Does rice make you gain weight?

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Amelia Willson 

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD, Ro, 

Written by Amelia Willson 

last updated: Mar 13, 2024

6 min read

Key takeaways

  • Rice is a staple food around the world, and any type can be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

  • Different types of rice offer differ amounts of essential nutrients. For weight loss, brown rice may be the best option, although parboiled rice and basmati also have a low glycemic index. 

  • Using healthier cooking methods, practicing portion control, and adding veggies to a meal can all boost the weight loss potential of rice.

When you start looking into weight loss, you encounter a lot of advice that tells you to limit carbohydrates, especially refined carbs like white bread and pastries. You may have even seen articles telling you that rice can stymie your weight loss efforts. 

The thinking goes something like this: Carbs are bad. Rice is a carb, so rice is bad. But is this really true? Not necessarily.

Carbohydrates, including rice, round out a well-balanced diet. And rice has a lot of benefits to offer, as a rich source of essential nutrients like magnesium, iron, and folic acid. It’s no wonder more than half of the global population includes rice as a staple in their diet. Although, it’s also true that some varieties of rice are healthier than others. Let’s dig into the real story on rice and weight gain (or loss).

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Does rice make you gain weight? 

Rest assured: there is no specific food group that makes you gain weight, and that’s according to a meta-analysis of 25 studies. It’s true that some foods are more nutritious than others, but when it comes to weight loss, ultimately, it’s more about how much you eat vs. what you eat. So, if you eat too much rice, you can expect to gain weight, just as you might if you eat too much of any other food. While some varieties of rice offer greater nutritional value than others, any type of rice can be good food for weight loss.

So, how did rice get such a bad rap when it comes to weight loss? The meta-analysis we cited above did find that whole-grain foods (including brown rice), fruits, and legumes were negatively associated with obesity and overweight. However, they found that refined grains (including white rice) were associated with obesity. While the study authors noted that the associations were weak at best, you can argue that brown rice varieties are the healthier option because it is a whole grain and offers more nutritional value than white rice (which has had parts of the grain removed).

Nutritional value of rice 

There are many types of rice (over 110,000, in fact), but most fall into one of four main categories: brown, white, long-grain, and short-grain varieties. Below we take a look at some of the most popular types of rice and how they might affect weight loss and gain.

White rice

White rice is the most commonly consumed type of rice, popular for its ease of cooking, long shelf life, and yummy taste. Technically, white rice is simply brown rice that has had the bran and germ from the grain removed, leaving only the starchy insides (called the “endosperm"). Removal of these parts of the rice significantly reduces its nutritional value, stripping the rice of about 70% of its B vitamins, 15% of its protein, and 90% of its calcium. It also makes white rice a refined grain and a high-glycemic food

High-glycemic foods spike blood sugar after you eat, which can make white rice a less-than-ideal choice for people with diabetes. However, pairing white rice with low-GI foods like vegetables, nuts, and legumes can help balance your glucose levels during a meal. And, while low-GI diets have been linked to weight loss, there is no strong evidence that high-GI foods like white rice cause weight gain.

However, since they tend to be low in fat and fiber, high-glycemic foods like white rice can also leave you feeling hungrier sooner after you eat, which may make it harder to lose weight. 

While white rice is lower in fiber, iron, and vitamin B6, it packs in a decent amount of protein (although less than brown rice) as well as other vitamins and minerals, such as calcium. 

A serving of 100 grams (⅔ cups) of long-grain white rice includes: 

  • Calories: 130 calories

  • Fat: 0.28 grams

  • Protein: 2.69 grams

  • Carbohydrates: 28.2 grams

  • Fiber: 0.4 grams

  • Sugars: 0.05 grams

  • Calcium: 10 milligrams

  • Iron: 0.2 milligrams

  • Magnesium: 12 milligrams

  • Phosphorus: 43 milligrams

  • Potassium: 35 milligrams

  • Sodium: 1 milligrams

  • Zinc: 0.49 milligrams

  • Vitamin B6: 0.09 milligrams

Brown rice

Unlike white rice, brown rice is a whole grain because it still contains all three parts of the rice kernel (the bran, germ, and endosperm). Brown rice has a nutty flavor and a chewier texture than white rice. It also takes longer to cook, but it offers more health benefits than white rice — especially for those looking to lose weight. A review of 13 randomized controlled trials found that when compared to white rice, brown rice significantly reduced body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. 

Brown rice’s benefits for weight loss may have something to do with its high fiber content. Fiber boosts feelings of fullness, which may lead you to eat less and lose weight. In fact, studies have found that simply increasing your fiber intake, even without reducing your overall caloric intake, can lead to weight loss. And brown rice contains more iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and vitamin B6 than white rice — but fewer calories and carbs. 

Brown rice is a good source of plant protein. And, animal studies have found that the B vitamins found in brown rice may aid in weight loss by boosting your metabolism. Brown rice may also boost the growth of good bacteria in the gut. For those concerned about diabetes, studies show that substituting two meals per week of white rice with brown may lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 16%. 

