Is rice bad for cholesterol?

Some data suggests that excessive consumption of white rice may contribute to high cholesterol. However, choosing whole-grain varieties adds more fiber and nutrients to the diet and can help a person manage their cholesterol.

Rice is a staple food all over the world. However, there is conflicting evidence on the health effects of rice and whether its consumption may contribute to high cholesterol.

This article discusses the nutritional composition of rice and the most appropriate types of rice for a person who needs to control their cholesterol levels. Also, it gives advice on how much rice to eat and what nutritious alternatives to include in daily meals.

Does rice cause high cholesterol?

Although rice does not contain cholesterol, it can affect the body in ways that can raise someone’s cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Additionally, there are several factors to consider when determining whether rice can cause a person to develop high cholesterol. These include the following factors:

– the type of rice a person eats
– the frequency with which it is consumed
– portion size
– what she eats with the rice
– if she has risk factors for hypercholesterolaemia, such as obesity, inactivity or a low-nutrition diet.

Types of rice

The type of rice a person eats can determine whether they are at risk of raising their cholesterol levels. There are two types of rice grains: refined grains and unrefined grains.
Food producers make refined grains by removing the husk, bran, and germ from the grain, which deprives them of nutrients such as B vitamins and fiber.
White rice is one of the refined cereals, devoid of fiber.

In contrast, unrefined or whole grains contain all of the natural plant nutrients, including fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Unrefined rice includes:

brown rice
wild rice
red rice
purple rice
black rice

Nutrition of white rice and brown rice

One cup of cooked white rice and one cup of cooked brown rice contain the following amounts of additional nutrients and fiber:

White rice Brown rice
Fiber 1.74 grams (g) 3.23 g
Folate 1.74 micrograms (mcg) 18.2 mcg
Choline 3.65mg 18.6mg
Niacin 0.505mg 5.17mg
Protein 3.52g 5.54g

Why brown rice is better for managing cholesterol

Current research suggests that eating unrefined grains is better for overall health and cholesterol management. For example, a 2020 review of 25 studies suggests that eating whole grains instead of refined grains in adults with and without cardiovascular risk factors may improve total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. (LDL).

Additionally, a 2020 study of more than 132,000 participants in 21 countries found that higher consumption of white rice is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, with the strongest correlation seen in South Asia. The study suggests that the glucose index (GI) of processed white rice is as high as that of white bread and that eating high GI foods is a risk factor for diabetes. Additionally, excess blood sugar can also lead to high triglycerides, which can cause high cholesterol. The aforementioned study suggests that eating too much rice can cause blood sugar spikes.

A cup of cooked long-grain brown rice contains more than 3 g of fiber, compared to less than 1 g for a cup of cooked long-grain white rice. Therefore, choosing brown rice can better contribute to the 22 to 34 g of fiber to be consumed per day. Dietary fiber from whole foods, like brown rice, can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and complement statin therapy to prevent heart disease.

How much rice to eat?

For adults, it would be good to consume 170 to 200 grams of cereal per day, depending on their age and gender. This amount includes rice and other grains like bread, oatmeal and buckwheat. Half of the cereals consumed should consist of whole grains. A 30 gram serving is equivalent to half a cup of cooked rice.
However, a person can help maintain a moderate weight and manage cholesterol by eating fewer grains. She can seek advice from a dietitian or health professional on how much to eat. Additionally, if a person chooses white rice, they can pair it with a source of lean protein, vegetables, and nutritious fats for a more nutritious meal.

More nutritious alternatives to white rice

Although eating white rice may provide additional nutrients, such as B vitamins, people should generally limit refined grains to half their daily intake. Therefore, a person may choose the following nutritious alternatives in place of white rice, depending on the meal or recipe they are preparing:

Brown rice
red rice
black rice
wild rice
full couscous
whole cornmeal.


There is some evidence to suggest that eating refined grains, such as white rice, may contribute to the development of high cholesterol. This is why advisory bodies recommend that people consume at least half of their daily grain intake in their whole, unrefined form. Therefore, to manage cholesterol, a person can choose types of brown rice to consume in moderate amounts suited to their health goals and weight. Additionally, there are more nutritious alternatives to white rice, such as cauliflower rice, quinoa, and bulgur. If a person needs advice on lowering their cholesterol levels, they can consult a doctor or dietitian.


Bhavadharini, B., et al. (2020). White rice intake and incident diabetes: A study of 132,373 participants in 21 countries.

Marshall, S., et al. (2020). The effect of replacing refined grains with whole grains on cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials with grade clinical recommendation [Abstract].

Soliman, GA, et al. (2019). Dietary fiber, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice.

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