People who eat rice have healthier diets, eat more fruits and vegetables, consume less added sugar and fat and are likely to have a lower body mass index than non-rice eaters, according to a new study presented for the first time today at a meeting of two key member groups of the American Dietetic Association.
The data suggest that including rice as part of a healthy, balanced diet can be linked to overall healthier eating patterns. The data also indicate that the rice eaters are more likely to eat a diet consistent with the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
"What our study shows is that rice consumers choose diets that include more fruits and vegetables, less added fat and less sugar than those whose diets do not include rice," says Helen Jensen, the Iowa State University researcher who conducted the study. "The data show that rice eaters also consume more nutrients, such as folic acid, potassium and iron that are contained in rice products, and that they appear to manage their weight better than non-rice consumers. This is good news for Americans looking to make a change in their diet because it suggests that adding rice to the diet may promote healthier food choices."
The study looked at the 2001-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the most current nationally representative government data, along with the most recent Continuing Survey of Food Intake of Individuals (CSFII), from 1994-1996, which included over 35,000 Americans, to obtain a representative sample of the U.S. population. The survey identified those who consumed at least half a serving of white or brown rice and how rice consumers' diets differ from the diets of non-rice eaters. The data indicate that:
- Over 40% of rice consumers ate diets containing no more than 30% of calories from fat compared to 30% of non-rice consumers
- Compared to non-rice consumers, rice eaters' diets had:
- More grains
- More vegetables
- More fruit
- Less added fat
- Less added sugar
- Rice consumers are less likely to have a body mass index score classified as obese
- Rice consumers ate just over 1/2 serving more of vegetables per day and 1/2 serving more of fruit per day
- Rice consumers ate 4.5 grams less fat (1 tsp) per day and 3.3 grams less sugar. (That equals 54 calories per day which could translate to a savings of up to 5.5 pounds that could be avoided due to excess sugar and fat calories consumed over the course of a year.)
"We know that rice is the foundation of a healthy diet for much of the world, especially in Asia and the Mediterranean. This study documents for the first time a similar pattern among rice eaters in the U.S.," says Keith Ayoob, Registered Dietitian and Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "In light of today's obesity epidemic, the data showing that rice eaters eat less fat and sugar and, as a result, tend to eliminate a lot of calories that they don't need from their diets, is good news for people who are looking to adopt a healthier eating style and maintain a healthy weight. In addition, rice partners well with foods like vegetables that we want people to eat more of."
The diets of rice eaters are more consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines which recommend that Americans eat a healthy balance of nutrient- dense foods, increase consumption of vegetables and fruits, limit saturated and trans fats, sodium and cholesterol, and watch their caloric intake. The Guidelines also recommend that people consume three or more ounce-equivalents of whole grain products, such as brown rice, per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products, such as white rice. A half cup of brown or white rice equals one ounce-equivalent.