Selecting the perfect side dish to accompany your meat and vegetables can be challenging, particularly if you're bored with the same old choices. If you tend to stick to the usual potatoes or bread, both rice and couscous are alternatives you might enjoy. Compare the nutrition information of each and you'll be armed with the facts you need to make a healthy choice that complements the rest of your meal.
Fat, Calories, Protein and Fiber
A 1-cup serving of cooked white rice contains 205 calories and less than half a gram of fat. The same amount of cooked brown rice has 218 calories and 1.6 grams of fat. Couscous contains fewer calories and less fat than either type of rice. One cup of cooked couscous has 176 calories and just 0.25 grams of fat. Cooked white and brown rice contain about 4 grams of protein per cup, which is about 9 percent of the 46 grams you should include as part of your daily diet. Couscous contains 6 grams of protein. White rice contains less than 1 gram of fiber per cup, but a cup of brown rice supplies 3.5 grams. That's 14 percent of the 25 grams you should eat each day for your digestive health. A cup of couscous provides 2.2 grams of fiber.
A cup of cooked white rice contains 2.3 milligrams of niacin, which is 16 percent of the 14 milligrams you need each day. Niacin helps you convert food into energy and keeps your nerves and skin healthy. Cooked brown rice contains 2.5 milligrams of niacin per cup, and cooked couscous supplies 0.84 milligrams per cup. You'll also get folate from a serving of rice or couscous, though white rice is your best source with 153 micrograms per cup. That's 38 percent of the 400 micrograms you need each day. One cup of brown rice has 8 micrograms of folate and a cup of couscous contains 24 micrograms. Couscous supplies more vitamin E than the trace amounts you get in rice. One cup of couscous delivers 0.2 milligrams toward the 15 milligrams you need each day.
A 1-cup serving of cooked white rice contains 1.9 milligrams of iron, which is 11 percent of the 18 milligrams you should aim for each day. The same amount of brown rice delivers 1 milligram of iron, and 1 cup of couscous supplies 0.6 grams. Iron helps make the red blood cells that transport oxygen to all the cells in your body. Cooked brown rice is a good source of potassium with 154 milligrams per cup. That's about 3 percent of your daily 4,700-milligram requirement. Potassium keeps your heart beating normally and your muscles working properly. Rice and couscous each also supply small amounts of calcium, magnesium and zinc.
The mild flavor of rice allows you to add your favorite herbs and spices to flavor it, which makes it easy to prepare a side dish that complements the flavors of the rest of your meal. Couscous has a nutty flavor that pairs well with garlic and herbs. Both have their nutritional merits, and either rice or couscous is a healthy addition to your meal. Opt for enriched rice or couscous because they'll contain more nutrients than the unenriched versions. Choose brown rice and whole-grain couscous as often as possible because they contain more fiber than their white counterparts. Making your own rice and couscous rather than using boxed mixes is healthier, too, because homemade versions usually contain far less sodium than packaged ones.
- U.S. Departement of Agriculture: Rice, White, Long-Grain, Regular, Cooked
- U.S. Departement of Agriculture: Rice, Brown, Medium-Grain, Cooked
- U.S. Departement of Agriculture: Couscous, Cooked
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Iron
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Niacin
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
- National Institutes of Health: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin E
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.