Rice During Pregnancy: Best Types, Safety, and Benefits

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Rice is a starch very popular in many different cuisines and dishes, such as fried rice, Spanish rice, rice and beans, and much more! There are many unique types of rice on the grocery store shelves, so let’s discuss the best types to consume during pregnancy. 

While all types of rice have their own benefits and drawbacks, opt for rice rich in whole grains. To safely consume rice, ensure it is thoroughly washed and/or soaked and it is cooled and stored appropriately. 

With such wide different rice varieties from white to brown to wild rice, it is often hard to choose which one is best for you and your pregnancy. So, let’s discuss some of the common rice varieties and how to safely incorporate them into your healthy diet!

What Kinds of Rice are Best for Pregnant Women?

Rice is a versatile cereal grain and carbohydrate that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. While the exact amount depends heavily on the specific variety, rice is rich in fiber, iron, B vitamins such as thiamine and vitamin B6, magnesium, selenium, and so much more (source: Harvard School of Public Health). 

B vitamins are essential, especially during pregnancy. Thiamine, or vitamin B1, plays a role in your baby’s brain development (source: American Pregnancy Association). Additionally, vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, also supports the baby’s healthy brain development as well as nervous system functioning. 

While there are many health benefits, one rice-related concern (though very unlikely to cause harm) is the potential arsenic content that may cause adverse outcomes for pregnancy (source: U.S. Food & Drug Administration [FDA]). There are some precautions you can take to reduce the arsenic levels within your rice.

To reduce the potential arsenic content of your dish, cook your rice in excess amounts of water, precisely 6-10 parts water to one part rice, and then drain the excess water (source: FDA).

While this method can remove up to 60% of the arsenic content of the rice, it may also remove much of the rice’s nutrition, including vitamin B, iron, and other minerals. 

Therefore, the FDA recommends pregnant women consume various types of grains (including whole grains) in their balanced diet to get adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. 

Let’s dive into the different types of rice. 

uncooked red rice in a bowl

Red Rice and Wild Rice

Red and wild rice are popular varieties that many enjoy for their attractive colors and unique flavors. 

Red rice bears its beautiful color due to the phytochemicals it contains, including anthocyanin (source: Harvard School of Public Health). Anthocyanin is an antioxidant that helps to protect cells against the harmful effects of free radicals in the body. 

Red rice is similar in nutrition and fiber content to brown rice!

Wild rice is even more nutritious than brown rice as it is higher in protein and still rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber (source: Harvard School of Public Health). In addition, it has a nutty flavor that is perfect for trying in your next rice dish!

pouring water into saucepan with brown rice on kitchen table

Brown and Whole Grain Rice

While pregnant (and even if you are not!), eating a diet rich in whole grains is essential. Specifically, at least half of the starches you eat in a day should be whole grains. (source: Mayo Clinic). 

Brown rice and whole-grain rice are excellent sources of whole grains and are incredibly nutrient-rich, fibrous, and filling. Fiber is essential for regular bowel movements because it contains insoluble fiber that helps promote movement through the gastrointestinal system (source: Mayo Clinic).

cooked white rice in a bowl

White Rice: Long Grain, Basmati, and More

White rice types contain small amounts of soluble fiber that forms what is similar to a gel in the body, which can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels (source: Mayo Clinic).

For white rice, the vitamins, such as B vitamins, naturally present in the rice, are removed during processing and then added back in or “enriched” (source: Harvard School of Public Health). 

However, white rice is higher in sugar than brown and wild rice. Therefore, it is recommended to substitute white rice with whole grain rice to reduce the risk of diabetes (source: Harvard School of Public Health). 

Is Microwave Rice Safe When Pregnant?

Many wonder if instant microwave rice packets are safe to consume during pregnancy. 

Good news! The convenient rice product is safe to consume during pregnancy, as long as it is finished promptly or cooled appropriately for storage. Refrigerate your uneaten rice within two hours of cooking (source: FDA) unless the temperature outside is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. In this case, you need to refrigerate the rice within one hour of cooking.

healthy homemade fried rice on a plate

Is it Safe to Eat Fried Rice During Pregnancy?

If consuming fried rice with ingredients such as eggs, ensure it is fully cooked. If you are dining out, ask if the eggs used are pasteurized (source: FDA). Fried rice with cold cuts or deli meats should be heated until steaming. 

Additionally, leftover fried rice (or any leftover) should be reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure safety (source: FDA).

Another concern many have regarding cooked rice is the aflatoxin content. Aflatoxins are a type of fungi by-product that can have harmful effects on human health. 

However, contamination from aflatoxins is much more likely in developing countries than in the United States (source: Toxicology Reports). If you are worried, studies have demonstrated that you can reduce potential aflatoxin content in rice by using a rice cooker (source: Toxicology and Industrial Health). 

Are Rice Cakes Good During Pregnancy?

Rice cakes are a tasty snack during pregnancy, whether they are sweet, salty, or plain. However, while they are safe for pregnancy, they often contain little nutritional value. Many are made from white rice and have sugar and carbohydrates. 

For example, the sweet versions are often low-calorie and may contain sweet flavors such as apple, chocolate, caramel, and more. Savory versions include plain, salted, cheesy, and more. When choosing a rice cake at the grocery store, opt for whole grain rice cakes to boost the nutritional content. 

rice cakes with banana and peanut butter toppings

Additionally, to bulk up the nutrition of your rice cakes to make a satisfying snack, here are some delicious toppings to try on your cake: 

The options to boost the nutrition of your rice cakes are endless. Additionally, if you want a more nutritious snack you can swap out your rice cakes for whole grain crackers! 

Overall, rice is a cereal grain that provides many essential vitamins and minerals. I hope you found this article helpful in unpacking the best ways to consume rice during pregnancy.