Rice Milk Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Rice Milk Concept
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Rice milk is a plant-based beverage that is often used as an alternative to dairy milk. Although the term "rice milk" is commonly used to refer to it, the word "milk" can only be used to refer to a dairy beverage that comes from cows, according to FDA standards. So if you're looking for rice milk in the supermarket, you're likely to see packages labeled as "rice drink" or "rice non-dairy beverage."

Rice milk can be made at home with white or brown rice and water. When it is made commercially, usually it is made using brown rice, brown rice syrup, plant-based oils, and sweeteners or flavorings such as vanilla. Rice milk may also be fortified with micronutrients, such as vitamin B12, calcium, or vitamin D.

Rice Milk Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a one-cup serving (244g) of rice milk.

  • Calories: 115
  • Fat: 2.4g
  • Sodium: 95.2mg
  • Carbohydrates: 22.4g
  • Fiber: 0.7g
  • Sugars: 12.9g
  • Protein: 0.7g

Carbs

Rice milk provides 115 calories in a one-cup serving, including 22.4 grams of carbohydrates. There are 12.9 grams of sugar in a serving of rice milk, but just 0.7 grams of fiber.

The glycemic index of rice milk is estimated to be between 79 to 92, making this a relatively high glycemic food. Foods with a high glycemic index are quickly digested and cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. 

Fats

There are about 2.4 grams of fat in a single-serving of rice milk. Most of the fat is monounsaturated (1.52g), some of it is polyunsaturated (0.76g), and none of it is saturated fat.

Protein

A single serving of rice milk is not a significant source of protein, providing under 0.7 grams of the macronutrient.

Vitamins and Minerals

If you are looking to benefit from micronutrients in rice milk, it is important to check the nutrition facts label when choosing which brand to buy. Some, but not all products, are enriched. That means that they have had various nutrients added during processing.

According to USDA data, a one-cup serving of rice milk provides 288mg of calcium (22% of the daily value), 2.4 micrograms of vitamin D (12% of the daily value), 1.54 micrograms of vitamin B12 (64% of the daily value), 154 micrograms of vitamin A (17% of the daily value). 

Branded products may provide different amounts of nutrients. For example, Simply Balanced brand rice milk (sold by Target) provides 350mg of calcium, 3.4mcg of vitamin D, and 270mcg of vitamin A.

Health Benefits

Choosing fortified rice milk may provide some health advantages due to the nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D that have been added to it.

Can Provide a Milk Alternative

Rice milk provides an easy-to-find alternative for those who have lactose intolerance or milk allergy. It is also vegan- and vegetarian-friendly. In many ways, rice milk behaves just like dairy milk. It can be used in recipes and the taste is similar (but not exactly the same).

As a basis for comparison, a cup of low-fat (2%) dairy milk provides 122 calories, 8 grams of protein, 4.8 grams of fat, 11.7 grams of carbohydrate, and 12 grams of sugar. It also provides 293 milligrams of calcium, 2.9mcg of vitamin D, 1.29mcg of vitamin B12, and 134mcg of vitamin A. But most of the fat in milk is saturated fat, whereas rice milk contains no saturated fat.

If you choose your enriched rice milk carefully, you can get similar nutrients from rice milk as you can from dairy milk. But again, nutritional content can vary substantially. So this health benefit can be a drawback if you choose rice milk as a dairy alternative and the product you choose has not been enriched with important nutrients.

Improves Bone Density

The calcium in enriched rice milk is important for bone health and strength and may help prevent osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones that can cause fractures). According to the National Institutes of Health, low calcium intake throughout life is associated with low bone mass and high fracture rates. National nutrition surveys have shown that most people are not getting the calcium they need to grow and maintain healthy bone.

Since vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium, the levels of this vitamin in fortified rice milk is also important for bone health. You can increase your vitamin D levels by exposing yourself to sunlight. But since sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer, getting it in foods is preferable.

Helps Prevent Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Some people are likely to have lower levels of vitamin B12 because they don't absorb it properly or because their diet doesn't include foods rich in the nutrient. Older adults, vegetarians, vegans, people who have had gastrointestinal surgery, and those who have digestive disorders, (such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease) are advised to take a vitamin B12 supplement or to look for foods that are fortified with it.

