Types of Rice

Types of Rice

Rice is one of the most diverse grains, with thousands of different varieties. Let's look deeper into some common types.

Ingredient feature

Nutritionally, all rice is high in quick-burning starch, creating a readily available energy source. Beneficial nutrients found in rice, such as folate and other B vitamins, minerals, and other more complex phytochemicals, depending on the type, should not be overlooked.


Brown Rice

Showcasing the whole grain in a relatively unedited form, brown rice is hulled but unpolished, leaving the outer layers intact, each with its own nourishing elements. The result is a highly nutrient-dense grain, providing a great source of B vitamins, selenium, manganese, and iron. It also contains amino acids, like tryptophan, fibre, and a healthy lipid complex called gamma oryzanol that can help balance cholesterol levels.

Brown rice has recently enjoyed a renaissance, and many nutrition professionals and health-conscious eaters see it as more nutritious than white rice. From the vantage point of micronutrients, this assessment is undeniable.

Wild Rice

This rice is, technically, not rice at all, but a completely different species in the zizania family. Somewhat roughly textured and firm enough to be almost stiff, wild rice is heavily associated with the New World, unlike the classic archetypal fluffy brown and white rice.

To this day, various types of zizania grow abundantly in shallow aquatic areas around the Great Lakes. Wild rice has been considered a sacred food by the Ojibwe and constitutes a staple for Omaha, Cree, Dakota, Winnebago, and other First Nations of North America.

Wild rice is highly nutritious, boasting quite a bit of protein, notably the amino acid lysine. It's also high in B vitamins, manganese, zinc, iron, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.



Long, skinny-grained rice, basmati has a delicate subtlety, with a mild pleasant earthiness lingering in its flavor profile.

The word basmati means "fragrant" in Hindi and originated from ancient Sanskrit. Heavily associated with Pakistan, and India, where 70% of production comes from, it's also cultivated in Nepal, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. Fraudulent exports have led to DNA verification using PCR technology and purity certificates to authenticate the real thing.

Soaking basmati rice for half an hour will preserve more of the compound associated with its unique aroma and can shorten the cooking time as a bonus.


Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao, and Thailand each produce their own jasmine rice, each with distinct regional characteristics. It generally has some of the same popcorn-like aromatic properties and chemistry in common with basmati, namely the volatile 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline. This compound degrades over time, so eating jasmine rice as close to the harvest as possible is preferred.

Jasmine is a soft, fragrant long-grain rice that can be polished into white rice or left brown. Most typically, it is processed, with outer layers removed, in which case it has a resulting nutritional profile very similar to white rice.

Unlike basmati, jasmine is something of a connoisseur's rice for its regional and seasonal nuances, easily missed by the unaware but highly appreciated by discriminating rice eaters.


White Rice

The world's undisputed favourite. White rice is brown rice that has been polished or processed. This means removing all outer layers- the bran, the protein component called aleurone, the germ, and the husk, leaving just the starchy endosperm, the 'flesh' of the grain. White rice is significantly less nutritious than its brown cousin, with many B vitamins, fibre, and minerals, like iron, entirely removed from the original.

However, it may also be less immunoreactive than brown rice due to small lectins in the outer layers removed in polishing. Several medical and functional medicine practitioners have gone as far as to recommend it over brown for this reason.

White rice is the most popular form and is historically the go-to choice in Blue Zones like Okinawa, where people live some of the longest, happiest, and healthiest lives on the planet.


Arborio rice is overwhelmingly associated with one dish, particularly the classic Italian risotto. It's also used to create incredibly creamy rice puddings. Round and chewy, arborio is high in the starchy polysaccharide amylopectin. It retains a unique texture after cooking, and can absorb a large quantity of liquid, typically added a little at a time. The result is a gooey but firm decadence that must be experienced to understand.

Arborio may be the one type of rice where it's recommended not to rinse it before cooking, as this will remove the trademark rich starchy quality that risotto is famous for.

With more and more people exploring the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle, rice is perfectly positioned as a naturally gluten-free grain. It has a virtually unparalleled versatility for meal planning, combining happily with a wide variety of veggies and protein and easily balancing spicy flavors. It's hard even to imagine anything else so agreeable with so many other foods and flavors.

Damien ZielinskiA cloud-based functional medicine practitioner with a focus on mental health and insomnia
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