Truth be told, there is no other crop that has fed more people in the history of mankind as rice. And while its actual documentation began in 2500 B.C., it was very much a part of Chinese culture even before.
Rice has since come a long way, especially in terms of geography. Its cultivation is no longer restricted to just one area, and it has become a staple in many countries now.
However, with diversity in cultivation and commercialization white rice has lost its sheen. People no longer consume it in its truest form, which is a great source of carbohydrate, protein, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium and even folic acid.
It is often polished twice to make it appear more shiny and white, and that means we strip it of its essential nutrients. This has made white rice a foe for the health conscious.
Most of us (on a low-carb diet) avoid its consumption in the fear that we may gain weight. And that has led to the search for white rice alternatives for weight loss.
So in case you are on the lookout for white rice alternatives for weight loss, look no further because we’ve got you covered. Scroll down to see the various options available in the market and how to cook them in the comfort of your own home.
8 White Rice Alternative For Weight Loss
From brown, foxtail millet, and cauliflower, to black, red and quinoa, to bamboo; rice alternatives for weight loss have doubled in the last decade. Let us look at them closely.
1. Foxtail Millet
Second to rice, the foxtail millet is the most widely planted and consumed millet in the world. Incidentally, they are also rich in iron, proteins, fibre and are pest free. It is also low in fat, making it one of the best rice alternatives for weight loss.
Given its nutritional value, it also aids in controlling high blood pressure levels and are a great source of healthy cholesterol since they increase HDL (good) cholesterol in the body.
Taste: It has a crunchy and nutty taste. It is nothing like rice and may take a few meals to get used to it, especially if you’ve been on a white rice diet for a long time.
How to cook: Foxtail millet is easy to cook and you can use the same method you use to cook your rice. Take one cup of foxtail millet and add two cups of water for steam-cooked millets.
2. Brown rice
Brown rice is unrefined, unpolished and one of the most commonly used grains because of its wholesome nutritional value. It is not only rich in essential minerals such as iron, manganese, zinc, calcium, phosphorous, selenium, potassium and magnesium.
But it also contains a large amount of vitamin wealth including vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, folate, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) as well as vitamin K. Brown rice is also rich in fibre, which is usually removed from polished white rice and aids in weight loss.
Given all of these nutritional qualities, brown rice is often the go-to for most health conscious rice-eaters.
Taste: Brown rice has a nutty flavour and can be medium to firm chewy in terms of its texture. It is also extremely filling and smaller portions of brown rice are enough to keep your tummy happy.
How to cook: Brown rice takes longer than white rice to cook. But the quantities of water can be the same as when you cook the latter. One cup of brown rice to two cups of water will suffice. But give it 8-10 more minutes than your regular rice to cook properly.
3. Black rice
Popularly known as “Forbidden rice,” black rice is an ancient grain that was highly coveted in China as it was prepared and served only to the Chinese emperor and the officials in his court.
Since it is sold only in its un-milled form, it has great nutritional value. It is rich in iron, calcium, zinc and potassium and its black-purple colour contains anthocyanins and flavonoids. These phytonutrients make it a great antioxidant, anti-microbial, and anti-carcinogenic quality.
All these qualities mean that black rice is a detoxifying agent, helps to fight diabetes and is good for your skin.
Taste: Black rice tastes as rich as it sounds. However, it is different from either white or brown but it is similar to the latter in terms of its nutty texture.
How to cook: Black rice takes time to cook- more so than brown. So the best way to cook it is to first soak it in water for about three hours. Then put it on a steamer for three whistles with 1:3 ratio of rice to water. Once all the whistles go off, let it cook for about 10-15 minutes on low steam. You can serve it with any savoury dish you prefer. But just remember that since this type of rice heavy, complimenting with a light dish with curry could be easy on the tummy.
4. Red rice
Similar to black rice, the red rice variety is a great white rice alternative and also an ancient one. You can trace it back to the Tang dynasty in 800 AD. It also has high levels of anthocyanins, which lends it its antioxidant and anti-microbial properties.
Red rice is also rich in iron, zinc, calcium, niacin, magnesium, and potassium, which means it aids in blood circulation and maintains your cardiovascular health.
While you can buy milled as well as unmilled red rice in the market, the unprocessed grain is usually high in protein as well as fibre-rich which makes it a great white rice alternative. You can also find long grained (with lower glycemic index) and shorter grain red rice in the market and select based on your health requirements or as advised by your nutritionist.
Taste: Red rice is nutty and crunchy in addition to earthy in its flavour. It tastes rich and can be quite filling, leaving you to consume a smaller amount as compared to white rice.
