Rice and bread are both sources of carbohydrates, but they differ in many ways, including in their fiber and nutrient contents. Although one cannot necessarily be touted as a "better" option than the other, some choices are healthier than others. The health benefits of rice and bread depend on your nutritional needs and the varieties that you eat.
Because all starches, including both rice and bread, have 15 grams of carbohydrates in a serving, they are equivalent in this nutrient. Variations depend on the serving sizes. A serving of bread is a single, 1-ounce slice, regardless of the type, and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cooked rice counts as a serving. Many people often eat double the recommended serving size, whether they are having two slices of bread in a sandwich or a larger portion of rice with a meal.
Rice and bread are very low in fat, with about a gram for both white and whole-grain bread and about 1/2 gram for brown or white rice. The fat comes primarily from heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Differences in fat content usually come from the preparation method, where rice is often cooked in water, while bread is often toasted and spread with butter, mayonnaise or another source of fat.
Protein contents tend to increase as the fiber increases. For example, a serving of white rice contains about 2 grams of protein, whereas brown rice has a bit more -- about 2.5 grams. A slice of white bread contains about 2.5 grams of protein and wheat bread has about 3 grams. Despite the slight differences, rice and bread have roughly equal protein contents.
Fiber content differs based on the variety of rice or bread. Because there tends to be a larger range of breads available, high-fiber choices also increase. In general, a slice of white bread contains 1 gram of fiber, and whole-grain bread contains 2 or 3 grams. "Double fiber" and other high-fiber multi-grain options are also available. A serving of white rice contains 1 gram of fiber, which doubles to 2 grams when using brown rice instead.
Vitamins and Minerals
Naturally, rice and bread are nearly equivalent in their vitamin and mineral contents, but enriched variations are commonly available in which nutrients, such as iron, calcium and folate may increase significantly. For example, a serving of plain, cooked white rice has approximately 45 micrograms of folate, 1 milligram of iron and 8 milligrams of calcium. The enriched version has about 65 micograms of folate, 2 milligrams of iron and 15 milligrams of calcium. A slice of plain white bread may have 30 milligrams of calcium, 14 micrograms of folate and about 1/2 gram of iron. An enriched version may have up to 45 milligrams of calcium, 33 micrograms of folate and 1.5 milligrams of iron. Some white breads are also fortified with additional fiber to gain the benefits of wheat bread without altering the taste; this increases the total fiber content from a single gram to around 3 or more grams.
Larissa Gedney began writing professionally in 2006. She has been published in Today's Dietitian magazine and several local newspapers and professional publications. Gedney is a registered dietitian who received her bachelor of science degree in nutrition/dietetics from Simmons College in Boston and her master of science degree in nutrition from Rosalind Franklin University.