Food

White Rice vs White Pasta

11:49 AM

I keep hearing people in India tell me how pasta is Junk food and how rice is nutritious and healthy, and to me it never made sense, in Europe we both call them starchy food, and both are good in moderation as part of a healthy diet, eat too much rice and you will get as disastrous effect as when you eat too much pasta.
So once and for all let’s get our fact straight, it took pictures of the nutrition facts on both my pack of basmati rice and a pack of penne rigate from Del Monte.

Here is the pasta:

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And here is the basmati rice:

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Now you’ll notice that the rice list minerals and vitamins, and as part of my comparison I will not take these into consideration, because for all we know the label on the pasta might not be detailed and we can’t know for sure if pasta doesn’t have, or have the same minerals. We’ll focus on calories, carbs, fat and protein.

First thing noticed, is that  100g of rice has just 14 calories less than pasta, so not significant a change that would pronounce rice that much less calorific. Pasta contains slightly less carbs than rice, but since it is a processed food, you have 3g of sugar which brings it to 78g of complex and simple sugars, rice has no sugar but 77g of carbs, again they are neck to neck here, none of them prove to be healthier than the other. rice contains almost no fat at 0.5g, pasta has 1.1g some of it might be from the flour itself since after all wheat is a grain, but then pasta dough is made with a little oil, not much, probably the same amount that goes into some chapatti dough. Again 0.5g is not much of a significant difference that would put pasta or rice in a superior position.
Pasta however has nearly double the amount of protein compared to rice, a significant difference enough. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles, and if you are an athlete you might actually get more out of your bowl of pasta than you would out of your bowl of rice.

Verdict:
If one insist on calling white pasta Junk food, then don’t go saying rice is healthier, because they are exactly what I suspected all along, pretty much the same as nutrition goes, and exactly what dietician back home say about them: both starch, good in moderation as part of a healthy diet, the key word being MODERATION.
On top of it I must add that, what makes a pasta or a rice dish unhealthy is what goes on top of it, so pasta with a fresh tomato sauce full of herbs and veggies is far healthier than spaghetti alla carbonara (white sauce), and rice drowning in oily gravy a health disaster as opposed to a serving of steamed rice with lightly sautéed vegetables.

So please people, before shooting at western cuisine and calling pasta junk food by default, just stick your nose on the labels and get your facts straight. I’m not calling rice junk food, I get it, rice is a staple here, it’s part of the cultural culinary heritage, but not all countries have what is required to grow rice, and you must open your mind enough that in some part of the world wheat was the cereal of choice and the staple in one’s diet, calling their cultural culinary heritage trash and inferior to your own, is ignorant and mean.

7 comments

  1. I think in the case of Indians, they call pasta "junk" because it is not something they eat on a regular basis. People think in funny ways, don't they!

    Also, historically, people would only eat brown rice - my husband assures me that most people about 30 years ago would never eat white rice.

    I have a feeling that in India, the population in general have very low education about healthy eating. In the western world it is quite popular for media and schools to educate people about healthy foods.

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  2. Yes exactly, I think it's mostly ignorance, and I agree that brown rice must have been the standard a few decades ago, ironically it takes much more work to beat the rice to remove the husk and turn it into white rice, but now it's brown rice sold in stores that cost more than the refined product, oh the irony.
    I think in the case of wheat pasta there might have been a time where pasta was brown too, though not sure, I know that white flour actually keeps longer than atta, and that might have been a factor as of why maida was developped, could it be the same for rice?

    What I actually find crazy in India right now is that all the medias are hopping on the health bandwagon and you have tons of "healthy eating tips" but while some are good, there is a lot that is not even really accurate, and because tehre is little awareness in the population about nutrition, people will just swallow any bit of information.

    I remember as a kid we had special days where healtcare provider would come and tell us about food and such, the school canteen also had all meals planned by a dietetician. Something that would be much needed in today's urban India with obesity among kids increasing at an alarming rate. Even in my daughter's school where they set fixed tiffin menu for us to cook at home, I found that in the 3 months they implemented it, there is a lot of fried food: paratha, french fries, puri, veg cutlets, it actually make the pasta salad my daughter loves so much and put in the Friday "kid's choice" tiffin much healthier than what she has to eat the rest of the week...sigh!

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  3. Gee! I wonder what the Italians would think of their dear pasta being called junk food!

    You know, the funny thing is... that I have never seen so many overweight Indian male and female's above the age of 30 in my entire life.Most women here that are married with a couple of kids all sit outside on stretcher beds talking to each other all day snacking on food.In fact our whole street are full of overweight people that waddle like a duck when they walk and complain of sore legs and knees.

    It must be the white rice!!!!.... No wait it must be the pasta, or maybe it's the amount and type of food they are eating and the lack of exercise.

    These overweight people are lucky they can wear the traditional Punjabi clothes, because I doubt they would fit into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

    My mother is 60 years of age and can run up and down stairs, do laps in the pool and has a slim physique for her age.Oh!!! and she eats pasta.... so go figure!!!!

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  4. hehe Nicky I think it's not as much the white rice that is making people in your street fat, it's the amount of oil used in their cooking, combined with the fact they snack all days, possibly and in all likehood mostly probable on fried namkeens and yup not exercising. Actually I think the luck is less on punjabi clothes rather than the fact having clothes tailor made in India is cheap.

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  5. This is a really good comparison. I would venture to say some forms of rice are worse. The pasta has more protein which is essential in a vegetarian diet. Maybe all the rice is why so many people are malnourished here. It's not the best choice (not saying that pasta is) and it's also adding calories and filling you up without the nutrition fruits and veggies would provide if you skipped the rice.

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  6. rice and pasta are both fillers, so should not be in majority amount on a plate, I remember growing up that all school meals were planned by a dietetician, the proper balance is : one to two part protein (meat in a non veg diet), two parts vegetables and only one part carbs.
    Before coming to India I worked as a canteen staff lady at the ILO there too the meals are planned by a dietetician, even though we are dealing with grown ups, the ration was pretty much the same as the school meal, with a budget meal having only one veggie, the carb was a choice of either pasta, rice or potato and the serving size was about 2-3 table spoon for each rice and pasta, and 3-4 potato chunk, if the person wanted more they could ask, but very few did.
    The way I see it the Indian vegetarian diet is giant carbohydrate bomb, rarely did I see any rice serving that was less than a 250ml cup size (and that is what people call a small serving here) it always come as an extra after 2-3 chapati (whole wheat flours might be more nutricious than maida, but it's not calorie free and it still contains the same starch amount), in North India it is very common to add potatoes to vegetable dishes because potatoes are cheap and that way a 250g pack green veggies can feed a whole joint family, lentils while still rich in protein do contain a lot of carbs too a little known fact in India it seems. The cooking process used to cook veggies in India also ensure no vitamins are left intact, so all you get out of your meal are carbs, a few minerals, some the body can't absorb without vitamins, and some proteins, and of course thanks to the oil a whole lot of fat.

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  7. well i m new here but about nutrition we don't need any hypothetical media to informed us what to eat we got everything from our typical diet it's westerns theory that vegetarian diet is not healthy and you need more protein
    Typical daily diet include
    Dals
    Green vegetables
    Rice/chapattis
    And we are perfectly informed about nutrition in our schools
    and if Indian food is that unhealthy how our older generation used to work hard all days after eating lot of ghee and live a long disease free life for 100 years
    Its only we are today’s generation with our new food habits and sedentary lifestyle having heart attacks and diabetes

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