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Which is healthier: cauliflower rice or white rice?

A bowl of cauliflower and rice and a bowl of white rice

Is cauliflower rice really a healthier option than white rice? Dietitian Jennifer Low puts the two side dishes to the test.

Why cauliflower rice is healthy

The beauty of cauliflower ‘rice’ is that you can pump up the volume of your meal while keeping the calorie content down. Psychologists who specialise in appetite and satiety have identified the importance of ‘plate fill’ in helping us to feel satisfied.

In other words, if a plate looks full, we kid ourselves into thinking it’s going to fill us up, even if the plate is packed with low-energy alternatives to standard carbs. Remember, although we call it ‘rice’, this isn’t a carb-rich food at all, and a 150g portion counts as one of your five-plus-a-day of fruit and vegetables.

As a member of the brassica family, cauliflower rice also adds valuable sulphur-based plant compounds, regular intakes of which have been linked to lower rates of heart disease and some forms of cancer. It also throws some vitamins (C and K) into the bargain, which are useful for immunity and bone health.

Why rice is good for you

When opting for rice, go for basmati if you can. This is because the particular structure of basmati’s starch grains makes it more difficult to digest, which in turn gives it a lower glycaemic index than long grain versions. In practice, this means that it raises your blood sugar levels less abruptly after eating, helping to give a greater sense of fullness.

The only problem with white rice is that it’s very moreish, and its lack of fibre makes is easy to eat more than you might need. For this reason, it’s best to switch to brown versions, which will boost your fibre to 2.3g fibre in a 150g portion. Because brown rice still has the outer layers of the husk it also provides valuable nutrients, such as 69 per cent of your daily manganese per serving and 27 per cent of your phosphorus. While manganese is important in the production of enzymes in our bodies, phosphorus is crucial for building strong bones.

The verdict

Cauliflower rice is the better choice if you’re following a low-carb plan or interested in reducing energy without having to go for a tiny portion that might leave you hungry. If you’re following a standard healthy diet, however, there’s no harm in a portion-controlled serving of white rice – especially basmati rice, with its lower GI. And switching to brown rice will be more filling and provide you with a useful nutrient boost at the same time.

For recipes using cauliflower or brown rice you might be interested in: Coconut quinoa curry with cauliflower rice, Broccoli and cauliflower ‘rice’ with summer veges, Vegan curried fried rice, or Spicy peanut chicken and pumpkin stew

First published: Jan 2020
Last updated: February 9, 2021

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