosperm. This is how white rice is produced.
So, brown rice has more of the rice grain intact. When everything but the endosperm is gone, you get white rice, the most common type of rice.
Different Kinds of White Rice
Many of the types of rice we’ll mention next can be white or brown. It just depends on how they’re processed. White rice can be long, medium, or short grain.
Sticky rice is a common short-grain white rice in Asian dishes, especially in sushi.
Arborio rice is short Italian rice. It’s high in a starch called amylopectin, which gives the grain a soft texture. The grains are round and about ¼ inch in length. Most people use white arborio rice, but you can find brown varieties some places.
Arborio is one of the best rice types for risotto, a creamy Italian rice dish.
Basmati rice is long-grain white rice usually grown in India, Pakistan, and the Himalayas. It has a nutty flavor and is common as a curry side dish or pilaf base.
Forbidden Black Rice
Forbidden rice sounds ominous, but it’s not as off-limits as it sounds. The story behind it is interesting, though. According to the Spruce Eats, the “forbidden” description comes from a Chinese Emporer who forbade anyone but himself from eating the rice.
Sometimes, forbidden rice is simply known as black rice. Either way, it’s flavor is nutty and it has a slight stickiness. Many Thai and Chinese dishes opt for forbidden black rice.
Bonus: it’s high in protein, iron, and the antioxidant anthocyanin.
Red Cargo Rice
Red cargo rice is long grain and still has its bran and germ intact, meaning a greater nutrient profile. Its colors include purple, maroon, and red shades.
You can get B vitamins, iron, calcium, and fiber from red cargo rice. It has a chewy texture and is sweeter than other types of rice.
Jasmine rice is long-grain white rice, although you can also buy it brown. It’s mostly grown in Thailand, South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
When you cook jasmine rice, it has a slight sweet flavor and a soft, moist texture. It’s also much stickier than long-grain rice from America.
You’ll often find jasmine rice in soups, stir-fries, and on the side of grilled dishes.
What Is the Healthiest Type of Rice?
When it comes to nutrient value, brown rice provides more health benefits. It contains the whole grain (as we mentioned above), unlike white rice, and may help:
- Lower cholesterol
- Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Promote a healthy body weight
If you eat a low-carb diet, you’ll want to limit both brown and white rice. Brown rice can also be higher in calories and fat than white rice, but the benefits generally outweigh that potential downside. White rice can also help complement healthy dishes that provide important nutrients from other foods.
Thankfully, you can order many different rice types without even leaving home. At Nature’s Ideal, we’ve got you covered for all of your healthy food needs. Order in bulk and save money without spending time at the grocery store.
Shop our Pasta and Rice section—with both brown and white rice varieties—today.