How to cook: Similar to black rice, red rice also takes longer to cook. Soak one cup of red rice (serves two) for three hours. Next, place it in a steamer with 1:3 rice to water ratio and let it cook for 20 minutes on high flame. Reduce the flame and let it cook for the next 10 minutes. This type of rice is also heavy, so again, try to compliment it with a light curry for the perfect balance.
5. Bamboo rice
This form of wild rice that is unique to Asia but not as commonly produced because of their rare cultivation method. As the name suggests, this rare white rice alternative is cultivated from bamboo shoots.
When the shoots breathe their last, they produce a rare variety of flowering rice seeds. These seeds are then harvested to form bamboo rice. Typically, this flowering pattern can be quite unpredictable and the flowering process may take anything between 10 and 100 years to produce, based on the shelf-life of the shoot.
This green-coloured rice is coveted because of its fertility enhancing properties, in addition to being a rich source of protein, fibre, carbohydrates and Vitamin B6.
Bamboo rice is also known to provide relief from joint pains, backaches and rheumatic problems.
Some studies have also proved that it controls blood sugar and cholesterol and is recommended to pregnant women.
Taste: Bamboo rice taste a bit like Japanese sushi and may have a hint of green tea and leafy flavor.
How to cook: Wash and soak one cup of bamboo rice in water for about 30 minutes to an hour. Then pressure cook them with 1:2.5 rice to water ration for six whistles or 20 minutes and then on low flame for about 10 more minutes. If there is still some additional water, drain the rice and use the water for your savoury dishes or as a soup because it is highly nutritional.
A great option for all those gluten-free freaks is the Quinoa. It is a protein-rich grain that originated in South America but is widely grown in Asia as well. If you are on a high-protein diet and want a nutritious white rice alternative, quinoa is your best friend.
It is not only rich in protein, but is also known to contain magnesium and Vitamin B2 and E, magnesium, calcium iron, potassium, phosphorus, and several beneficial antioxidants, as well as fibre.
Taste: Quinoa tastes like a cross between brown rice and oatmeal. It can be crunchy, creamy, nutty and fluffy, all at the same time and is one of the great healthy and tasty rice alternatives for weight loss.
How to cook: Soak a cup of quinoa in water for about five to 10 minutes. Then cook in a pressure cooker the same way you would cook your normal rice. A ratio of 1:2 cups of quinoa to water should work. Let it cook for about 15-20 minutes. Fluff it up with a fork and then serve. You can even add a bit of salt to add flavour before steaming on high heat. Then enjoy it with a simple chicken or beef curry on the side.
7. Cauliflower rice
Also known as cauliflower couscous, the cauliflower rice is a great option if weight loss is your priority but you also want to add this tasty cruciferous vegetable to your meals.
Packed with all the nutrients of a cauliflower, this white rice alternative also contains fibre, Vitamin C, K and B6, as well as potassium.
If you compare cauliflower rice to cooked brown rice, you are actually only consuming 25 calories as opposed to 218 calories per cup of brown rice.
Taste: It is light and fluffy and obviously tastes like cauliflower, as the name suggests.
How to cook: To prepare cauliflower rice, simply pulse the florets in a food processor until it reaches the consistency you prefer and transfer it to a clean bowl. Do this in batches with the rest of the florets. Next, heat up some oil (of your choice) in a pan and stir fry your cauliflower rice to get that crunchiness. Remember to season your "rice" with salt or any spice of your choice. Enjoy it as is or with a complimentary savoury curry.
8. Wild rice
Native to North America, wild rice is often mistaken for a type of rice. But it is actually an aquatic, unrelated cereal grain that grows in shallow water bodies.
This type of rice is rich in dietary fibre, protein and several micronutrients including potassium, iron, zinc, folate and niacin. It is also gluten-free, which means it is best for those who suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Plus, it’s a great alternative to white rice, especially if weight loss is your priority.
Taste: Since wild rice still has its bran intact, it may taste nutty and crunchy and similar to brown rice. However, you might be able to taste an earthy black tea flavour as well.
How to cook: Wild rice usually takes the longest to cook. Since it comes intact in its bran, you need to soak in warm water for 20 minutes before cooking. Alternatively, take 1:3 rice to water ratio and cook the rice for well about 30-35 minutes on low heat. Cook until the rice becomes tender and the kernels begin to pop open. If the rice is older and cured, it may take anything between 45 and 60 minutes to cook.
Whether you are on a paleo diet, a protein-rich diet or just trying other white rice alternatives for weight loss, these options are your best bet.
Not only are they high on nutritional value, but they also score pretty well when it comes to taste. So try and make it! They can be eaten with almost any savoury dish you prefer.