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How healthy is instant rice?

Rice is a staple food for billions of people around the world. It comes in many forms, including white rice, brown rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, and instant rice. Instant rice, sometimes called minute rice, is a type of white rice that has been pre-cooked and then dehydrated. This process allows the rice to cook very rapidly when rehydrated, typically in just 5-10 minutes.

While traditional rice requires 20-30 minutes of cooking, the convenience of instant rice is appealing to many. But how does instant rice compare to other types of rice in terms of nutrition and health impacts? Is sacrificing some nutrients worth the quicker cook time? This article will analyze the pros and cons of instant rice and look at some of the key studies comparing it to other forms of rice.

Nutritional Comparison of Instant Rice to White and Brown Rice

Rice grains contain varying levels of nutrients, depending on how processed they are. The less processed the rice is, the higher its nutrient content.

Here is an overview of the nutritional profiles of instant, white, and brown rice:


– Instant rice: 160 calories per 100g cooked
– White rice: 130 calories per 100g cooked
– Brown rice: 110 calories per 100g cooked

Brown rice has the least calories by weight since its bran and germ are still intact. Instant rice has the most calories since the dehydration process causes some nutrients to be lost.


– Instant rice: 2.7g per 100g cooked
– White rice: 2.7g per 100g cooked
– Brown rice: 2.5g per 100g cooked

The protein content is similar for all three types of rice. None provide complete proteins with all essential amino acids.


– Instant rice: 0.5g per 100g cooked
– White rice: 0.4g per 100g cooked
– Brown rice: 1.8g per 100g cooked

Brown rice provides substantially more fiber since its bran is still present. Instant and white rice have minimal fiber since the bran has been removed.


– Instant rice: 0.3g per 100g cooked
– White rice: 0.3g per 100g cooked
– Brown rice: 2.0g per 100g cooked

Brown rice has higher fat content from its oil-rich germ. Instant and white rice’s germ has been removed during processing.

Key Vitamins and Minerals

– Thiamin: Brown rice has the most thiamin, followed by white rice, followed by instant rice. Thiamin is important for converting food into energy.

– Niacin: Brown rice has the most niacin. Instant rice has very little niacin. Niacin helps the digestive system function properly.

– Folate: Brown rice has the highest folate levels. Instant rice contains very little folate. Folate is important for new cell production and preventing birth defects.

– Manganese: Brown rice has the highest levels of manganese. Instant rice contains negligible manganese. Manganese supports bone health and metabolism.

– Selenium: Brown rice contains the most selenium. Instant rice has lower selenium levels. Selenium acts as an antioxidant and supports immunity.

In summary, brown rice tends to be highest in vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats; white rice is intermediate; and instant rice is lowest. This is directly related to the degree of processing and how much of the bran and germ remain.

However, it is worth noting that instant rice is often enriched with some B vitamins like thiamin to compensate for nutrients lost during processing. But the fiber and healthy fats cannot be added back in artificially.

Glycemic Index and Diabetes Impact

The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar. Foods with a high GI cause faster, larger spikes in blood sugar compared to foods with a low GI.

For people with diabetes or insulin resistance, choosing low GI foods can help control blood sugar levels. Here are the GIs for different rice types:

– Instant rice: GI 87
– White rice: GI 73
– Brown rice: GI 68

Instant rice tends to have the highest GI, meaning it is digested very quickly and can cause blood sugar spikes. Brown rice has the lowest GI due to its higher fiber content.

However, GI can vary within the same food category based on factors like degree of processing. Overall brown and white rice are intermediate GI foods, while instant rice is classified as a high GI food.

Multiple studies have looked at white and brown rice consumption patterns in relation to diabetes risk and markers:

– A 2012 review found that people who ate the most white rice had a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Replacing white rice with brown rice was associated with a 16% lower risk of diabetes.

– A large 2010 study in the British Medical Journal found a strong association between higher white rice intake and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. However, total carbohydrate amount mattered most.

– A 2017 study in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation found brown rice reduced blood sugar spikes in people with diabetes compared to white rice.

– A 2016 study showed consuming white or brown rice 4 times a week had no impact on diabetes risk. Overall carb intake mattered more than rice type.

The evidence suggests limiting high GI instant rice and substituting white or brown rice can positively impact diabetes markers for some individuals. But for most people, overall carbohydrate intake and diet pattern matters more than rice type alone.

Arsenic in Rice

Rice has a tendency to uptake inorganic arsenic from soil and water. Arsenic is a toxic heavy metal and carcinogen in larger amounts.

Rice kernels contain more arsenic than other grains like wheat or oats. Brown rice tends to have higher arsenic levels than white rice, since the arsenic accumulates in the outer bran.

Here is how the arsenic content compares by rice type:

Rice Type Total Arsenic (micrograms per serving)
White rice (1 cup cooked) 134-350
Brown rice (1 cup cooked) 150-350
Instant rice (1 cup prepared) 120-340

While brown rice contains slightly more arsenic than white or instant rice, the amounts are not hugely different. All types of rice have generally comparable arsenic content depending on where they are grown.

The FDA has an “action level” of 100 micrograms per kilogram for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. Levels found in rice intended for general consumers are below this, though there are steps you can take to further reduce exposure from rice:

– Cook rice with high water volumes and drain excess water after cooking

– Avoid cooking rice in uncontrolled conditions, like absorption method cooking

– Rinse raw rice before cooking

– Consider diversifying grains beyond just rice

Based on available data, arsenic levels do not vary enough between rice types to be a major factor in comparing their health impacts. Arsenic exposure can be minimized through preparation methods.

