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What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Rice

Is it actually healthy to eat? We asked the experts.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman
rice cooker with wooden spoon

When you need the perfect side dish, nothing hits the spot quite like rice. This grain can complement almost anything you can throw at it, and depending on the variety, can contain a wealth of health-boosting nutrients that keep you moving through the day. No one can argue that adding a side of rice to your meals can help fill you up, but have you ever wondered what actually happens to your body once you eat rice?

With so many rice varieties on the market, learning the in's and out's of what each type does feels mind-boggling. If you love this grain and want to really examine what happens to your body once you eat this amazing staple, the wait has come to an end. We asked a handful of health and nutrition experts to walk us through what happens when we eat rice regularly.

To discover the impact of rice on our bodies, read on, and for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

1

You may experience inflammation.

stirring rice stovetop
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Inflammation can do some quick damage, and if you love rice, you need to stay on top of which variety you cook with.

"White rice is a moderately processed version of brown rice," says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD from Balanced One Supplements. "This process leads to white rice being considered a simple carbohydrate. This form of carbohydrate is broken down quickly and used immediately by the body for energy. You may be eating too many carbohydrates of refined nature if you find you're experiencing bloating or inflammation. This is because refined carbohydrates create a state of inflammation in the body and cause the body to store more water than typical."

For less inflammation, make sure to enjoy brown rice and check out Is Instant Brown Rice As Healthy As Normal Brown Rice? To figure out which kind of brown rice to pick up during your next grocery run.

2

You won't feel as hungry.

brown rice
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It's no surprise that rice accompanies so many meals. Thanks to its unique nutritional structure, this grain can make you feel fuller and takes effect the moment it hits our stomachs.

"Rice contains a lot of fiber, which can help you feel full and satisfied longer," Meghan Sedivy, RD, LN said. "Brown rice contains more fiber than white rice, and when you consume either, your body uses the fiber levels to keep your digestive system running smoothly."

Here are 9 Warning Signs You're Not Eating Enough Fiber.

3

You may experience blood sugar spikes.

white rice brown bowl
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If you need to keep track of your blood glucose levels, portioning out your rice at every meal is vital.

"Shortly after eating a serving of rice, your blood sugar will rise—but how much and how fast it rises depends on the type of rice you're eating," says Megan Wong, RD. "Your blood sugar will rise because rice is a source of carbohydrates and all carbohydrates eventually get broken down into sugars."

"In general, short-grain white rice raises blood sugars the highest and fastest—this includes sushi rice, Jasmine rice, sticky rice, and Calrose rice," Wong continues. "Long grain rice, however—even if white—is better for keeping blood sugars more stable."

Wong also explains there are two different types of carbohydrates found in rice: amylose and amylopectin.

"Long grain rice is higher in amylose, which is better at retaining its structure than amylopectin," says Wong. "This means each grain of rice is more intact and takes longer to chew and digest, slowing down the overall digestive process. Long-grain brown rice is your best bet when it comes to enjoying rice without causing blood sugar spikes because the extra fiber slows down digestion even more."

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4

Your gut bacteria will love it.

vegetable sushi
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We often forget about all the good bacteria that live throughout our GI tract, but luckily, rice helps take care of these microscopic organisms, even if we forget.

"If the rice is cooled after cooking, the starch becomes a resistant starch," Lindsay Allen, MS, RDN said. "Our bodies can't absorb all of the starch, and it will go undigested into the colon where it feeds our good bacteria. Resistant starch still increases our blood sugar, but much more slowly and gradually. This means we stay satisfied longer and don't experience those side effects of up-and-down blood sugar levels."

"Adding vinegar to the rice further slows down absorption," says Allen. "A perfect example of this rice combination is sushi rice."

To figure out how to make the best rice, check out The #1 Way to Make Your Rice Free of Toxins.

5

You may feel constipated.

rice cooker with wooden spoon
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If you really love digging into a bowl of rice, you might face an unexpected consequence you would never associate with a grain.

"White rice has the husk, bran, and germ of the grain removed, reducing its fiber and nutrient content," says Diana Gariglio-Clelland, RD. "Fiber helps promote bowel regularity, so eating large amounts of low-fiber grains such as white rice may lead to constipation."

If you seek some relief from this unwanted effect of rice, check out 30 Best Foods for Constipation Relief.

6

You may experience weight gain.

chicpea vegan curry rice naan bread cheap healthy meal
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When we eat processed grains, we have to make sure not to overdo it, or else we should expect to gain a few pants sizes

"White rice has gone through a level of processing which strips it of its bran and germ contents," says Lisa Richards, CNC. "These two elements that have been removed include many important vitamins and nutrients, specifically vitamins E, B, and fiber. When white rice is consumed the body processes it more quickly, which leads to less satisfaction and the need to eat more or more frequently. This ultimately leads to overeating and weight gain."

If you love rice but don't want to gain weight, have no fear! If you remember to eat in moderation and keep track of how much rice goes into your body, you can avoid this unwanted side effect quite easily. Here are 18 Easy Ways to Control Your Portion Sizes.

Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more