A serving of 100 grams (⅔ cups) of long-grain brown rice includes:

  • Calories: 123 calories

  • Fat: 1.6 grams

  • Protein: 2.74 grams

  • Carbohydrates: 25.6 grams

  • Fiber: 1.6 grams

  • Sugars: 0.24 grams

  • Calcium: 3 milligrams

  • Iron: 0.56 milligrams

  • Magnesium: 39 milligrams

  • Phosphorus: 103 milligrams

  • Potassium: 86 milligrams

  • Sodium: 4 milligrams

  • Zinc: 0.71 milligrams

  • Vitamin B6: 0.12 milligrams

Parboiled (converted) rice

Parboiled rice is a type of white rice but unlike white rice, parboiled rice is steam-treated. This gives parboiled rice a chewier texture and a yellower color than white rice, as well as some extra benefits — such as more protein and calcium. Parboiled rice is considered a low-GI food, and according to some studies, may be a better option for people with type 2 diabetes than either white or brown rice. Parboiled rice is also called converted rice.

A serving of 100 grams (⅔ cups) of parboiled rice includes

  • Calories: 123 calories

  • Fat: 0.37 grams

  • Protein: 2.91 grams

  • Carbohydrates: 26 grams

  • Fiber: 0.9 grams

  • Sugars: 0.11 grams

  • Calcium: 19 milligrams

  • Iron: 0.24 milligrams

  • Magnesium: 9 milligrams

  • Phosphorus: 55 milligrams

  • Potassium: 56 milligrams

  • Sodium: 2 milligrams

  • Zinc: 0.37 milligrams

  • Vitamin B6: 0.16 milligrams

Black rice

Common in East Asian cuisines, black rice stands out for its dark purple color, which it gets from its high anthocyanin content. Anthocyanins are a type of antioxidant you can find in other deep-hued foods like purple sweet potatoes, acai berries, and blueberries. In fact, the antioxidant content in black rice is six times higher than in white rice. 

Black rice offers many health benefits, including lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation. It may even improve memory and cognitive function — according to studies of mice.

Jasmine rice

Known for its fragrant and fluffy texture, jasmine rice is a staple of Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. It is available in white and brown varieties. Just like traditional white and brown rice, white jasmine rice is considered a high-glycemic index food and has less fiber and protein than brown jasmine rice, along with fewer vitamins and minerals. When used as a base for a meal, white jasmine rice tends to be less filling, about on par with pasta.

Basmati rice

Basmati is a staple of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, where you’ll find this long-grain rice used in pilaf and curries. Basmati rice is available in white and brown varieties, and again, brown basmati will provide greater nutritional value — including more fiber — than white basmati. Although, white basmati rice has the lowest glycemic index among white rice varieties, so if you’re worried about blood sugar levels, this could be a good choice for you.

Arborio rice

Arborio is a soft, starchy rice popular in Portuguese and Italian cuisines and found in dishes like risotto. It is available in brown and white varieties, and brown arborio will offer more nutritional benefits than white arborio rice. Stewing arborio enables it to maintain the highest percentage of protein. For those on a diabetes diet, arborio is considered a moderate-GI food. 

How to eat rice and lose weight 

Love a good bowl of rice? Good news: you don’t have to give it up to lose weight! Follow these tips for incorporating rice into your diet in a healthy way that supports weight loss.

Opt for brown rice varieties

Brown rice packs more macronutrients in fewer calories, making it a good option for weight loss. It also contains higher amounts of fiber than white rice, which can help you feel full sooner when eating it. Plus, studies show that brown rice leads to more weight loss than white rice.

Practice portion control

Whatever rice you choose, take a quick look at the nutrition label to understand what a serving size is. You can also use the plate method, which recommends dedicating half of your plate to vegetables, a quarter to protein, and a quarter to carbohydrates (this is the part where your rice goes). Either of these portion control methods can help you avoid overindulging. 

Add flavor and fiber with veggies

Many people prefer white rice over brown rice for its faster cooking time and softer texture. If you’re one of those people, that’s okay; you can still enjoy white rice while you lose weight. Just remember: as a refined carbohydrate, white rice can cause blood sugar spikes and leave you feeling hungry again sooner vs. later. Pairing it with high-fiber veggies can help counteract these effects, as the fiber will help you feel full and prevent you from overeating.

Use healthy cooking methods

Finally, get more from rice by thinking healthy when you cook. Avoid frying rice. Use olive oil and water to make your rice, instead of butter or cream that adds empty calories to the meal. Cooking changes the chemical makeup of rice, too. So, if you’re interested in maximizing the protein content, try stewing or microwaving rice — as opposed to boiling it which can reach higher temperatures and reduce the nutritional value.  


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

March 13, 2024

Written by

Amelia Willson

Fact checked by

Yael Cooperman, MD

About the medical reviewer

Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.

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