Grains are widely known to be a great source of nutrition, though there is a wide gap between the benefits of whole grains and refined grains. But there is also a wide variety of differences between the types of grains you might choose to eat.
Rice and oats are two of the most popular grains on earth, mainly because they’re both inexpensive, easy to prepare, and available virtually everywhere. Aside from those general similarities, however, the two couldn’t be more different.
So what’s the difference between rice and oatmeal? Rice vs. oatmeal? Rice and oatmeal come from different plants, although both are ultimately from the grass plant family.
Oatmeal is always whole grain, while rice can be either a whole or refined grain. The tastes, textures, and nutritional profiles are very different as well.
We’ll dive deeper into these differences below, so stick with us to get a better understanding of these two staple foods.
What Are Whole Grains?
Before we can understand the many differences between rice and oatmeal, it’s important to first establish what exactly is a refined grain vs a whole grain and which category rice and oats fall into.
A grain is a type of edible cereal or pseudocereal that contains an endosperm, germ, and bran. A whole grain retains all three components and is processed only enough to be easily eaten. A refined grain, on the other hand, has both the germ and the bran removed, leaving only the endosperm.
What Is Oatmeal?
Oatmeal is a type of cereal grain. It is also considered a whole grain, even when it’s been processed into rolled oats.
The process of flattening the oats into oatmeal still allows the grain to keep the germ and the bran.
We go more into depth on this topic in our article: Do Oats Come From Wheat?
The texture of oatmeal is very soft when cooked and the oats tend to stick together to create a cohesive porridge rather than separating into individual grains.
When used in granola, oatmeal takes on an almost chewy, or even hard, consistency. It is generally safe to eat oats uncooked in moderation, meaning it won’t kill you, but it’s not recommended.
Not only does oatmeal taste pretty bland by itself, but eating too many uncooked oats can eventually cause digestive issues or constipation. You can soak your oats in milk or water to soften them up.
The flavor of oats is very mild and they tend to take on the flavors of the ingredients that are added to them, such as honey, cinnamon, and fruit.
Oats are usually consumed as a sweetened breakfast food or snack, as well as being used in cookies and desserts.
What Is Rice?
Rice is a grain, but not all rice is considered a whole grain. Brown rice is minimally processed and retains the germ and the bran and is therefore considered a whole grain.
On the other hand, white rice is processed so that only the endosperm is left for consumption, so it is considered a refined grain.
This is the first major difference between rice and oatmeal. Oatmeal is always considered a whole grain, regardless of the type of oat. White rice, the most popular type of rice consumed around the world, is not a whole grain.
There are many types of rice all over the world, but generally, rice has a soft texture. However, it is not as soft as oatmeal and does not lose its shape or congeal together when cooked.
Some rice is sticky and able to be molded into shapes, like Japanese rice, while some separate more easily, like wild rice.
Unlike oatmeal, it is unsafe to consume rice raw, as it can cause food poisoning. Raw rice should always be rinsed right before being cooked as well to get rid of unwanted bacteria, dirt, and dust.
The flavor of rice varies depending on the type. It can have anything from no flavor at all to a nutty or even floral flavor.
Oats vs. Rice – Nutrition
The majority of people who research the difference between oats and rice are concerned mainly with the nutritional pros and cons, so that’s what we’ll consider next.
We’ve already established that white rice is not a whole grain, whereas brown rice and oats are whole grains. Does that make a nutritional difference? Yes, it certainly does.
As you can tell by the following chart, white rice is notably higher in carbohydrates than either brown or oats, yet it has significantly less fiber.
This means that white rice will be converted into glucose much more quickly once eaten, creating a more dramatic and less sustainable spike in your blood sugar levels.
Both white and brown rice are higher in calories than oats and both have considerably less fiber, protein, and fat.
For the same volume, oats will be much more satisfying and satiating, allowing you to feel full much more quickly and stay full longer. This can contribute to easier weight management.
In terms of vitamins and minerals, oats tend to outperform brown rice in most categories, but white rice is often fortified, so it may have an edge.
Because white rice is consumed by so many people so frequently, companies have been encouraged to fortify it with essential vitamins and minerals as a way to lower deficiencies in the American population.
Rice vs. Oats Nutrition
|1 cup raw||White Rice*|
|Grams||Daily Value||Grams||Daily Value||Grams||Daily Value|
|Carbs||158 g||53%||145 g||48%||103 g||34%|
|Fiber||5.6 g||22%||6.5 g||26%||16.5 g||66%|
|Fat||1 g||2%||5.1 g||8%||10.8||17%|
|Protein||13 g||26%||14.3 g||29%||26.4 g||53%|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||1.1 mg||75%||0.8 mg||52%||1.2 mg||79%|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||8.6 mg||41%||8.2 mg||41%||1.5 mg||7%|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||462 mcg||115%||38 mcg||10%||87.4 mcg||22%|
|Iron||8.5 mg||47%||3.4 mg||19%||7.4 mg||41%|
|Zinc||2.2 mg||15%||3.8 mg||26%||6.2 mg||41%|
|Copper||0.4 mg||21%||0.5 mg||26%||1.0 mg||49%|
*White rice is almost always fortified with a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, iron, and zinc. The exact values may vary depending on the manufacturer.
How to Cook Oats Like Rice
Using your rice cooker to cook oatmeal is not only incredibly easy and foolproof, but it also turns your one-use appliance into a multipurpose appliance.
Your oats will take just as long to cook, and will turn out exactly like the oatmeal you would make stovetop, but you can turn on your machine and let it cook without supervision, which is very useful and timesaving.
You can also opt to use oat groats (unrolled kernels) as a closer substitute to rice, as they have more of a similar shape and consistency than rolled oats.
Which One Is Better for You?
