If you’ve ever been on a diet and you wanted to stop snacking on unhealthy foods throughout the day, you might have bought rice cakes because you figured that they’re made with rice so they have to be healthy.
Or, at least healthier than other types of snacks you can buy from the grocery store.
What, exactly, are rice cakes?
Rice cakes are round, hard snacks that are made with puffed rice. While they can be eaten on their own as a snack, they can also be used with other foods. You can find rice cakes that are coated in chocolate or yogurt for an extra burst of flavor.
Before you purchase rice cakes and enjoy them when you get hungry during the day, here’s what you need to know about them.
Are they healthy because they are made with rice, or are they unhealthy? Here’s what you need to know about these humble snacks.
Are Rice Cakes Healthy?
Although they might seem healthy because they only contain rice, the truth is that rice cakes don’t give you much in terms of nutrition.
For example, a plain rice cake that’s made with brown rice will be low in calories but also not contain much of anything – you’re looking at just one gram of protein, four percent of your daily niacin value, 15 percent of your daily manganese value, and seven grams of carbs.
The process that rice undergoes to become puffy so that rice cakes can be made has been found to lower the rice’s antioxidant content, so you’re not getting the full nutrition of rice by eating rice cakes.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Rice Cakes?
With the above in mind, you might wonder what the point is of buying rice cakes. Here are the benefits they can provide.
They’re low in calories
If you want a snack that isn’t high in calories, then rice cakes are a good choice. A plain, unsalted rice cake made with brown rice gives you just 35 calories.
This means you can enjoy rice cakes with other ingredients without going above your daily calories, such as sour cream, to give them greater flavor.
They can be a source of whole grains
Some rice cakes are made with whole-grain brown rice, which is healthier than white rice. White rice is basically brown rice that has had its bran, husk, and germ removed.
This process also removes most of the fiber and nutrients present in rice, which is why rice cakes made out of brown rice are a healthier option.
When buying brown rice cakes, make sure they have a “whole grains” label. This is because whole grains are filled with minerals, fiber, and complex carbs.
If the rice cakes don’t contain this label, you can identify that whole grains are in the rice cakes by checking the ingredients label. Brown rice should be the first listed ingredient.
Whole grains give you complex carbs that your body uses for energy but they also have phytochemicals that ensure your cells stay healthy.
They can be part of a gluten-free diet
Many rice cakes that are made solely of rice don’t contain gluten, so you can happily add them as a gluten-free snack to your diet.
That said, don’t assume all rice cakes are free of this ingredient. Some rice cakes contain barley or other grains that have gluten in them, so you’ll want to steer clear of them.
They’re low in sodium
Rice cakes don’t offer a lot of sodium, with one serving giving you about 37 to 70 mg of sodium, which is much less than what you’ll eat if you choose other crunchy or salty snacks.
You can also find rice cakes that are free of sodium if you want to make your rice cake snacks even healthier.
To ensure that you get the healthiest rice cakes possible, make sure you check the ingredients label to be sure that they don’t have large amounts of sodium.
What Are Some Drawbacks Of Rice Cakes?
Rice cakes increase your blood sugar
If you eat several rice cakes at once or you choose sweetened ones, such as those that are coated in yogurt or chocolate, this can be bad for your blood sugar.
In addition, since they are mainly carbs and don’t have large quantities of fiber and protein to slow down the effect of the carbs on your blood sugar, rice cakes could cause your blood sugar to spike.
Pro tip: to prevent rice cakes from having a dramatic effect on your blood sugar, you should enjoy them with protein, such as nut butters, cheese, or meat.
If you’re diabetic, you can eat rice cakes but you should limit yourself to one serving if you’re choosing them as a snack, and you should also add healthy fiber, fat, or protein to your rice cake to make it satisfying while also preventing it from raising your blood sugar.
Good choices for rice cake toppings if you have diabetes include avocado and hummus.
Rice cakes are not the best choice for healthy snacks
If you want a quick, low-calorie snack to tide you over to your next meal instead of consuming snacks that are high in calories, rice cakes can be valuable. However, they don’t have much in terms of nutrition and there are healthier snacks to consume.
The reason why rice cakes lack vitamins is because of how they’re made. Rice cakes made from brown or white rice are processed with heat and pressure that makes the rice expand like popcorn.
The rice and bonding ingredients puff up so that they fit round molds, which is why rice cakes are round in shape, before being pushed onto a conveyor belt so that they’re sprayed with additives and flavors.
The high amount of pressure and heat is what removes nutrients from the rice.
Should You Eat Rice Cakes When Working Out?
If you’ve ever heard that bodybuilders eat rice cakes, this is actually true.
When they train, bodybuilders require a quick burst of energy, and they can get this from rice cakes. When consumed after a workout, rice cakes can refill stores of muscle glycogen in the body.
However, you shouldn’t rely on rice cakes for energy during workouts because they don’t rank highly when it comes to offering you nutrition your body needs.
Healthy Tips For Eating Rice Cakes
How you eat rice cakes can determine whether or not they’re a healthy snack.
Here are some tips to bear in mind.
- Plain rice cakes can be topped with honey, avo, hummus, or veggies to keep them healthy. Nut butter is also a good option.
- Avoid adding high-calorie ingredients, such as jam or vegemite, to rice cakes. This will help you to control your appetite while preventing blood sugar spikes.
- Choose rice cakes that are made with seeds and whole grains as this boosts their fiber content.
- Mash up a banana and put it on top of your rice cake, then sprinkle it with seeds, cocoa powder, or coconut flakes. This is a great way to get a serving of fruit for the day.
- Add sliced boiled eggs to your rice cakes for a delicious protein snack.
- Enjoy a savory snack by topping a rice cake with mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil.
Are rice cakes healthier than chips?
If you’re craving a crunchy snack, you should reach for rice cakes because they contain fewer calories and fat than potato chips.
Can rice cakes be good for stomach acid and GERD?
Choosing whole-grain rice cakes can help to ease symptoms of acid reflux. This is because whole grains contain fiber and are thought to absorb stomach acid.
If you’re looking to add low-calorie snacks to your diet, you might want to try rice cakes.
As we’ve seen in this article, rice cakes can be healthy or unhealthy – you need to be mindful about the types you buy during your next grocery shopping trip.
If you’re looking for a very healthy snack, you’re better off reaching for a different snack as rice cakes don’t give you much in terms of nutrition.
That said, their health profile can be elevated if you eat them with healthy ingredients, such as avocado or nut butter.