Health Benefits of Wild Rice

Wild rice truly is a wild, natural food. While several varieties exist, the most commonly available are Zizania palustris, or Northern wild rice, and Zizania aquatica, or wild rice. While it is now paddy farmed in parts of California and Minnesota, the truly wild rice or “lake rice” is still available. This is thanks in large part to preservation and harvesting efforts by several Ojibwe communities in Minnesota. The Ojibwe name for wild rice is “Manoomin.”

Wild rice is, in fact, not a rice at all. It is an aquatic grass. Processing it takes time. First, the grains are harvested. Then they're heat treated. Finally, the husks are stripped away. The result is fairly uniform black and brown kernels.

While many kinds of wild rice are known for their taste, true lake rice is said to have a richer flavor than the more common paddy rice. Paddy rice is also more uniform in shape and consistently dark brown or black. Lake Rice, on the other hand, ranges from purplish to brown or black, and can vary in shape from long and thin to short and plump. 

Health Benefits

Wild rice is a wonderfully balanced food source, providing a healthy mix of protein and fiber. What’s more, it's also relatively low in calories.

One micronutrient abundant in wild rice is Manganese. Manganese is an antioxidant, and plays a role in keeping the mitochondria in your cells healthy. Manganese has also been shown to play a role in maintaining a healthy metabolism.

Wild rice is a good choice for people with celiac disease, since it is gluten free.

Some other wild rice health benefits include:

Heart Health

Research has shown that wild rice has powerful antioxidant and lipid-lowering properties. It’s also a rich source of dietary fiber. Getting sufficient dietary fiber is essential for keeping cholesterol low. 

Diabetes

Wild rice is a good source of Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA). Some research has indicated that ALA is beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes. It may boost the body’s ability to produce insulin and reduce the symptoms of diabetic nerve damage.

Weight Loss

Like most grains, wild rice is highly effective when it comes to reducing hunger. However, wild rice also has a fairly low calorie count, thanks in part to it being rich in fiber. This can make it a good option for people looking to lose weight.

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Nutrition

Wild Rice is packed with micronutrients and vitamins. Manganese and Alpha Lipoic Acid are discussed above. Other micronutrients and vitamins include:

Nutrients Per Serving

Every 100 grams of cooked wild rice contains approximately:

Portion Sizes

Wild rice is gluten-free and low in sugar, sodium, and calories. As with any food, it’s a good idea to consume wild rice in moderation. Depending on your recipe, a single serving will be approximately one quarter to one third of a cup of uncooked grains.

How to Prepare Wild Rice

Cooking wild rice requires more water than white rice. It also requires more time — up to an hour for one cup of uncooked grains. However, if you soak wild rice overnight, it can reduce cooking time by up to 50%.

Rinse wild rice before cooking. Water-to-rice ratios vary, but you’ll generally want three to four cups of water for every cup of rice. You can also substitute stock for plain water.

Bring the water and rice to a boil in a saucepan and simmer until the rice is tender. It should not be crunchy or tough. If you see the grains beginning to split along the sides, the wild rice is probably done.

There are lots of delicious recipes that incorporate wild rice. It is popular as an ingredient in pilaf and stuffing. It can also pair well with pemmican, a traditional indigenous food typically made of dried meat, dried berries, and animal fat.

For more detailed recipes, check out 3 Ways to Cook Wild Rice.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 19, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

foodprint.org: Real Good Encyclopedia/Wild Rice

Nutrition Reviews: Nutritional Constituents and Health Benefits of Wild Rice (Zizania spp.)

Journal of the American Oil Chemist’s Society: Lipid Components of North American Wild Rice (Zizania palustris)

Oregon State University: Manganese

Smithsonian Magazine: Going with the Grain

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