Is jasmine rice good for you?

Originating from Thailand, the aromatic Jasmine rice is a staple side-dish in many different regions across the world. Delivered to us in the form of white, brown, red and black, this rice can offer us some essential nutrients if eaten in moderation. Although the white version is advised not to be eaten by diabetics, it’s healthy brown rice counterpart can be included in a diabetic’s diet, due to its lower glycemic index (GI) amount. As it is rich in starch, it can help fuel an intensive workout, however the white kind is not generally recommended for people who are on low-carb diets that have the intention of achieving weight-loss goals. Potential risks from consuming rice are the possible spikes in blood sugar levels if not properly portion-controlled, and the potential risk of arsenic concentrations  within the rice.

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Jasmine rice is something I will always hold close to my heart. Being of mixed Thai heritage, jasmine rice was the staple rice my mother prepared for my family and I. That beautiful aroma of steamed rice that greeted my nose every morning is permanently engrained in my brain. Jasmine rice will forever be my favourite type of rice.

However, entering my late-twenties and noticing my metabolism slowdown has caused me to rethink my diet choices. It is no secret that white rice is not the healthiest rice option where there are wholegrain options available!

But this does not change the fact that white Jasmine rice it is absolutely delicious!!

Jasmine rice comes in a variety of different forms – white rice, brown rice, red rice and black rice. Although all of them are extremely similar in nature, the brown, red and black options are known for containing more nutrients than their processed counter-part white rice.

So just how healthy is this Thai rice? Should you eat it if you are trying to lose weight? How does it compare to Basmati rice, another extremely popular rice type consumed world-wide? Well, with the help of Google and some scientific studies, here is my take on Jasmine rice and whether you should be eating it or not.*

(*Please note, I am note a health professional! All of these findings I found through studies and internet searches)

What is it?

Jasmine rice is a fragrant rice originating from Thailand. This type of long-grain rice

Also known as Thai Hom Mali (translated as fragrant rice in Thai), jasmine rice is extremely popular in countries where rice is a main staple of the diet – such as Asia, India and the Middle East.

Jasmine rice is known for its distinct, unique aroma and flavour. Its texture makes it distinguishable from other types of rices and it is known as “jasmine” not for its fragrance, but its white colour that resembles the white of a jasmine flower.

Health benefits

Jasmine rice (and white in general for that matter!) is known for being a rich supply of calories and carbohydrates for energy. This is due to the levels of starch present within these little grains. Your body breaks the starch into sugar and uses the sugar to power up your muscles, brain, and other tissues. Therefore, if you are looking to gain weight and energy, jasmine rice can help you out!

But like everything that is high in calories, it should be eaten in moderation and you should look to other foods to help supply this energy. Leafy green vegetables are an excellent addition to be eaten alongside your jasmine rice side dish, as they are loaded with tonnes of healthy goodness we would not be able to get from eating jasmine rice alone.

In addition to that burst of energy you need, jasmine rice can also provide a good source of iron. Iron is helpful in keeping our hair, skin and nails healthy and it can support us ladies in getting those high levels of iron we lose during menstruation. A lack of iron in your diet can lead to health conditions like anaemia, which can display symptoms of headaches, fatigues, shortness or breath and a fast heart rate.

Iron is helpful in keeping our hair, skin and nails healthy

Arsenic: a potential risk

As rice is grown in water-flooded fields, studies have shows that arsenic, a toxic substance, is x10 more likely to build up in rice than it is in any other grain.

The concentration levels of arsenic in rice depends on three factors: (1) the cultivation method of the rice (how it is harvested); (2) the processing of the rice; and (3) the country of production.

For example, a study that monitored the relation between rice consumption, arsenic contamination and diabetes in South Asia, found there to be higher concentrations of arsenic in Thai and Jasmine rice, than it was in Indian rice. The study further notes that there a few factors that could have affected this result, such as the type of water used for irrigation and soil.

Thoroughly washing your rice can lessen the amount of arsenic that may be present within the rice.

Is good for high cholesterol?

Foods that are high in saturated fat tend to be the foods you should avoid if you have high cholesterol levels. This would therefore include foods such as white bread, white potatoes, white rice, whole-fat dairy products, and any highly processed sugars or flours.

Usually, Jasmine rice contains no cholesterol, however it would be wise to opt for the brown, red or black varieties of Jasmine rice, as whole grains have been known to reduce blood cholesterol levels.

Can Diabetics eat it?

