Is Wild Rice Healthy? What Are Its Benefits?

Written by Payal Karnik , MSc (Biotechnology), Diploma In Nutrition

Wild rice is a nutritious whole grain native to North America. The stunning appearance of its dark grains and immense health benefits have captured the attention of health enthusiasts. It has an impressive nutrient profile and contains high levels of fiber, essential fatty acids, and an abundance of natural antioxidants. If you are looking for a protein-rich and gluten-free substitute for white rice, you can try wild rice. Continue reading to learn more about wild rice benefits.

What Is Wild Rice?

Don’t get confused by the name because wild rice is not rice. It is the seed or grain of an aquatic grass of the genus Zizania. It is also quite popular in East Asian countries, especially China (1).

If it is not rice, why is it called so? Well, the origin of this misnomer might lie with the early English explorers.

Wild rice was a staple diet of early North Americans (Native Americans), particularly the Ojibway, Menomini, and Cree tribes in the North Central region. It was originally called Manomio, which meant ‘good berry.’ They introduced it to the European fur traders. The early English explorers named it ‘wild rice’ or ‘Indian rice,’ and the French called it ‘folle avoine’ because of its similarity to oats.

Freshwater lakes and marshy rivers are ideal habitats for this grass. It grows up to a height between 1.5 to 3 meters. There are only four varieties of wild rice, and North America is home to three species (1):

  • Zizania palustris (Northern wild rice) is an annual plant native to North America’s Great Lakes region.
  • Zizania aquatica (Wild rice) is an annual plant that grows in Florida and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.
  • Zizania texana (Texas wild rice) is a perennial plant that grows along the San Marcos River in central Texas.

The fourth variety, Zizania latifolia, is native to East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea).

Wild rice is a natural source of minerals, vitamins, protein, starch, fiber, and phytochemicals and is one of the most nutritious grains available. It has a healthy fat profile and is gluten-free (2). Check out the nutrient profile of wild rice in the next section.

Nutritional Value Of Wild Rice

A hundred grams of cooked wild rice contains the following nutrients (3):

Calories

166 kcal

Proteins

6.54 g

Carbohydrates

34.9 g

Total lipids (Fat)

0.55 g

Dietary fiber

2.95 g

Sugars

1.2 g

Potassium

166 mg

Phosphorus

134 mg

Magnesium

52.5 mg

Niacin

2.12 mg

All these nutrients are necessary for healthy cellular growth. Compared to white rice, wild rice has (4),(5):

  • 6X higher dietary fiber content
  • 1.5X higher protein content
  • Higher concentration of natural antioxidants
  • Fewer calories and carbs

Its glycemic index (GI) is 53.72, which is close to oats and brown rice. What does that mean for your health?

The glycemic index (GI) of foods assigns a score to carbs based on how they influence blood sugar levels. Your blood glucose levels rise slowly when you eat low GI foods (score less than 55) than high GI foods (score over 70). Wild rice glycemic index is lower than steamed bread (88.1), wheat noodles (81.6), and corn noodles (68.0) (6).

Consuming whole grains has immense health benefits due to their rich nutritional composition. Read on to learn about wild rice health benefits.

5 Potential Health Benefits Of Wild Rice

1. May Promote Heart Health

Wild rice is rich in fiber that helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol). High fiber intake, particularly cereal fiber, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues. A study states that consuming whole grains lowers the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) (7), (8).

2. May Help Manage Diabetes

It is important to include viscous fibers in a diet plan to control type 2 diabetes. The fiber in wild rice lowers cholesterol levels and helps control blood glucose levels. Moreover, wild rice is a low GI food and good for diabetes management (6), (9).

3. May Promote Growth And Repair

Compared to white rice, wild rice contains more protein. Its high protein content may be beneficial for building muscle mass and promoting healthy development in our bodies (10).

4. Good Source Of Antioxidants

The phenolic compounds in wild rice are excellent sources of dietary antioxidants. A typical serving of wild rice has 9-13 times more antioxidant phenolic compounds than white rice (11).

5. May Aid Weight Loss

Wild rice has fewer calories, low fats and sugars, and high fiber. Fiber-rich meals promote quick satiety as they are processed slowly. These properties make wild rice an excellent choice for weight loss and weight management diet plans (9).

Wild rice has a unique grassy flavor and smokey undertone, and the dark grains also add a stunning visual element. If you are wondering how to eat wild rice, check out our next section.

How To Eat Wild Rice

You can eat it like any other type of rice! The only difference is the amount of water needed to cook it. Like other whole grains, wild rice has an outer shell or bran, which gives it a chewy texture. A robust, crunchy texture means it requires a long time to cook. As a result, you will need more water (usually at the ratio of 3:1) to achieve the right consistency.

In general, wild rice is sold as a part of rice blends as it is expensive. However, you can mix it with quinoa and other grains to create your blend.

A pilaf with its earthy, nutty flavor will satisfy all your tastebuds. Wild rice is commonly used in casseroles with cream, cheese, or chicken and meat stuffings. You can serve it with a creamy chicken or vegetable soup as well. Add it to salads along with dried nuts, cranberries, and green onions for a healthier option.

Below are some wild rice recipes you may try.

