The Great Rice Debate: Is Rice a Starch or a Grain?

People are becoming more aware of their health and diet. Many health-conscious people try to avoid foods high in carbohydrates. They avoid potatoes, pasta, white bread, chocolates, sugary bakery products, corn, etc. With such vigilance, rice can be a confusing option.

If you are also on the keto diet, you must have a question, is rice a starch?

Yes, rice’s main nutritional component is starch. It is a high carbohydrate food, and a large part of those carbs are starch. Rice tends to be avoided due to its high carb content, but when eaten in moderation, it does not cause any negative effects. In contrast to simple sugars, starch is a complex carbohydrate, which means it releases sugar into the blood at a relatively slow rate.

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Keep reading to explore further.

What Is Rice Starch?

Rice starch is a polysaccharide, consisting of amylose (unbranched starch, soluble in hot water) and amylopectin (branched starch, insoluble in both cold and hot water). 

According to FoodData Central USDA, 100 grams of white, unenriched rice (no supplemental vitamins and nutrients are added to enhance its nutritional value) contains about 81.3 grams of carbohydrates. Above 95 percent of this value is covered by starch, and the rest is made up of simple sugar and dietary fibers.

This is present abundantly in rice, in the form of granules equal in size to that of fat globules. 

is-rice-a-starch

Rice starch is commonly used in cereals, confectioneries, sauces, organic products, and infant foods. 

The properties of rice starch are as follows:

  • It has a neutral taste with white color.
  • It helps to maintain the taste and color of rice
  • On heating with water, it forms a slightly thick, creamy, and soft gel, causing rice granules to stick together.
  • It is highly digestible.

Is Rice a Starch?

Is rice a carb or a starch? Does rice contain starch? Starch, a carbohydrate, makes up most of the rice’s nutritional content. In order to understand how starch constitutes a significant part of rice, we need to clarify our concepts about the three different forms of carbohydrates we get from our daily diet. Sugar, dietary fibers, and starch are the most common forms of carbohydrates that are present in our diets.

What kind of carbohydrates does rice contain? Carbohydrates can also be divided into simple or complex carbohydrates based on the number of carbons in them. Starch is a polysaccharide, therefore a complex carbohydrate. 

According to FoodData Central USDA, 100 grams of white, unenriched rice (no supplemental vitamins and nutrients are added to enhance its nutritional value) contains about 81.3 grams of carbohydrates. Above 95 percent of this value is covered by starch, and the rest is made up of simple sugar and dietary fibers.

The starch content in rice can widely vary depending on the different varieties available on the market. Further, raw rice contains more starch than cooked rice. Due to the addition of water to them during cooking, the rice becomes softer and swells, which lowers its starch content. Additionally, during the cleansing of rice, most of the starch content flows down with the water, lowering the starch content of the rice.

How Much Starch Does Rice Contain?

The starch content in different types of rice is mentioned below:

Varieties of RiceAmount of Starch in grams in 100g of Rice  
Beef flavor rice, prepared with 80 percent margarine18.43 
Chicken flavor rice, prepared with 80 percent margarine20.4 
Pilaf flavor rice, prepared with 80 percent margarine21 g
Long-grain, precooked, enriched, prepared white rice26.33 
Long-grain, parboiled, enriched, dry white rice68.29 
Long-grain, parboiled, unenriched, dry white rice68.29 
Beef flavor, unprepared rice69.7
Pilaf flavor, unprepared rice71.23
Chicken flavor, unprepared rice71.6
Long-grain, precooked, and enriched white rice73.77
Table: Starch Content in Different Types of Rice

Additionally, this value varies from brand to brand. Different marketing brands of rice have different levels of starch in the rice.

Is Starchy Rice Bad for You?

Is starchy food good for you? Food rich in carbohydrates can increase the blood sugar level, therefore diabetics and diet-conscious people usually avoid starchy rice, because of its high carbohydrate content. In their eyes, starch being a carbohydrate can raise blood sugar levels. 

