Rice Versus Pasta For Weight Loss – Which One Should You Eat?

Weight loss is certainly no easy task. To lose weight effectively, you need to follow the right diet. You also need to ensure you exercise enough. When it comes to dieting in particular, it is tough to determine what is truly appropriate to eat. While it is obvious that donuts and frequent trips to Starbucks are not appropriate, some foods can be confusing. This is often a factor when looking at rice and pasta. In this post, we compare rice versus pasta for weight loss.

Starch And A Balanced Diet

Losing weight often starts with what you eat. Restricting your intake of food too much might be an effective way of creating a caloric deficit, but it can lead to nutritional deficiencies (1). In such a case, you may experience adverse effects, suffer poor health, and you’re more likely to gain back the lost weight after the diet.

This is why it is important to adopt a balanced diet in your weight loss program. This way, you can lose weight without causing damage to your body or depriving yourself of the health benefits provided by nutrients.

A balanced weight loss diet should consist of different food types. One of these food types include starch. Starchy foods are generally high in carbohydrates. They form part of a balanced diet (2) in cases where you are not looking to follow a keto diet or another type of low-carb program.

There are a few reasons why starchy foods should be part of your diet.

These carbohydrate-rich foods are broken down into sugars in your digestive tract. This helps to regulate blood sugar. Complex carbs help with the regulation of blood sugar levels over a longer period of time, as the sugars are released into the bloodstream at a slower rate.

When developing a healthy diet program, there are a few types of starches to consider. These starches are often included with dinner, but some people rather choose to have them for lunch. Two of the most common starches that people rely on include pasta and rice.

One major misconception that people have is that starchy foods like rice and pasta will interfere with their weight loss program. This, however, is not necessarily the case. It is important to note that apart from carbohydrates, these foods also contain additional nutrients.

The contents of the two starchy foods can also effectively improve satiety, which helps to reduce binging throughout the day – and especially late at night.

Starch As A Fuel Source For the Body

When looking at the role of starches in your diet, it is important to consider the fact that these foods help to fuel your body. Your body needs glucose to produce energy. This does not only relate to the amount of physical energy you have.

By turning the carbohydrates into sugars, your cells also gain access to this “fuel” (3). The starch raises blood sugar levels, and your body then transports the glucose to your cells (4).

With the right starches on your plate, it is possible to experience long-lasting energy.

This happens when you eat starchy food that contains slow-releasing carbohydrates (5). You get a consistent release of the glucose over a few hours, which helps to ensure you stay energized and full.

Your muscles and brain also depend on this process (6) (7). Both of these require a consistent supply of energy to function properly.

Nutritional Content Of Starchy Foods

As previously noted, another reason to consume starches is due to the nutritional content. The specific nutrients depend on the food that you add to your plate. Generally, however, starches are known for contributing to your daily intake of B vitamins (8).

This is a family of vitamins that play different roles in the body – such as helping with energy production, ensuring you have enough blood, and more.

Some of these B vitamins also play a role in your metabolism. With this in mind, getting your daily dose of the vitamins could assist with your weight loss program.

Many starches also contain folate, calcium, and iron. These are three additional nutrients that your body depends on.

Rice Versus Pasta

When looking at starches, one of the most common comparisons made would be rice versus pasta. This is especially the case with people who are looking to lose weight.

Before we do a comparison, it is important to get a better idea on the nutritional and calorie content of each. This will help us make a more accurate conclusion in terms of how each one works with a weight loss program.

Below is an overview of the differences in nutritional facts related to pasta and rice.

  Pasta (100g)    Rice (100g)   
Calories 160 117
Fat 0.7g 0.5g
Carbs 32.5g 25.1g
Starch 31g 24.9g
Fiber 1.4g 1.2g
Protein 5.1g 2.6g

 

Now that we have looked at the nutrients you get when eating pasta and rice, we can make a more informed comparison.

Pasta Nutrient Content

One of the first differences you will notice when looking at whether rice or pasta is right for you would be the caloric content. A 100-gram serving of pasta gives you 160 calories. The same serving of cooked white rice offers 117 calories.

This makes the serving size of pasta a more calorie-rich option compared to rice. Thus, if you are very strict on the number of calories you consume, then pasta might not be the right choice for you.

Pasta Carbohydrates

We can also see that pasta has more carbs. A higher carbohydrate load means you’ll be more likely to experience weight gain if you do not participate in appropriate exercises. The good thing about pasta, however, is that these are complex carbohydrates (9).

They release slowly into your body, allowing you to experience the benefits over a period of time. Even when wheat flour is used to produce pasta, it will still contain a high carb content.

Fiber And Protein Content

Now, when we look at fiber and protein, this is where pasta starts to outshine rice. One cup of pasta offers you a relatively higher concentration of fiber. Pasta also contains almost double the amount of protein that rice has. Thus, when choosing rice, you will need to eat more if you wish to load up on protein.

Both fiber and protein can play a role in your weight loss journey (10) (11).

In fact, some experts suggest that protein might be the most important element in a weight loss program. With this in mind, pasta can give you more nutritional value when looking at protein, as well as dietary fiber.

