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Wild Rice Nutrition Review – Is It Good for You?

Spoonful of Wild Rice

Wild rice is a whole grain that has been growing in popularity
in recent years.

It is very nutritious and believed to have numerous health
benefits.

The current research on it is limited, but a few studies have
shown great promise.

What Is Wild Rice?

Despite its name, wild rice is not rice at all.

Although it is the seed of an aquatic grass, just like rice,
it’s not directly related to rice.

The grass grows naturally in shallow freshwater marshes and
along the shores of streams and lakes.

There are four different species of wild rice. One is native to
Asia and harvested as a vegetable.

The remaining three species are native to North America,
specifically the Great Lakes region, and harvested as a grain.

Wild rice was originally grown and harvested by Native
Americans, who have used the grain as a staple food for
hundreds of years.

It’s only referred to as rice because it looks and cooks like
other types of rice.

However, it tends to have a stronger flavor and higher price.

Bottom Line: Wild rice is a species of grass
that produces edible seeds resembling rice. It tends to have
a stronger taste and cost more than rice.

Nutrition Facts

Heap of Wild Rice

100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cooked wild rice provides 101

calories
(1).

This is slightly less than brown and
white rice
, which provide 112 and 130 calories,
respectively (2, 3).

A 100-gram serving of cooked wild rice provides (1):

  • Calories: 101.
  • Carbs: 21 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fiber: 2 grams.
  • Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI.
  • Folate: 6% of the RDI.
  • Magnesium: 8% of the RDI.
  • Phosphorus: 8% of the RDI.
  • Zinc: 9% of the RDI.
  • Copper: 6% of the RDI.
  • Manganese: 14% of the RDI.

Wild rice also contains small amounts of iron, potassium and
selenium.

The low calorie and high nutrient content makes wild rice a
nutrient-dense food. It is a very impressive source of
minerals, and a great
plant source of protein
.

Bottom Line: Wild rice contains an
impressive amount of several nutrients, including protein,
manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.

Wild Rice Is Higher in Protein and Fiber

Wild rice contains more protein
than regular rice and many other grains.

A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of wild rice contains 4 grams of
protein, which is twice as much protein as regular brown or
white rice (1, 2, 3).

Furthermore, the protein in wild rice is a complete protein,
meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids.

This makes it a good protein option for vegetarians and vegans.

Meanwhile, the fiber
content of wild rice is the same as brown rice, with each
providing 1.8 grams of fiber per 3.5 oz serving. Alternatively,
white rice provides little to no fiber.

Bottom Line: Wild rice contains more protein
than other types of rice, but the same amount of fiber as
brown rice.

Wild Rice Is a Powerful Source of Antioxidants

Wild Rice on a Wooden Spoon

Antioxidants
are considered to be important for overall health.

They are believed to protect against aging and reduce the risk
of several diseases, including cancer (4, 5).

Researchers at the University of Minnesota determined that wild
rice is extremely high in antioxidants (6).

In another analysis of 11 different samples of wild rice, it
was found to have 30 times greater antioxidant activity than
white rice (7).

Additionally, in a 2014 scientific review of wild rice, one of
the most prominent findings was its high antioxidant levels
(8).

Bottom Line: Wild rice is very high in
antioxidants, which may help reduce the risk of several
diseases.

Wild Rice May Be Good for Your Heart

Wild Rice in a Wooden Bowl

While research on wild rice itself is limited, a large number
of studies have examined the effects of whole grains,
such as wild rice, on heart health.

Generally, a higher intake of whole grains is associated with a
decreased risk of heart disease (9, 10).

In a large analysis of 45 studies, researchers found that
people who ate the most whole grains had a 16–21% lower risk of
heart disease, compared to those who ate the least (11).

In particular, one study found that increasing whole grain
intake by 25 grams per day decreased the risk of a heart attack
by 12–13% (12).

Another study found that eating at least 6 servings of whole
grains per week slowed the buildup of plaque in arteries
(13).

Lastly, several animal studies have been done on wild rice and
heart health. These studies showed that eating wild rice
reduced LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and helped prevent plaque
buildup in arteries, which should lower heart disease risk
(8, 14).

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Bottom Line: Eating wild rice has been shown
to improve heart health in animal studies, and many studies
show that eating whole grains is linked to a decreased risk
of heart disease.

Wild Rice May Lower Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Scoop of Wild Rice

According to research, diets high in whole grains like wild
rice can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by
20–30% (15).

This is mainly attributed to the vitamins, minerals, plant
compounds and fiber found in whole grains.

In a large analysis of 16 studies, researchers found eating
whole grains was associated with a reduced risk of type 2
diabetes, while consuming refined grains like white rice was
associated with an increased risk (16).

Researchers suggest eating at least two servings of whole
grains each day to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Data from six studies, including 286,125 participants, suggest
that eating two servings of whole grains per day is associated
with a 21% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes (17).

Although it hasn’t been tested in humans directly, eating wild
rice has been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce

insulin resistance
in rats (18).

Bottom Line: Eating whole grains is
associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and some
animal studies show that eating wild rice improves blood
sugar control.

Potential Adverse Effects

Wild rice is generally safe for human consumption.

However, in some cases it may be contaminated with ergot or
heavy metals.

Ergot Toxicity

Wild rice seeds can be infected with a toxic fungus called
ergot, which may be dangerous if eaten.

Some side effects of ergot toxicity include nausea, vomiting,
diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, seizures and mental impairment.

Infected grains typically have pink or purplish spots or fungus
growths that are visible to the human eye.

Additionally, grain standards and agricultural practices in
most countries help prevent contamination, so ergot toxicity in
humans is very rare.

Heavy Metals

Similarly to regular rice, wild rice may contain heavy metals.

Over time, heavy metals can accumulate in the body and
cause health problems.

Toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic have been
identified in 26 brands of wild rice sold in the US (19, 20).

These could become problematic if consumed regularly in large
amounts, but are probably not a cause for concern in people who
eat a varied, real food-based diet.

Bottom Line: Wild rice may contain heavy
metals, and sometimes it can be infected with a toxic fungus
called ergot. This is probably not a concern for people who
eat a varied diet.

How to Eat Wild Rice

Cooked Wild Rice in a Blue Bowl

Wild rice has a nutty, earthy flavor and a chewy texture.

It’s a great substitute for potatoes, pasta or rice. Some
people eat it alone, while others mix it with other rice or
grains.

Alternatively, wild rice can be added to a wide variety of
foods such as salads, soups, casseroles and even desserts.

It’s simple to make, although it can take anywhere from 45–60
minutes to fully cook.

Therefore, it may be a good idea to make large batches and
freeze the leftovers for later meals.

Here is a simple recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  • Rinse the wild rice with cold water.
  • Place the rice in a saucepan and add 3 cups of water and
    salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce it to a simmer and cover the pan.
  • Simmer covered for 40–60 minutes until the water is
    absorbed. You will know the wild rice is fully cooked when it
    cracks open and curls.
  • Strain the rice and fluff it with a fork before serving.

Bottom Line: Wild rice has a nutty flavor
and chewy texture. It can be eaten alone or added to a
variety of foods such as salads, soups, casseroles and
desserts.

Summary

Wild rice is a special type of grain that’s chewy and tasty.

It’s higher in protein than regular rice, and it contains
several important nutrients and an impressive amount of
antioxidants.

What’s more, eating wild rice regularly may improve heart
health and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.

If you haven’t tried wild rice yet, then you’re in for a treat.

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