This concept is, however, contradicted by a fact. Although starch is a carbohydrate, it belongs to the group of polysaccharides or complex carbohydrates. Because of this property, starch does not readily release all its sugar content into the bloodstream. Its complex structure allows the starch to slowly release its sugar after entering the body, preventing blood from becoming hyperglycemic.

starchy-rice

Natural starch foods should be included in the diet of a person as it prevents them from feeling hungry and hankering for more food.

On the other hand, refined starch, which is found in many food products, can cause many side effects. It can readily increase the blood sugar level, leading to hyperglycemia and causing severe complications for diabetics and heart patients.

Studies have shown that starchy foods make a person feel fatigued. It is less likely to feel lethargic if one avoids sugary and starchy foods.

Brown Rice vs White Rice

White and brown rice differ mainly in their bran and germ. White rice is refined, which means that its bran and germ are removed. Brown rice is a whole grain without any bran or germ removed. Is brown rice healthy? Brown rice as compared to white sugar is more nutritious because it has not been processed. Although, it is much easier to cook white rice. It is more delicious and long-lasting than brown rice. 

brown-vs-white-rice

Is white rice a starch? Or does brown rice have starch in it? The value of starch also varies in both. As compared to white rice, brown rice contains less starch, about 40 g per cup, than white rice, which contains 44 g per cup. Thus, brown rice is preferable for those suffering from diabetes or weight gain.

How Much Starch Is Too Much?

A healthy and physically active person should consume between 100 and 150 grams of carbohydrates per day. Approximately two-thirds of one’s carb needs should be covered by starchy foods, since other diets provide some carbs as well. This value decreases when someone wants to lose weight. People with diabetes and obesity should consume fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. Their starch intake should also be restricted.

Is Starch Bad for You?

Is too much starch bad for you? If yes, then why is starch bad? Although starch is a complex carbohydrate that releases sugar at a relatively slow rate, there are negative effects of starch, if taken continuously. It can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. If a person wants to prevent diabetes, he should avoid starch intake.

A high intake of starch can also contribute to weight gain. The extra sugar from starch is stored in fat cells, causing obesity.

Studies have shown that starchy foods make a person feel fatigued. It is less likely to feel lethargic if one avoids sugary and starchy foods.

Blood pressure complications can also be caused by starchy food. A study has shown that people who avoid sugar or starch have better blood pressure health.

FAQs

Question: Is brown rice starchy?

Answer: Yes, brown rice is also a starchy food. But, compared to white rice, brown rice contains less starch. It contains about 40 g of starch per cup. Therefore, it is recommended for diabetics to replace white rice with brown rice, as lowering carb intake helps to prevent their blood from being hyperglycemic.

Question: What is low-starch rice?

Answer: Jasmine and basmati rice have the least amount of starch. Rice jasmine is a type of rice that is grown in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It’s comparable to basmati rice, except its grains are shorter. While Basmati rice is long and narrow when raw, it softens and fluffs up when cooked.

Question: Is rice a grain or a vegetable?

Answer: Rice is a type of grain, not a vegetable, yet it is an important element of one’s balanced meals. It can be a healthy source of carbohydrates along with some proteins and other micronutrients. Rice is so flexible that it has long been used in a variety of cuisines. There are lots of different rice varieties growing all over the world.

Conclusion

Is rice a starch? Rice is enriched with starch. The starch content in rice can vary with its different varieties and branding companies. Unlike simple sugars, starch is a complex polysaccharide, so it helps to maintain blood sugar levels by slowing down the sugar released from it.

Further, white rice is more enriched with starch, therefore brown rice will be a healthier alternative for diabetics. Consuming more starch can cause diabetes, obesity, fatigue, and blood pressure complications. Therefore, one should use rice in moderation.

Dr Umme Hurayra

Dr Umme Hurayra

Hi, I'm Umme Hurayra. I am currently studying MBBS in Mymensingh Medical College. Medical science is an incredible thing. I like to share my knowledge with everyone.

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