9 Important Benefits of Wild Rice

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most important health benefits of wild rice may include its ability to improve digestion and heart health, stimulate growth and repair throughout the body, slow the signs of aging, protect against chronic diseases, strengthen bones, boost the immune system, and help with weight loss.

What is Wild Rice?

Wild rice describes four different species of grass from the genus Zizania (as well as the beneficial grain that can be harvested), three of which are native to North America, and one to China, Asia. Wild rice may also be known as Indian rice, Canada rice, and water oats. Despite having the name “rice” in the title, wild rice may not be closely related to traditional “Asian” rice, which tends to be smaller, less nutrient-dense, and of a different color.

The popularity of wild rice might have increased in North America but diminished in many other parts of the world, simply due to accessibility. Wild rice has a chewy outer sheath that holds the nutrient-dense grain inside, and it grows on short stalks in shallow water. It is harvested for consumption and serves as food to various aquatic animals too. [1]

It is extremely valuable due to its selective accessibility and high nutritive value, as well as the consistency of the plant. When the grains are harvested, many of them fall into the muddy soil beneath the water and grow for the following year. Today, many varieties of wild rice may have gained a great deal of attention due to their high antioxidant, protein, mineral, vitamin, and dietary fiber content, almost all of which are considerably higher than traditional white rice. It is low in gluten and fats as well. [2]

A white bowl of uncooked wild rice on a wooden table

Wild rice has a delicious, nutty flavor. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Wild rice, cooked
Serving Size :
Water [g]73.93
Energy 101
Energy [kJ]423
Protein [g]3.99
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.34
Ash [g]0.4
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]21.34
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.8
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.73
Sucrose [g]0.33
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.2
Fructose [g]0.2
Calcium, Ca [mg]3
Iron, Fe [mg]0.6
Magnesium, Mg [mg]32
Phosphorus, P [mg]82
Potassium, K [mg]101
Sodium, Na [mg]3
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.34
Copper, Cu [mg]0.12
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.28
Selenium, Se [µg]0.8
Thiamin [mg]0.05
Riboflavin [mg]0.09
Niacin [mg]1.29
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.15
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.14
Folate, total [µg]26
Folate, food [µg]26
Folate, DFE [µg]26
Choline, total [mg]10.2
Carotene, beta [µg]2
Vitamin A, IU [IU]3
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]64
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.24
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]0.5
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.05
16:0 [g]0.05
18:0 [g]0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.05
18:1 [g]0.05
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.21
18:2 [g]0.12
18:3 [g]0.1
Tryptophan [g]0.05
Threonine [g]0.13
Isoleucine [g]0.17
Leucine [g]0.28
Lysine [g]0.17
Methionine [g]0.12
Cystine [g]0.05
Phenylalanine [g]0.2
Tyrosine [g]0.17
Valine [g]0.23
Arginine [g]0.31
Histidine [g]0.1
Alanine [g]0.22
Aspartic acid [g]0.38
Glutamic acid [g]0.7
Glycine [g]0.18
Proline [g]0.14
Serine [g]0.21
Sources include : USDA [3]

Health Benefits of Wild Rice

Let’s take a closer look at the important health benefits of wild rice.

May Optimize Digestion

As mentioned above, wild rice may boast an impressive amount of dietary fiber. Aside from optimizing your cholesterol balance, fiber also bulks up your stool and eases your digestive process. By facilitating peristalsis, dietary fiber may help you eliminate constipation, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, excess flatulence, as well as more serious gastrointestinal concerns, gastric ulcers, and hemorrhoids. Research by Judith A Marlett, Ph.D., RD et al. [4] [5]

May Protect Heart

Wild rice may boost heart health in significant ways. There is no sodium in wild rice, which may help reduce blood pressure. There might also be a high level of fiber, which is known to clear out LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from the cardiovascular system and may reduce the chances of developing atherosclerosis. By eliminating the strain on the heart, and boosting repair and damage control with a high level of vitamin C, wild rice might be a clear choice for those who want to protect their heart. [6]

May Boost Immunity

Improving the health of your immune system is one of the best ways to increase your overall health. One of the best ways to get that immunity boost is with vitamin C, which may be significantly present in wild rice. Vitamin C may help stimulate the production of white blood cells, the body’s first line of defense against foreign agents, pathogens, and microbes. Furthermore, vitamin C is a critical component of collagen, which is needed for the creation and repair of cells, organs, tissues, and the walls of the blood vessel, helping us recover from illnesses. [7]

May Improve Bone Strength

As we age, our bodies begin to break down, including our bones. In order to maintain strong bones, intake of phosphorus-rich foods like wild rice can be very helpful. Phosphorous and zinc may be important for maintaining bone mineral density and ensuring strong bones and joints as we age. If you are susceptible to osteoporosis or are already starting to feel those aches in your bones, switch over to wild rice and keep your strength up!

May Aid In Weight Loss

As a low-calorie and gluten-free food, wild rice may help those who are attempting to lose weight and prevent obesity. Unlike white rice, which can bulk up your diet and actually help gain weight, wild rice may prevent overeating due to its high fiber and nutrient content. It may do so without supplying a high level of calories to the body. Wild rice may also provide a fair balance of essential minerals to our diet. [8]

May Prevent Aging

One of the most important benefits you can derive from wild rice comes from its impressive level of antioxidants and it may have been confirmed by researchers from the University of Minnesota, US. White rice typically has no antioxidant capacity, but wild rice may contain 20-30 times more antioxidants. This might include the free radicals that accumulate in the skin and can contribute to preventing signs of aging, such as wrinkles, age spots, and slower healing of blemishes. This may also be true for the ocular cells, and antioxidants can prevent macular degeneration and the onset of cataracts. If you want to feel and act younger for years to come, then add wild rice to your diet! [9] [10] [11] [12]

May Prevent Chronic Diseases

Although the research on chronic diseases takes years of time for solid results to be publicly accepted, the antioxidants in wild rice may have been shown to have the potential to lower the chances of certain conditions, including heart-related disorders. This may be due to its same neutralizing effect on the dangerous free radicals. [13]

May Promote Growth & Repair

The high protein content found in wild rice can also be good for increasing muscle mass, proper growth, and balanced development of our body. Proteins are made up of amino acids, so adequate protein levels are essential for overall health, and wild rice may be a great option for that, particularly for vegetarians who don’t consume animal proteins in their diet. [14]

May Prevent Birth Defects

Wild rice may have significant levels of vitamins, including vitamin B9, also known as folate or folic acid, and this has been proven to reduce neural tube defects in newborns. Expectant mothers should add wild rice to their diet for all of its important health benefits, particularly if they aren’t getting a proper B-vitamin fix every day. [15]

Word of Caution: There are no known health concerns with wild rice, but as with any food, everything should be consumed in moderation. The worries of nitric oxide that are often raised about white rice do not apply to wild rice.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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