Ask the Diva: Which is Better - Brown Rice or Rice Cakes?

Which is healthier, cooked brown rice or rice cakes? Should you just eat (or avoid) both? Nutrition Diva answers a reader's question

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
1-minute read

Ask the Diva: Which is Better - Brown Rice or Rice Cakes?Q. I want the health benefits of brown rice, but cooking rice is a lot of work. Are rice cakes as healthy as cooked rice?

A. Well, exactly which health benefits are we talking about here? Like other grains, rice is primarily starch. When you choose brown rice (the “whole grain” option) instead of white rice, you get a little bit more fiber. So, if you want to eat rice, brown rice is a slightly better option.  But rice (brown or otherwise) is not a terribly nutrient-dense food.  I don’t think you need to feel guilty for not eating enough of it!   

As for whether rice cakes are as healthful as cooked rice, I’m afraid they are not.  It’s not so much that vitamins or minerals are destroyed—because there aren’t that many to start out with. But the puffed rice used to make rice cakes has a higher glycemic impact—meaning that the carbohydrates are more quickly absorbed and converted into blood sugar.  

That's really good news all around for you: Don’t worry if you don’t feel like cooking brown rice—you’re not missing that much nutritionally. Plus, there’s no need to eat Styrofoam-flavored snacks!

Read more:

The Truth About Whole Grains

 Rice photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.