Are Rice Cakes Healthy to Eat?

Rice cakes are low in calories and fat, but also have few nutrients.

Rice cakes are low in calories and fat, but also have few nutrients.

When you're tempted to reach for a high-calorie, high-fat snack, rice cakes may be a great alternative choice. But if you’re filling up on rice cakes to the exclusion of nutrient-dense foods, they’re not a healthy replacement. Even though their primary ingredient is whole-grain brown rice, rice cakes are low in total nutritional value.

Calories and Fat

No matter what flavors are added, brown rice is the primary ingredient in rice cakes. Many brands in the local grocery store have about 35 calories in one rice cake, but some brands state on the product label that they use double the rice. With that extra rice, you get a rice cake that's double the size and has twice the calories. When chocolate is added, one regular rice cake has about 60 calories. The amount of fat, however, remains fairly consistent in all types. Rice cakes have such little fat that it's reported as zero grams on the Nutrition Facts label.

Carbohydrates

The amount of carbohydrates you’ll get from one rice cake ranges from 7 to 16 grams, depending on whether it's a regular-sized, 9-gram rice cake or the double-sized version. A regular rice cake has 5 to 12 percent of the daily carbohydrates required to fill your energy needs. Brands with fewer carbohydrates have 2 percent of women’s daily fiber, while those with higher carbohydrates have double the fiber. If you're craving sweets and hope a sweetened rice cake is a healthy choice, then you should know you'll gain about the same amount of sugar as one miniature plain milk chocolate candy bar. Unsweetened rice cakes don't have any sugar, but sweetened varieties have about 3 grams in one cake.

Salt

Besides calories and carbohydrates, the ingredient that varies the most from one brand of rice cake to another is sodium. Generic rice cakes have 20 to 29 milligrams, but some brands have 55 to 75 milligrams of sodium in one rice cake. At the higher values, you'll get about 5 percent of the recommended daily intake.

Minerals

Brown rice is a rich source of manganese, and rice cakes retain a significant amount of the mineral. Just one rice cake has 19 percent of women's recommended daily intake. Not a well-known mineral, manganese is a vital component of several enzymes that metabolize carbohydrates and proteins, and help develop bones and cartilage. You’ll also get about 3 percent of the daily value of magnesium and zinc from one rice cake. Magnesium relaxes muscles, including those in your blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure. Zinc has a role in the synthesis of proteins and cells that keep your immune system working properly.

 

About the Author

Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.

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