Most people rely on rice or wheat -- or both -- as staples in their diet, reports Kansas State University. While wheat makes up the basis for a range of foods, including bread and pasta, whole-wheat kernels -- also called wheat berries -- are similar to rice when it comes to their uses in the kitchen. Both rice and wheat offer nutritional value, but each food has its own nutritional advantages.
Wheat contains more calories than rice per serving. A cup of cooked wheat berries contains 228 calories, while an equivalent serving of parboiled cooked rice contains 194 calories. Both foods' calorie content comes predominantly from their carbohydrate content, and rice and wheat contain 41 and 51 grams of carbohydrates per serving, respectively. Wheat offers more protein than rice -- 7 grams per serving, compared to rice's 5. Protein helps maintain healthy tissues and boosts your immune system. Opting for wheat also means you'll consume more heart-healthy fiber. Each cup of wheat berries offers 8.5 grams of fiber -- 23 percent of the intake requirements for men and 33 percent for women, set by the Institute of Medicine -- while a cup of rice contains just 1.4 grams.
Rice and wheat differ in their vitamin content, with rice serving as a better source of vitamin B-9 and wheat providing slightly more niacin, or vitamin B-3. Vitamin B-9 helps you metabolize proteins and plays a role in nervous system development, while vitamin B-3 aids in energy production and nourishes your skin. A 1-cup serving of parboiled rice boasts 215 micrograms of vitamin B-9, or 54 percent of the recommended daily intake established by the Institute of Medicine, compared to just 28 micrograms in a cup of wheat. On the other hand, each cup of wheat contains 3.6 milligrams of niacin -- 23 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 26 percent for women -- while an equivalent serving of rice contains 3.2 milligrams.
Rice and wheat both provide several essential minerals, and both foods serve as good sources of copper and iron. However, wheat offers a nutritional advantage over rice thanks to its zinc content. A cup of wheat provides you with 2.3 milligrams of zinc -- 29 and 21 percent of the Institute of Medicine-recommended daily intake for women and men, respectively -- while a cup of rice contains just 0.6 milligrams. Zinc plays an important role in protein function, and zinc-dependent proteins help regulate gene activity, promote nervous system function and boost your immune system.
Wheat and rice have similar uses in the kitchen. Use either grain as the base for a hearty salad. Rice, lentils, parsley, chopped veggies and a lemon vinaigrette come together for a fresh and bright spring salad, while wheat berries, green onion, dried cranberries and orange zest combine for more festive fare. Alternatively, cook wheat or rice in low-sodium broth as a simple side dish, and throw a handful of leftover grains on a leafy green salad for a filling and healthful lunch.
- Kansas State University: Studies Have Global Food Security Implications
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Wheat, Soft White
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Rice, White, Long-Grain, Parboiled, Enriched, Cooked
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: the Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat
- Linus Pauling Institute: Zinc
- Linus Pauling Institute: Folic Acid
- Colorado State University: Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C
- Linus Pauling Institute: Fiber
- Body Science Medical: Wheat Berries
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.