Wild rice has been gaining in popularity over white and brown rice, and with good reason. This post will talk about the many health benefits of wild rice and provide some tips on how to cook wild rice.
When you see something like wild rice becoming wildly popular (pun intended), you can’t help but wonder if it’s merely the latest fad.
So, is wild rice healthy? It absolutely is! Wild rice is a nutrient-packed whole grain that has a rich, nutty flavor. It adapts well to most rice dishes, but eating wild rice can take some getting used.
In this post, I’ll talk about some of the health benefits of eating cooked wild rice. I’ll also tell you about the essential nutrients wild rice contains and give you some tips on cooking wild rice.
What Is Wild Rice?
Well, guess what?
Wild rice doesn’t belong to the rice family at all. It is actually a semi-aquatic grass that grows in shallow fresh water like lakes and streams. There are four different species of wild rice. The Zizania species is native to North America and grows in the Great Lakes area.
If you look on your supermarket shelves, wild rice is available as brown and black (dark color) kernels. This grain requires a fair bit of processing before it’s ready for human consumption. However, once processed, wild rice is nutrient-dense and has a richer flavor profile than ordinary cooking rice. It also has numerous health benefits, like most whole grains.
Wild Rice Nutrition Facts
What exactly makes wild rice healthy? Let me show you. Here’s a brief nutritional profile of wild rice. A 3.5-ounce or 100-gram serving of wild rice contains:
- Calories: 101 kcal
- Protein: 3.99 grams
- Fat: 0.34 grams
- Carbohydrates: 21.3 grams
- Dietary fiber: 1.8 grams
In comparison, white and brown rice contain 130 and 112 calories, respectively. So, wild rice is a great choice if you’re looking for a low calorie alternative that will help with weight loss.
Evidence based nutrition information shows that wild rice also contains an impressive amount of essential vitamins and minerals such as thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B12), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, folate, beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Although wild rice is generally considered safe, it can become contaminated with heavy metals or infected with toxic fungus. Spoiled or infected wild rice tends to have pink or purplish spots on the grains.
Benefits of Wild Rice
Now let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of wild rice in detail and how it protects against several diseases.
May boost heart health
Scientific evidence shows that compared to refined grains, whole grains like wild rice are healthier options. Eating whole grains is a heart healthy habit and is linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack. Studies show that healthy options like whole grains also reduce blood pressure and blood cholesterol and the buildup of plaque in arteries.
May aid digestion
Compared to white rice which has no fiber, brown rice and wild rice have 1.8 grams of dietary fiber in a 100-gram serving of cooked rice.
Fiber bulks up stool and softens it, reducing the risk of constipation. It also helps you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight by making you feel fuller.
Including enough fiber in your diet through healthy choices like wild rice can help lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower your risk of colorectal carcinoma.
Also, wild rice is gluten free, so it can ease digestive symptoms in people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
May regulate blood sugar
There are hundreds of scientific references that show eating whole grains like wild rice is associated with better regulation of blood sugar levels and a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Glycemic index is a number that indicates how quickly a food causes a spike in blood sugar levels. Wild rice has a low glycemic index of 57, which is similar to brown rice and oats. Low glycemic index foods are helpful in managing diabetes. In contrast, a refined grain like white rice has a glycemic index of 66 and can increase the risk of diabetes.
Research published indicates that the health benefits of wild rice in blood sugar control come mainly from its fiber content as well as other plant compounds, vitamins, and minerals. For example, wild rice has three times higher magnesium content compared to white rice. Magnesium can help to improve insulin sensitivity, which is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes.
May promote bone health
Along with healthy choices like a regular exercise program, eating wild rice as a staple food can boost bone health.
Loss of bone mass, a condition called osteoporosis, is associated with an increased risk of stress fractures.
Wild rice contains phosphorus and calcium, minerals that are required to strengthen bones and increase bone mass.
May provide energy
A quick overview of wild rice nutrition facts shows that this whole grain is packed with magnesium. This mineral plays a critical role in energy production and muscle and nerve function in the body. Therefore, eating wild rice may boost energy levels and prevent fatigue.
Magnesium also contributes to bone formation and is required for blood pressure and blood glucose regulation, which are risk factors for many chronic diseases.
Wild rice contains more magnesium than many other grains and is a good source of this important nutrient.
May protect against cell damage
Studies have shown that wild rice has 30 times higher antioxidant activity compared to white rice. Antioxidants like alpha lipoic acid (which is found in wild rice) protect against aging, cancer, and many other health problems.
By including antioxidants in your diet through foods like wild rice, you can promote overall health and wellbeing.
May add protein to diet
While most grains like brown or white rice contain around 2 grams of protein per cup, wild rice contains twice as much protein (4 grams in one cup or 100 grams). Also, wild rice is a complete plant-based protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.
How To Prepare Wild Rice
Wild rice cooks pretty much like regular rice. You can simply substitute it for white or brown rice in your recipes. Here’s a list of some of my favorite healthy substitutes: Healthy Recipe Substitutions
Cooked wild rice tastes great in pilafs, salads, side dishes, casseroles, and stuffings for meats because of its nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
Note that since wild rice has a firmer texture, it can take longer to soften. To fully cook wild rice, simmer it in water on a stovetop for 45-60 minutes.
Is Wild Rice Healthier Than Brown Rice?
Wild rice has around 30% less calories than brown rice. It also has more protein and fiber than brown rice as well as nutrients like zinc and potassium.
Is Wild Rice Better Than White Rice?
Wild rice is a significantly healthier choice than white rice. It not only contains fewer calories, but also has more fiber and protein and many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Can I Substitute Wild Rice For White Rice?
Yes, you can substitute wild rice for white or brown rice in all your recipes. Just remember during meal planning that wild rice takes longer to cook, around 30 minutes extra, give or take 10 minutes depending on whether you want a firmer texture or a soft, fluffy texture.
Wrapping Up: Is Wild Rice Healthy?
Wild rice is a nutritious and delicious rice substitute that is a great option for hearty, filling meals that also taste good. It’s a good source of many important vitamins and minerals. Compared to other types of grains, wild rice can aid your fitness journey by providing more protein and fiber. In fact, many licensed nutritionists say wild rice is the best rice, given its multiple health benefits.
I love sharing healthy options with you guys. Stay tuned for more nutrition tips in my upcoming posts. And do tell me in the comments below what your experience has been cooking with wild rice.