Is it healthier than rice?
New and creative products at the grocery store always catch people’s eyes—especially when the package contains enticing health claims. A recent addition to the “grains” is actually not a grain at all, and it promises to have more nutrients than its counterpart. It’s a grain-free “rice” made from beans, such as chickpeas or lentils.
Much like pasta made from beans, this pseudo-rice is made by shaping a chickpea batter into a rice shape. After that, you can cook it and eat it like rice. Notably, bean-based rice typically cooks faster than regular rice: It’s ready in under 10 minutes.
What Are the Health Benefits?
One of the selling points of beany rice is the nutrition profile. Because it’s made from beans, it has many of the benefits of beans. Specifically, rice made from beans is sky-high in protein and fiber.
For example, rice made from chickpeas contains 11 grams of protein per serving. By comparison, brown rice offers 3 grams. As for fiber, chickpea rice has 5 grams, compared to brown rice’s 2 grams. That means this bean-based rice may come in handy if you’re having trouble hitting your daily fiber quota.
On average, most Americans do fall short in the fiber department. Experts recommend at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily, but the average American only gets around 15, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Getting enough fiber can improve digestion, improve blood sugar control, reduce cholesterol levels, and help with portion control.
Is It Healthier Than Regular Rice?
First, there was cauliflower rice. Now, there’s bean-based rice. You might be wondering: Is there something “bad” about plain, ol’ rice?
Unfortunately, decades of fad diets have inspired an unfair fear of carbohydrates. This partially stemmed from a misinterpretation of dietary advice. Experts worried that Americans were eating too many simple carbs—namely, sugar, soda, and white bread—which was throwing off their macronutrient balance. The public interpreted this as “carbs are bad,” and the rest is history.
However, whole grains and complex carbs contribute to a well-balanced diet. Far from needing to eliminate carbs, your diet should actually dedicate 45 to 65 percent of its calories to carbs, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine.
In other words, you shouldn’t “fear” brown rice, and it can definitely contribute to a healthy and well-balanced diet. Learn more about simple carbs vs. complex carbs here, and find out the health risks of extreme low-carb diets here.
Reasons to Try Bean-Based “Rice”
You may not need bean-based “rice” to have a healthy diet, but this rice alternative could help you meet certain health goals. For example, it could help you:
- Add beans to your diet, if you struggle to eat beans themselves (and here are other unique ways to eat more beans)
- Increase your fiber intake
- Diversify your diet, if you eat rice multiple times a week
- Experiment and have fun in the kitchen
That said, don’t feel pressure to hop on new trends just because they promise health perks. After all, beans and rice are just as delicious and healthy when they’re kept separate, so you don’t need to turn your beans into rice if you don’t want to.
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- Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked (includes foods for USDA’s food distribution program). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2019. (Accessed on August 31, 2020)
- The benefits of beans and legumes. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on August 31, 2020)
- What is a whole grain? Chicago, IL: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2019. (Accessed on August 31, 2020)