Whether diabetics are able to eat jasmine rice is also up for debate. Diabetes, one of the most common diseases in the world, occurs when blood sugar levels are too high. Diabetics are generally advised to stay away from rice, as some types can be detrimental to the management of blood glucose in the body.

However, certain types of jasmine rice can be a suitable option for diabetics (if the portion is controlled correctly, and the correct preparation method is carried out). Brown versions of the rice tend to be recommended, as they contain a lower glycemic index than its white version.

White Rice vs. Brown Rice

Self-explanatory as it is, the difference between these two is the colour of the grains. Rice that is brown usually indicates that it has not undergone a production process, whereas white rice indicates that it has. This production process is known as “rice milling”, and it is a process where they remove the bran from the rice. This is why white jasmine rice tends to be fluffier than brown rice. Rice milling involves a “polishing” process, and unfortunately this process tends to remove vitamins, so some processes may “enrich” their white rice with vitamins.

Rice milling involves a “polishing” process, and unfortunately this process tends to remove vitamins, so some processes may “enrich” their white rice with vitamins

As brown jasmine rice has not been processed, its fiber and nutrients remain intact. Therefore, brown jasmine rice is higher in fiber. It is more nutritionally dense than white rice and offers more protein and has a lower glycemic index (GI) score than white Jasmine rice. It can aid in blood glucose control, and can even make you feel fuller for longer than Jasmine rice.

As brown jasmine rice is a wholegrain rice, our bodies are able to utilise the carbohydrate and protein content of brown rice more so than white. Brown rice takes longer for out bodies to digest, which is good for blood sugar levels. It is lower in fat than white jasmine rice, and tends to have a higher protein value. Although both types of rice do contain fiber, the brown variety tends to have a slightly higher value than white.

As brown jasmine rice is a wholegrain rice, our bodies are able to utilise the carbohydrate and protein content of brown rice more so than white.


Is it good for weight-loss?

If you are trying to lose weight, then a calorie-deficit is required to make this possible. A calorie-deficit is a meal plan where you are eating less calories than you are burning.

To put it simply, yes, jasmine rice can be part of a meal plan that intends to promote weight-loss, but it depends on the type of Jasmine rice, as the way in which the rice was processed can have an impact on factors that affect weight-loss. As I mentioned above, unprocessed rice tends to be “brown” rice, whereas processed rice tends to be “white” rice. Therefore, if you are on a diet promoting weight-loss, you should opt to consume the brown Jasmine rice instead of the white.

jasmine rice can be part of a meal plan that intends to promote weight-loss, but it depends on the type of Jasmine rice, as the way in which the rice was processed can have an impact on factors that affect weight-loss

On my current weight-loss muscle-building fitness journey, I am steering clear of any form of white rice, and ensuring any form of rice I consume is whole-grain and brown. Be sure to always check the label, as some rice may appear to be brown (due to the seasoning it has been cooked in) when in fact it is stir-fried white rice.


Jasmine Rice vs. Basmati Rice

Jasmine and Basmati rice have some similarities. Both types of rices are widely used in Asia, and basmati rice is another long-grain variety. They both can come in white and whole-grain varieties – with the whole-grain varieties being the healthier option! Despite their similarities, they are different more so than they are the same!

Basmati rice has a stronger flavour than Jasmine rice, and its texture is firmer. Jasmine rice smells sweeter, and tastes nuttier than Basmati rice. Their smells are different and the grains of Jasmine rice are finer than those of Basmati rice.

Their smells are different and the grains of Jasmine rice are finer than those of Basmati rice

When cooked, they have completely different textures. Jasmine rice grains tend to stick together, giving a soft, sticky, fluffy texture. On the other hand, basmati rice grains double in size and separate from each other. It tends to look more dry, whereas the Jasmine rice looks rather moist.

Nutritional information for brown Jasmine and brown Basmati rice

Personally, I tend to opt for basmati rice when I am eating South Asian dishes, as this is the origin of the rice. Ideas on which rice is suitable for which type of dish can be found on the internet.

Conclusion: should I eat it?

The bottom line is: yes, you can eat it! However, be wary of the potential risks if it is eaten in excess.

Can diabetics eat it? Yes, but it must be portion-controlled and served as an accompaniment to dishes such as vegetables and legumes, to ensure that the digestion of the rice is slowed down so a blood sugar level spike does not occur. Opting for brown rice over white rice is recommended here.

If you are trying to lose weight? No, you should try to avoid it.

If you are an athlete? Yes! It can be great in helping power you up for those high-intensity workouts.

Make sure to thoroughly wash your rice in the risk of there possibly being arsenic present.

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