On almost all nutritional levels, oatmeal is better for you than rice.
- Oatmeal has more fiber, protein, and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals
- It also has fewer calories and carbohydrates per equal serving size of rice
- There are no health concerns associated with oatmeal, such as the arsenic concerns with rice
That being said, rice is fortified with vitamins and minerals and it is a staple food source that keeps humans alive around the globe.
Many cultural cuisines would be utterly lost without rice, despite the growing efforts to market oatmeal as a viable substitute.
Oatmeal is still very much thought of as a breakfast food, and rice is more commonly used as a lunch and dinner option, though the lines are blurring steadily.
We certainly encourage you to try getting more adventurous with your oatmeal.
Is Wild Rice Better Than Brown Rice?
We spent a lot of time covering white and brown rice in this article, but we didn’t talk much about wild rice. Wild rice is more comparable to brown rice than white rice because it is still a whole grain.
If you would like to compare it to white rice, we discuss the difference between wild rice and basmati rice in a separate article.
Wild rice is actually a type of grass, rather than a true cereal grain, like brown rice. It has significantly lower calories and higher protein and fiber than brown rice.
They’re both naturally gluten-free and rich in vitamins and minerals, though they have different strengths and weaknesses.
Is Rice Bad for You?
Even though white rice is the most commonly eaten grain around the world, there are many rumors circulating that it is bad for you, in a variety of ways.
Many people worry about the dangers of getting food poisoning from rice, especially reheated rice, as well as about arsenic content.
Cooked rice is highly susceptible to bacterial growth, which can lead to food poisoning if you’re not careful. Eating cold, previously cooked rice, or poorly reheated rice can be dangerous to your health.
We’ve dedicated an entire article to whether you can eat cold rice, and if you eat a lot of rice in your home, it makes for a very interesting read.
In general, most people can store their cooked rice safely and reheat it properly to avoid making themselves sick, but what about the second concern?
Does Rice Have Arsenic?
Considering arsenic is one of the most toxic naturally occurring chemical elements on earth, you should definitely be careful about eating it.
Arsenic is found in trace amounts in nearly every food we eat because it is naturally occurring in the earth and even in water.
For most of history, humans have been able to safely eat rice without knowing about, let alone worrying about, the arsenic levels.
However, because of the amount of pollution in the water and soil that rice is grown in, it is becoming a fast-growing health and safety concern.
Paddy rice is particularly at risk because the water that the rice grows in is highly contaminated and continuously absorbed by the growing plants.
Long-term exposure to arsenic can lead to a host of health problems, such as:
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Impaired brain functioning
- Birth defects
Rice vs. Oatmeal – What’s Best in Baby Cereal?
Many baby formulas and baby cereals have been rice-based for many decades, but due to rising concerns over the arsenic in rice and rice products, many companies are switching over to oats.
Babies and young children have a higher risk of being poisoned by arsenic because of their smaller body size.
To make matters worse, arsenic seems to be concentrated in brown-rice syrup, which is often used to sweeten baby formula and cereal.
Beyond the potential dangers of arsenic, it’s important to remember that white rice is almost always fortified with vitamins and minerals that are commonly deficient in the standard American diet.
This is even more true for baby cereal and formula.
On the other hand, oatmeal contains more naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It also has more flavor, which may be good or bad news, depending on the preferences of your child.
Rice cereal is generally a smoother, finer consistency than oatmeal, and it is less likely to trigger any allergic reactions. Oatmeal is naturally gluten-free, but oatmeal baby cereals are more likely to contain gluten than rice-based cereals.
The oatmeal cereal will be more satiating for anybody, babies and adults alike, so it will help your child feel full for longer between feedings.
The fiber in oatmeal cereal can also help ease digestive issues that sometimes happen when introducing solid foods.
Ultimately, when it comes to rice vs oatmeal baby cereal, you may need to find out what your baby is better able to digest and work from there.
Is Oatmeal Good for Weight Loss?
Oatmeal can be a useful element of an otherwise well-managed weight loss regime but, on its own, it won’t lead to any dramatic weight loss.
Oatmeal is high in fiber and protein, which can make you feel full longer on fewer calories, helping you to stick to your caloric goals.
It is also a complex carbohydrate, which provides a sustainable source of energy, making it less likely that you’ll crash shortly after a meal and saving you from pick-me-up snacks and high-calorie, low-nutrition food choices.
Is Oatmeal Keto?
No, oatmeal is generally not considered keto-friendly because it is a high-carbohydrate meal.
Many people who follow a ketogenic diet and miss their favorite oat breakfasts will substitute oats with high-fat, low-carb options like seeds, nuts, and berries.
Which One Is Better for Bodybuilding?
Bodybuilders are particularly interested in the debate between rice vs oatmeal. As a generalization, the goal of a bodybuilder is to put on as much strong muscle as possible.
Muscle requires not only a lot of exercise to create, but it also needs protein for repair and calories to create the additional mass.
While everybody needs fat to survive, bodybuilders focus mainly on carbs and protein to provide bulk. While white rice may have more carbs and calories than oats, because it is not a whole grain, it converts to energy more quickly than oats will.
Rice is a great quick carb to eat just before and/or after a workout to use as a readily accessible source of fuel. Before a workout, you’ll need easy access to energy to keep your strength up.
After your workout, white rice will replenish muscle glycogen, helping your muscles recover more quickly.
Oats, being a more complex carbohydrate, will provide more sustained energy throughout the day, giving your muscles plenty to use throughout the day, rather than just when you’re working out.
Brown rice is more complex than white rice, but it still doesn’t measure up to oats for sustained energy.
Oats are also much higher in protein, which helps repair muscles more quickly. Overall, both oats and rice are key players in the diet of a bodybuilder.