1. Creamy Chicken And Wild Rice Soup

What You Need

  • 1 cup of wild rice
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • ¾ cup of all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup of butter
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper, ground

Method

  1. Boil broth, water, and chicken in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the rice, cover, and turn off the heat.
  3. Combine salt, pepper, and flour in a separate bowl.
  4. Melt butter in a medium saucepan and gradually whisk in the flour mixture to make a roux.
  5. Incorporate the heavy cream slowly. Simmer for 5 minutes to thicken the sauce.
  6. Add the sauce to the cooked chicken and rice mix.
  7. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat and serve.

2. Chicken And Wild Rice Casserole

What You Need

  • 2 cups of wild rice
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup of celery, chopped
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder

Method

  1. Combine the chicken breasts, wine, salt, curry powder, onion, and celery in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cook on low heat for 1 hour.
  3. Turn off the heat, drain the broth (reserve some for serving), and let it cool.
  4. Cook the wild rice in broth instead of water.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a baking dish.
  6. Combine the chicken, rice, mushrooms, sour cream, and soup.
  7. Pour into the baking dish and bake at 350°F.

3. Ham And Wild Rice Quiche

What You Need

  • ¼ cup of wild rice
  • 1 cup of ham, cooked and cubed
  • ¾ cup of water
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/3 cup of red bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup of green onion tops, sliced
  • 1 pie crust, unbaked
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups of Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper

Method

  1. Cook the wild rice in a small saucepan for 45 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the pie shell for 10 minutes until it is golden brown. Reduce the heat to 400°F.
  3. Combine the cooked rice, ham, red bell pepper, green onion tops, and mushrooms in a mixing dish.
  4. Combine the eggs, sour cream, mustard, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl.
  5. Sprinkle half of the shredded Swiss cheese on the pie shell base. Layer it with the rice mix followed by the egg mix. Top it with the remaining Swiss cheese.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven.
  7. Serve after 10 minutes of rest.

Wild rice is generally safe for consumption. However, certain factors and irrigation practices may affect its quality and make it unsuitable for consumption.

Possible Side Effects Of Wild Rice

1. Heavy Metal Contamination

Traces of heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and cadmium have been identified in 26 different wild rice varieties in the United States. However, this is mainly due to increasing pollution, water, and wetland contamination (wild rice is grown in freshwater wetlands) (12), (13).

2. Ergot Fungus Toxicity

Wild rice is susceptible to ergot (Claviceps spp.) infection. The infected grains appear pinkish or with purple spots and fungus growths. Consuming infected grains may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and seizures.

However, grain quality standards and better agricultural practices reduce the risk of contamination in most countries, so ergot toxicity is rare (14).

In Conclusion

If you are calorie-conscious and looking for a gluten-free alternative to white rice, wild rice is your choice. This nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich superfood has gained popularity for all good reasons and has extensive health benefits. It has a distinct nutty flavor and is definitely a grain you don’t want to miss!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is wild rice better than brown rice?

Both have similar nutritional profiles. However, wild rice has fewer calories, higher protein, and dietary fiber content than brown rice.

Is wild rice good for your gut?

Yes. The high fiber content of wild rice helps reduce constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and cramps.

Which is better: quinoa or wild rice?

Quinoa and wild rice offer similar nutritional benefits, and you can go for any of them.

Can a person with diabetes eat wild rice?

Yes. Wild rice has a low GI and high fiber content, and the other nutrients in it may help control blood sugar levels.

References:

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Morphological Characteristics Nutrients and Bioactive Compounds of Zizania latifolia and Health Benefits of Its Seeds
    https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/23/7/1561
  2. Chapter 10 – Wild Rice: Nutritional and Health-Promoting Attributes
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780081008669000108?via%3Dihub
  3. FoodData Central
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168897/nutrients
  4. FoodData Central
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168878/nutrients
  5. Comparison of the contents of phenolic compounds including flavonoids and antioxidant activity of rice (Oryza sativa) and Chinese wild rice (Zizania latifolia)
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814620324626?via%3Dihub
  6. [Determination of the glycemic index of the wild rice and the effects of wild rice on insulin resistance in rats]
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25997214/
  7. Cereal fiber and whole-grain intake are associated with reduced progression of coronary-artery atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women with coronary artery disease
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002870304005071?via%3Dihub
  8. Meta-Analysis of the Association Between Whole Grain Intake and Coronary Heart Disease Risk
    https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0002914914022784
  9. Position of the American Dietetic Association
    https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(02)90228-2/fulltext
  10. Wild rice (Zizania sp.): A potential source of valuable ingredients for nutraceuticals and functional foods
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299759968_Wild_Rice_Zizania_sp_A_Potential_Source_of_Valuable_Ingredients_for_Nutraceuticals_and_Functional_Foods_-_A_Review
  11. Nutritional constituents and health benefits of wild rice (Zizania spp.)
    https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/72/4/227/1859059
  12. Trace metals in wild rice sold in the United States
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/004896979504809X?via%3Dihub
  13. Heavy metals in wild rice from northern Wisconsin
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048969799004647?via%3Dihub
  14. Preliminary Phytochemical Investigation of Wild Rice Ergot
    https://jpharmsci.org/article/S0022-3549(15)36316-4/pdf

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