There are a few ways in which protein helps with weight loss (12). One of the greatest benefits is the fact that protein has been found to boost metabolism. A slow metabolism is a common reason for a person to gain weight (13). By increasing the speed at which your metabolism works, you’ll be at a lower risk of accumulating more fat.

Protein is also known to help with appetite control. When you consume a high-protein meal, you’ll feel fuller for a longer period of time – especially compared to eating white bread or another type of food that is high in calories, but low in protein.

Additionally, there is some evidence that suggests protein works on certain hormones that are related to weight regulation.

We should not overlook the role of fiber here. Fiber has a role to play in the digestive system. By consuming foods that are high in fiber, you’ll also have fewer cravings during the day. This means fiber also contributes to satiety.

The combination of protein and fiber works together to help you feel full after you had a meal. This makes you less likely to participate in late-night snacking. It also ensures you have more control when experiencing cravings during the day.

Rice Nutrition Facts

Whether consuming white or brown rice, one of the major advantages here is the lower calorie content. This means you’ll find rice more suitable for a strict calorie-controlled diet. While the calorie content may not seem that much different, it can still play a role in helping you lose weight and remain in a caloric deficit state.

Do take note that brown rice has slightly more calories than white rice. It does, however, also offer you more protein, fiber, and fatty acids (14).

In addition to these essentials, rice also contains calcium and iron. Both of these minerals play a role in keeping your body healthy. Calcium has a role to play in keeping your bones strong, while iron assists with the production of hemoglobin.

Opting for whole-grain rice can add more benefits to your meal. This is primarily due to the higher fiber content. By introducing your body to a higher concentration of fiber, you’ll feel fuller after you consume a meal (15).

This is also why many people would add about a quarter cup of cooked rice to their lunch. This way, you load up on the calories throughout the day – while you are still active.

When looking at options like rice noodles, things become a bit more complex. This might be called rice, but the food rather steers toward the category of pasta.

How To Choose Between The Two

By considering the facts we shared, it becomes clear that there are differences between rice and pasta. Furthermore, it is also important to consider that each of these has its own variations too. For example, white rice is different from brown rice. You also get wild rice, and then there are rice noodles – which technically fall into the category of pasta. On the other end, we have white pasta, whole-wheat pasta, and several other options.

All of this information can feel overwhelming. The truth is, one is not necessarily better than the other. To determine which one to include in your diet, you should consider more than just the food itself. Take a closer look at your goals, dietary habits, and the types of exercises you do.

Cooked pasta can be a good choice if you do a lot of intense workouts during your daily exercise routine. This is primarily due to the fact that pasta contains more calories. The higher calorie count in pasta, along with the extra carbohydrates, offers more fuel for your muscles during these workouts.

For less intense exercise and those individuals who rather want to focus on reducing their calorie intake, cooked rice could be the better choice. There are fewer calories in both brown rice and white rice when compared to pasta. This makes it easier in general to achieve a caloric deficit in your diet.

Of course, there is no need to make a definite choice between the two. If you enjoy both rice and pasta, you can consider including both of these in your diet – just not at the same time. As an example, if you include starches in your diet five times a week, you could consider mixing things up. On Monday, you can include whole wheat pasta in your meal. Tuesday might be a good idea for a bowl of brown rice with some healthy vegetables. During the other days, you mix your meals up by using white rice and white pasta.

When you decide to include both pasta and rice, make sure you consider on which days you eat each. Consider including pasta on the days when you will participate in more strenuous workouts. This way, you’ll be sure to burn the excess calories that pasta offers. Also try to opt for whole wheat choices, such as brown rice. This provides more benefits compared to an option like white rice.

Tips For Losing Weight With Rice Or Pasta

A weight-loss diet should include starch to help balance your intake of macronutrients. Too many starches, however, can result in weight gain. Make sure you understand a few things when setting up your diet, as this will ensure you can benefit from starches while still being able to reduce your body weight.

First of all, consider when you are going to eat your daily starch. Many people decide to consume pasta or rice for dinner. Remember that dinner is served around the time you start to settle down for the night. This means you are not as likely to burn calories through exercise after the meal.

With this in mind, consider consuming your starches earlier in the day.

Try to opt for whole grain or whole wheat options whenever possible. These options are generally considered healthier compared to standard options. If you choose whole-grain pasta or rice, you also gain the benefit of additional fiber. As we mentioned, fiber is an important substance that helps with appetite control and satiety.

When preparing pasta or rice, be mindful about what you add to the meal. There’s no use in choosing rice due to the low-calorie content if you are going to load your plate with other high-calorie foods.

Conclusion

Both pasta and rice are popular starchy foods that help you achieve a balanced diet. Each of these comes in different varieties, such as white rice, brown rice, and wheat pasta. Rice has fewer calories when compared to pasta. On the other hand, pasta contains more protein and fiber. Consider your daily dietary habits to help you choose which of the two should form part of your healthy diet.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7684630/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6267054/
  3. https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2340
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5425736/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4933791/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3008632/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3900881/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC540489/
  9. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325171
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25926512/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31174214/
  12. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-protein-can-help-you-lose-weight
  13. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508
  14. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/brown-vs-white-rice
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23885994/
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