Rice vs pasta: which is healthier?

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It is true that all is not carbohydrates are created equal. Those that are whole grains, for example, tend to have more nutrients, including protein and fiber, than their more processed counterparts.

But carbohydrates, like pasta and rice, are important sources of nutrition, whether it’s whole grains, says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD And while pasta has been the OG carb used to fuel endurance activities, like long hikes, is it really superior to its smaller, longer-cooking friend, rice?

Let’s break them down.

Nutrition and benefits of pasta

Whether you prefer spaghetti, penne, linguini, angel hair, we could go on, pasta is a must for endurance athletes thanks to its carb content.

A one-cup serving of pasta has about 220 calories and 43 grams of carbs. The biggest difference between white pasta and whole-wheat pasta is their fiber content, Rizzo says, with the latter being a bit easier on the stomach during exercise. But both varieties contain roughly the same amount of protein: 8 grams per serving.

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Pasta is technically more processed than rice, which is a whole food, Rizzo says. However, when we think of processed foods, we think of packaged snacks and beverages that have been linked to negative health outcomes like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, according to a 2020 review Posted in Nutrients.

“But the process pasta goes through is no different than bread, and pasta may actually be healthier,” says Rizzo. “Bread contains added sugars and fillers. Pasta is just wheat and water, and it’s fortified with B vitamins.” (Many breads are also fortified with B vitamins.)

Pasta can be more convenient to cook than rice, if you’re not using an instant rice variety. And when you’re a busy training athlete, time is money.

In recent years, food manufacturers have made pasta from a host of plants other than wheat, including lentils, chickpeas, and beans. These tend to contain higher levels of certain nutrients, including protein and fibers, but less of amounts of carbohydrates.

Nutrition and benefits of rice

For reasons unknown to Rizzo, people tend to choose rice dishes when they want a “healthier” carb than pasta. She says she doesn’t know where the stigma that rice is healthier comes from.

“Rice is a staple in other cuisines that tend to be healthier,” she says, noting the vegetable-heavy rice dishes in some Asian dishes and the prevalence of rice and beans in dishes. dishes from Latin American countries.

A cup of rice has about 250 calories and 53 grams of carbs, putting it ahead of its calorie and carb rival pasta.

Compared to pasta, rice – brown and white – contains much less protein (about 2 grams per serving compared to 8 grams for pasta) and fiber (1 gram for brown rice, 0.5 grams for white compared to 2, 5 grams for white pasta, 7 grams for whole wheat).

Rice contains vitamins and minerals that pasta does not, including folic acid, B vitamins (unless the pasta is fortified), iron and zinc, but Rizzo says the amounts are very high. weak. For those on a gluten-free diet, rice is a good option.

The essential

Because these two starchy grains are so nutritionally similar, Rizzo says it doesn’t matter what you choose to fuel your rides.

If you are looking for a slight increase in protein during, for example, a recovery period, pasta offers it. Or if you have a sensitive stomach, opt for white rice before a workout, as it has the lowest amount of fiber of your pasta and rice options.

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But when it comes to determining “which food is healthier,” Rizzo says it really depends on what you’ve paired that food with. Both rice and pasta provide quality carbs, but if you pair pasta with a cream-based sauce or beans with rice, it might upset your stomach.

As with all things exercise and nutrition, it’s a good idea to make sure certain foods are a good match for your digestive tract. Before your next long workout, try a simple pesto sauce over pasta or a fried egg with rice. To refuel, pair pasta with turkey meatballs (high in protein!) and tomato sauce (high in antioxidants!) or grilled salmon on a bed of rice and a drizzle of olive oil.


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