Resistant Starch Content

Resistant starch is a type of dietary fiber that “resists” digestion and passes through the small intestine unchanged. It acts as a prebiotic once it reaches the colon, feeding beneficial gut bacteria.

Cooking and then cooling rice substantially increases its resistant starch content. Here are the levels based on a 100g serving:

Rice Type Resistant Starch (raw) Resistant Starch (cooked & cooled)
White rice 0.4g 2.0g
Brown rice 0.8g 2.5g
Instant rice 0.5g 2.2g

All types of rice see a major increase in resistant starch when cooked and then cooled. Instant rice develops slightly less resistant starch compared to white and brown, but the difference is small.

This suggests eating leftover chilled rice from the fridge can boost the fiber content significantly for any rice variety. The easiest approach is cooking a big batch of rice and repurposing leftovers.

Presence of Antinutrients

Like many plant foods, grains contain varying types and amounts of antinutrients – compounds that can interfere with nutrient absorption:

– **Phytic acid:** Found in bran of grains. Reduces absorption of iron, zinc and calcium.

– **Lectins:** Proteins found in grains. May cause gut inflammation for sensitive people.

– **Trypsin inhibitors:** Found in raw legumes/grains. Can inhibit digestion.

Since bran is removed to make white rice, it generally contains fewer antinutrients than brown rice. However, phytic acid, lectins and trypsin inhibitors are present in minimal amounts in all grains – not high enough to negatively impact most people.

Those with digestive sensitivities can try opting for white or instant rice over brown rice, since they are lower in these compounds. Soaking, sprouting and fermenting rice can also reduce antinutrients further.

Effects on Satiety and Weight Management

When it comes to feeling full and controlling appetite, rice type makes a difference. Studies show brown and white rice are more satiating than lower fiber grains like instant rice:

– A 2012 study in the *British Journal of Nutrition* found participants felt more satisfied and full after a meal containing brown rice compared to white rice or no rice. Brown rice delayed the return of hunger.

– A 2018 study compared the impact of white rice and instant rice on satiety. Blood sugar spikes were 68% higher with instant rice. Feelings of fullness were also lower.

– A 2016 study in *Food & Nutrition Research* showed no difference in satiety between white and brown rice over 4 hours after a meal. Both were more filling than no rice.

The evidence suggests brown and white rice can boost satiety at meals and after due to their lower GI and higher fiber. Instant rice is less satisfying for controlling appetite. This may have implications for weight management.

However, overall diet quality matters more than single foods for achieving a healthy weight. Rice can be part of a balanced diet, but portion sizes should be managed.

Is Instant Rice Processed and Refined?

Instant rice undergoes additional processing compared to other types:

**Production process:**

1. Rice grains are fully cooked.

2. Excess water is removed through pressure and heat.

3. Rice is cooled, dried and broken down into smaller pieces.

4. Fine granules of rice are formed through additional grinding.

5. Rice granules are packaged.

This intensive process reduces cooking time but also:

– Removes more nutrients compared to white rice

– Alters the starch structure, increasing the GI

– Results in loss of dietary fiber

– Leads to higher calorie density per volume

For these reasons, nutrition experts consider instant rice to be a highly refined, processed grain. The convenience does come at the cost of many nutrients.

However, enriching instant rice helps add some micronutrients like thiamin, niacin and iron back into the final product after processing removes them.

Is Instant Rice Bad for You?

Based on its nutrition profile and health impacts, here are some of the downsides of instant rice:

– Higher glycemic index can negatively affect diabetes management

– Very low in fiber, which reduces satiety

– Nutritionally deficient compared to less processed rice

– Not a whole grain; refined grain with bran removed

– Higher in calories by volume due to dehydration

– Arsenic levels similar to other rice types

– Lower nutrient density provides fewer benefits

– Less satisfying for managing hunger and portion control

– Requires more intensive processing and industrial production

However, here are a few of the potential benefits that make instant rice a fast and convenient option:

– Takes only 5-10 minutes to prepare; huge time saver

– More affordable and accessible than less processed rice

– Enrichment adds back in some B vitamins lost during processing

– No major differences in arsenic content compared to white/brown rice

– More resistant starch when cooked then cooled like other rice

– Less problematic for those sensitive to antinutrients in whole grains

Overall, white and brown rice tend to be healthier choices due to higher fiber, vitamins, minerals and easier digestion. But instant rice can be an acceptable option, especially when speed and convenience are priorities.

Moderation is key – instant rice should not completely replace unprocessed whole grains in the diet. But the occasional quick rice meal will not negatively impact health for most people.


Instant rice makes the cooking process extremely fast and easy, but this convenience comes at a nutritional cost. The dehydration and grinding process strips away fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. This results in a refined grain with a high glycemic index.

For improved nutrition and health, white or brown rice are better options than instant rice. They retain more beneficial compounds like fiber and antioxidants, as well as healthy fats in the case of brown rice. This leads to better digestion, lasting fullness and lower diabetes risk.

However, instant rice can be an acceptable part of a balanced diet, especially when time is limited. The lower levels of antinutrients may also benefit those sensitive to compounds like phytic acid in whole grains. Moderating portions of instant rice and pairing it with other nutritious foods can help offset the downsides.

Instant rice makes cooking faster and easier. But for the healthiest grains, choose minimally processed options like regular white or brown rice whenever possible. Cook up a batch on the weekend to reheat quickly during the busy week without sacrificing nutrition. With a little planning, you can gain the benefits of rice without the drawbacks of instant varieties.