Are rice cakes healthy? Here’s what a nutritionist thinks
Rice cakes are a popular snack, especially for those looking to maintain a healthy weight, as they can be low in calories and carbohydrates. Why? Because a rice cake is basically pieces of puffed rice pressed together to form a pancake. But are these crispy snacks really good for you? Here’s an overview of their nutritional content, pros and cons, and how to eat them the healthy way.
rice cake nutrition
Depending on the type of rice cake you buy, the nutritional information will vary. For example, you can find rice cakes in a variety of flavors like chocolate, white cheddar, cinnamon apple, and caramel corn, all of which contain additional ingredients that increase their sugar or sodium content. I recommend my customers to stick with plain browns, as they count as a whole grain and have no added ingredients.
For example, the nutrients in a plain brown rice cupcake (nine grams) break down as follows:
- calories: 34.8
- Sodium: 2.3mg
- Big: 0.3 grams (g)
- Protein: 0.7g
- Carbohydrates: 7.3g
- Sugar: 0g
- Fiber: 0.4g
- Manganese: 17% Daily Value (DV)
- Niacin: 4% DV
- Magnesium: 3% DV
- Zinc: 2% DV
The most important nutrient in rice cakes is manganese, a mineral necessary for immune function, collagen production, and bone strength. Rice cakes also provide small amounts of the B vitamin niacin — which helps convert carbohydrates into fuel for the body to use — and traces of other minerals, including magnesium and zinc.
Since serving sizes vary, it’s important to check the Nutrition Facts label for a specific brand of rice cake you’re buying.
Are they in good health?
Because there are so many variations in the composition and size of rice cakes, the best answer to whether they are healthy is: it depends. In general, it’s best to avoid flavored rice cakes, which contain higher amounts of sugar, sodium, and other artificial ingredients.
You should also avoid those made with white rice, a refined grain lacking in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. However, plain rice cakes made simply from puffed brown rice offer some health benefits.
1. Contains Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds found in foods that act as bodyguards, protecting healthy cells from DNA damage that causes aging and disease. A 2018 review published in the journal Antioxidants found that brown rice contains a variety of phenolics, a group of antioxidants also found in tea and citrus fruits. Phenolic compounds protect cells from damage that has been linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease.
2. Rice cakes regulate blood sugar
Research has shown that whole grains, including brown rice, can control post-meal blood sugar in people with diabetes and may even help prevent type II diabetes altogether. The reason? Whole grains contain high amounts of fiber, which the body cannot break down and absorb for energy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Therefore, these carbohydrates do not cause blood sugar to spike like their refined counterparts. Plus, whole grain fiber feeds the good bacteria in our gut, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which have been linked to the prevention of diabetes and obesity.
3. Rice cakes control weight
Rice cakes can help you maintain a healthy weight if they replace high-calorie, high-carb foods in your diet. For example, swapping one plain bagel from Thomas for two organic brown rice cakes from Lundberg eliminates 130 calories and 21g of carbs. Making this change three times a week could lead to weight loss of nearly six pounds over a year.
4. Rice cakes are easy to digest
Rice is easy to digest because it is a low FODMAP food, and the same is true for plain brown rice cakes. FODMAPs are carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed during digestion, which can cause some people to experience bloating, pain, cramps and gas. Additionally, because brown rice is naturally gluten-free, rice cakes made with brown rice are a great option for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Rice Cake Snack Ideas
For my customers who like rice cakes, I recommend an organic brown rice option. Plain rice cakes do not have a strong flavor, but they have a slight nutty taste that lends itself to both savory and sweet accompaniments such as:
- Mashed avocado sprinkled with sprouted pumpkin seeds
- Hummus topped with vegetables, such as baby spinach, tomato slices, and cucumber
- Tapenade of olives
- Vegan pesto
- Nut-based cheese, like vegan ricotta, topped with pepper, tomato slices, and basil
- Chocolate hummus, topped with sliced berries
- Almond or cashew butter topped with banana slices and sprinkled with cinnamon
- Melted dark chocolate topped with pomegranate arils or sliced figs
- Peanut butter or sunflower seed butter sprinkled with raspberry jam
- Coconut butter topped with chopped walnuts and dark chocolate shavings
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Healthnutrition editor, a New York Times bestselling author and performance nutritionist in private practice who has consulted with five professional sports teams.
This story first appeared on www.health.com.
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