Wild rice is a semi-aquatic grass that grows in North America’s Great Lakes region. This grass grows naturally in shallow freshwater marshes and along the shores of streams and lakes. It’s one of only two native grains commonly eaten in the United States. (The other is corn.) Wild rice may also be known as Indian rice, Canada rice, and water oats.
Despite its name, wild rice is not rice at all. It is the seed of an aquatic grass that looks like rice, but it is not directly related to it. It’s only referred to as rice because it looks and cooks like other types of rice.
There are four different species of wild rice. One is native to Asia and harvested as a vegetable. The remaining three are native to North America and harvested as a grain. Wild rice was originally grown and harvested by Native Americans, who have used the grain as a staple food for hundreds of years.
Wild rice has a chewy outer sheath that holds the nutrient-dense grain inside, and it grows on short stalks in shallow water. It is harvested for consumption and serves as food to various aquatic animals.
A 3.5-ounce serving of cooked wild rice provides:
- Calories: 101
- Carbs: 21 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Folate: 6% of the DV
- Magnesium: 8% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 8% of the DV
- Zinc: 9% of the DV
- Copper: 6% of the DV
- Manganese: 14% of the DV
With 101 calories, 3.5 ounces of cooked wild rice provides slightly fewer calories than the same serving of brown or white rice, which provide 112 and 130 calories, respectively.
Wild rice also contains small amounts of iron, potassium, and selenium.
Wild rice contains more protein than regular rice and many other grains. A 3.5-ounce serving of wild rice provides 4 grams of protein, which is twice as much as regular brown or white rice. Wild rice is considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.
In an analysis of 11 samples of wild rice, it was found to have 30 times greater antioxidant activity than white rice. Its impressive levels of antioxidants was confirmed by researchers from the University of Minnesota. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that may cause healthy cells to mutate or turn cancerous. This might include the free radicals that accumulate in the skin and can contribute to preventing signs of aging, such as wrinkles, age spots, and slower healing of blemishes. This may also be true for the ocular cells, and antioxidants can prevent macular degeneration and the onset of cataracts.
A higher intake of whole grains is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. A review of 45 studies noted that people who ate the most whole grains had a 16–21% lower risk of heart disease, compared with those who ate the least. One study found that increasing your whole-grain intake by 25 grams per day may decrease your risk of a heart attack by 12–13%.
Several animal studies indicate that eating wild rice reduces LDL cholesterol and prevents plaque buildup in arteries, which may lower heart disease risk.
As we age, our bodies begin to break down, including our bones. In order to maintain strong bones, intake of phosphorus-rich foods like wild rice can be very helpful. Phosphorous and zinc may be important for maintaining bone mineral density.
The fiber content of wild rice is the same as brown rice, with each providing 1.8 grams of fiber per 3.5-ounce serving. Aside from optimizing your cholesterol balance, fiber also bulks up your stool and eases your digestive process. By facilitating peristalsis, dietary fiber may help you eliminate constipation, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, excess flatulence, as well as more serious gastrointestinal concerns, gastric ulcers, and hemorrhoids. Research suggests that a fiber-rich diet may also be positively linked with a lower risk of colon cancer
Diets high in whole grains like wild rice may decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes by 20–30%. This is mainly attributed to the vitamins, minerals, plant compounds, and fiber in whole grains. In a review of 16 studies, whole grains were associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers suggest eating at least two servings of whole grains per day. Data from 6 studies in 286,125 people indicates that eating 2 servings of whole grains per day is associated with a 21% reduction in type 2 diabetes risk.
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food spikes your blood sugar. The GI of wild rice is 57, which is similar to that of oats and brown rice.