Rice and potatoes are two of the most important crops in the world, forming the basis of many meals for large swathes of the population. They are both starchy foods, which provide essential energy to keep your body going throughout the day.
Around half of your daily intake of calories should come from carbohydrates, meaning that you can have larger portions of them than other food groups such as fats or proteins.
However, eating too much carbohydrate in your normal diet can lead to adverse consequences, including high blood sugar levels and weight gain. You might want to limit your carbohydrates to certain types, to make it easier to plan meals and regulate your diet.
Or you may just want to try and eat more healthily in general. In these cases, you’ll need to know what different carbohydrate sources can offer your body. Here, we compare the nutritional value of potatoes and rice, to help you make informed decisions on what to eat.
The standard portion size of rice tends to be between 60 and 90 grams, while a typical baked potato will be around 180 grams (amounts are based on raw rice and a medium-sized potato).
This means you will be eating from two times to three times more potato than rice in a general meal. The portions have been worked out by nutritionists to offer an ideal balance of volume and nutrition for a regular adult.
It is not recommended that you have them both together, unless you adjust the portion size of each accordingly.
First, let’s examine the main content of each food – carbs. 90 grams of white rice contains 25 grams of carbohydrate, while the average medium baked potato has 37 grams.
Carbohydrates are extremely important for powering your body, so you need a significant amount and it’s good that both rice and pasta provide this.
You might assume this means that potatoes have more carbs overall, but if you think about it, there is actually more carbohydrate per gram of rice. The fact that you tend to eat less of it in a meal (in terms of weight), is what makes it comparatively lower in carbohydrate.
The higher the carbohydrate content of a food, the lower the other nutritional content can be, so it is best to find foods that offer different types of nutrients too.
There are 2.4 grams of protein in white rice, and 2.5 grams in a medium baked potato. As you can see, these amounts are very similar, so you will be getting just as much protein whichever you choose.
It is not a lot compared to other foods, especially meat (which is basically all protein), but it serves as a little extra boost alongside the high carbohydrate content. Protein is necessary for cell and tissue growth, and for keeping your immune system in check.
Fiber helps regulate the way your body processes sugars, and is especially important for your digestive system. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate, so makes up some of the carbohydrate content of a food, along with starch (the bulk of carbs) and sugars.
A single portion of white rice only has 0.4 grams of fiber, while a medium baked potato contains up to 3.8 grams of fiber.
This higher figure assumes you are eating the skin as well, since that is the part where most of the fiber is found. However, even a peeled baked potato (or one where you leave the skin) has 2.3 grams of fiber, which is still considerably more than rice.
When you tuck into a baked potato, you are likely consuming around 164 calories before toppings etc. With rice, you get 117 calories for every 90 grams you eat. Again, there are more calories per gram of rice, but a single portion of rice has fewer calories than a single portion of potato.
You should ingest 2000 calories daily if you’re a woman and 2500 if you’re a man – calories in themselves are not a bad thing, but you should try and get the bulk of these from complex carbohydrates.
Both rice and potatoes contain complex carbohydrates, but lower calorie options include sweet potato and whole-wheat bread.
Fat may seem like a scary word to some people, but it is nevertheless an important part of your diet. We need fat because the fatty acids help our bodies absorb certain vitamins that they would have trouble digesting by themselves.
However, eating too much fat can cause health issues and lead to things like heart disease.
Luckily, neither rice nor potatoes are high in fat. Rice comes in at 0.3g total fat per 90 grams, including 0.1 gram of saturated fat. A baked potato has 0.2 grams of total fat, with a similar ratio of saturates.
The quantities are similar, although you may be surprised to find out that brown rice has more fat than white rice.
We’ve covered the main nutritional information, so now we should look at other variables we can compare the two on.
Many elements that make up different foods are necessary for our general health, and some are more difficult to find than others. These can also help you to decide which one you want to eat more of.
Calcium is super important for keeping your bones in a good condition. 26 mg of calcium can be found in a baked potato, compared to 9 mg in 90 grams of white rice.
USDA guidelines suggest healthy adults should eat 1000 mg of calcium a day, but these mainly come from dairy products and calcium-fortified foods.
Baked potatoes are a particularly good source of magnesium (23 mg), phosphorus (57 mg) and potassium (425 mg), whereas rice only has 12 mg, 3 mg and 35 mg respectively. These elements support cell function in various ways, as well as being needed for strong bones.
There are areas where rice comes out on top, for example in its much lower levels of sodium (1mg compared to 6mg). While sodium is essential in the body, it can be easy to eat too much, which can lead to things like high blood pressure.
Rice also has around 10 times more zinc – 3mg to potato’s 0.3mg – which helps to keep your immune system healthy.
As you can see, potatoes can generally be considered healthier than rice in terms of the overall nutrients they provide, but rice does also have its own qualities.
There are certain ways you can make them healthier or less healthy, to a point where their drawbacks start to outweigh their benefits, so you should bear this in mind when making your dinner.
These measurements are based on a single portion of each food alone, and the combined nutritional value of your meal will depend heavily on the preparation methods and other ingredients.
You can make your rice healthier by buying brown rice rather than white, and boiling it instead of frying it.
The best way of preparing potato is simply to bake it in its skin (and eat that as well, since it’s the most rich in nutrients), instead of frying it as chips, mashing it or boiling it.
Try to avoid adding large amounts of fatty toppings such as butter and cheese, so you don’t cancel out the goodness you are getting.