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Is Basmati Rice Healthy?

Basmati rice is a type of rice common in Indian and South Asian cuisine.

Available in both white and brown varieties, it’s known for its nutty flavor and pleasant aroma.

Still, you may want to know whether this long-grain rice is healthy and how it compares with other kinds of rice.

This article takes a close look at basmati rice, examining its nutrients, health benefits, and any downsides.

Nutrition facts

Although the exact nutrients vary based on the specific type of basmati, each serving is generally high in carbs and calories, as well as micronutrients like folate, thiamine, and selenium.

One cup (163 grams) of cooked white basmati rice contains:

  • Calories: 210
  • Protein: 4.4 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Carbs: 45.6 grams
  • Fiber: 0.7 grams
  • Sodium: 399 mg
  • Folate: 24% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Thiamine: 22% of the DV
  • Selenium: 22% of the DV
  • Niacin: 15% of the DV
  • Copper: 12% of the DV
  • Iron: 11% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 9% of the DV
  • Zinc: 7% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 6% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 5% of the DV

In comparison, brown basmati rice is slightly higher in calories, carbs, and fiber. It also provides more magnesium, vitamin E, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus.

Potential health benefits

Basmati rice may be associated with several health benefits.

Low in arsenic
Compared with other types of rice, basmati is generally lower in arsenic, a heavy metal that can harm your health and potentially increase your risk of diabetes, heart problems, and certain cancers.

Arsenic tends to accumulate more in rice than in other grains, which can be particularly concerning for those who eat rice on a regular basis.

However, some studies have found that basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan contains some of the lowest levels of arsenic, compared with other rice varieties.

Furthermore, it should be noted that brown rice varieties tend to be higher in arsenic than white rice, as arsenic accumulates in the hard outer bran layer.

May be enriched

White basmati rice is often enriched, meaning that certain nutrients are added during processing to help boost the nutritional value.

This can make it easier to meet your needs for a variety of important vitamins and minerals.

In particular, rice and other grains are often enriched with iron and B vitamins like folic acid, thiamine, and niacin.

Some types are whole grains

Brown basmati rice is considered a whole grain, meaning that it contains all three parts of the kernel — the germ, bran, and endosperm.

Whole grains are associated with multiple health benefits. For instance, an analysis of 45 studies tied whole grain intake to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and premature death.

Another review associated regular intake of whole grains, including brown rice, with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, an 8-week study in 80 people found that replacing refined grains with whole grains lowered levels of inflammatory markers.

Potential downsides

Unlike brown basmati, white basmati is a refined grain, meaning that it has been stripped of many valuable nutrients during processing.

Some studies suggest that eating more refined grains can negatively affect blood sugar control and may be associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, a study in over 10,000 people linked dietary patterns that included white rice to a higher risk of obesity.

Additionally, a study in 26,006 people associated white rice intake with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

These effects may be due to white rice’s high number of carbs and low amount of fiber compared with brown rice.

Therefore, while white basmati rice can be enjoyed in moderation, brown basmati may be a better overall option for your health.

Basmati vs. other types of rice

Basmati rice is comparable to other types of brown or white rice in terms of nutrients.

Although very minute variations may exist in the calorie, carb, protein, and fiber counts between specific types of rice, it’s not enough to make much of a difference.

That said, basmati typically harbors less arsenic, which may make it a good choice if rice is a staple in your diet.

As a long-grain rice, it’s also longer and slimmer than short-grain varieties.

Its nutty, floral aroma and soft, fluffy texture work well in many Asian and Indian dishes. It’s a particularly great choice for rice puddings, pilafs, and side dishes.

The bottom line

Basmati is an aromatic, long-grain rice that’s lower in arsenic than other types of rice. It’s sometimes enriched with important vitamins and minerals.

It’s available in both white and brown varieties.

Whenever possible, you should select brown basmati, as refined grains like white rice are associated with several negative health effects.

Source: HealthLine 

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