If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, nerve problems (such as numbness or tingling) constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, or a condition called megaloblastic anemia. Depression, confusion, problems with balance, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue are also associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency. According to the NIH, the deficiency can cause nerve damage, so it is important to treat a deficiency as soon as possible.

Helps Prevent Calcium Deficiency

Calcium plays several roles in the body besides contributing to bone health. Calcium also plays a role in communication between nerves and muscles so that your body moves properly. It helps maintain healthy blood vessels for circulation and is important for the release of various hormones and enzymes.

Many people are at risk for calcium deficiency, including post-menopausal women. The National Institutes of Health also says that boys aged 9 to 13, girls aged 9 to 18, and men older than 70 often don't get enough calcium. In addition to bone loss, symptoms of a calcium deficiency may include numbness or tingling in the fingers, convulsions, and abnormal heart rhythms. But health experts advise that these symptoms usually occur in people with serious health problems or who are undergoing certain medical treatments.

The type of calcium often added to rice milk is often calcium citrate which can be absorbed on an empty or full stomach. It is also better absorbed by people with low levels of stomach acid or conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, or absorption disorders.

Helpful Choice for People With Allergy

Rice milk is considered to be the least allergic of all of the dairy and non-dairy milk choices. Most other options contain soy, gluten, milk protein, or nuts which are all common allergens. Most brands of rice milk are simply made from brown rice and brown rice derivatives.

Of course, when choosing a product always consult the product ingredients list and packaging. According to FDA guidelines, all major allergens (peanuts, soybeans, milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, tree nuts, and wheat) must be disclosed on package labels.

Allergies

Rice allergy is not common but there are reports of allergic reactions to rice, including in children. Symptoms may include rash, skin redness, rash, swelling, oral allergy syndrome, stuffy nose, wheezing, and even anaphylaxis. If you have a known rice allergy or if you experience symptoms after consuming rice milk (or any rice product) seek personalized advice from your healthcare provider.

Adverse Effects

There are some reports of people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity having reactions to some brands of rice milk that were advertised to be gluten-free. According to some reports, companies may use a gluten ingredient (such as brown rice syrup that has been processed with barley) in manufacturing. If you follow a gluten-free diet, you may want to be cautious about consuming rice milk unless you are familiar with the ingredients used to make it. Consumers should look for the gluten-free label to ensure the syrup is free from gluten.

Also, while rice milk itself is not likely to provide adverse health effects, using it as a milk alternative may be problematic for some people if they are not consuming other foods with important nutrients such as calcium or vitamin D.

In a statement released in 2018, then FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D explained why proper labeling of dairy and non-dairy foods is important. Gottlieb said that plant-based dairy alternatives are often sold in the dairy section of the grocery store and have similar packaging which may lead to confusion among consumers. 

"The FDA has concerns that the labeling of some plant-based products may lead consumers to believe that those products have the same key nutritional attributes as dairy products, even though these products can vary widely in their nutritional content."

Scott Gottleib, M.D., FDA Commissioner 2017–2019

He went on to explain that health consequences of this confusion may include the underconsumption of key nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, a concern that may be heightened in children if parents substitute certain plant-based beverages for milk. Calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) is considered to be included in the dairy group, according to the USDA, but rice milk is not.

Varieties

There are many different brands of rice milk, different packaging options, and different flavors. As mentioned in the FDA statement, the nutritional information can vary widely, so it is important to read labels when choosing rice milk. You may also want to read ingredient labels. Many brands add oils or other ingredients in order to get a creamier consistency. And some brands add sweeteners to add flavor.

When It’s Best

Rice milk is available all year long in supermarkets.

Storage and Food Safety

Rice dream is often sold in shelf-stable containers. So, the products will remain fresh when stored in a cool, dark cupboard until the expiration date or until they are opened. Once opened, rice milk should be kept in the refrigerator. According to the USDA, rice milk will stay fresh for 7 to 10 days if kept refrigerated.

Although many cooks say that they can successfully store rice milk, many manufacturers recommend against it. If you do freeze it, thaw it in the refrigerator and shake well before using.

How to Prepare

If you want to control the ingredients in rice milk, you can make your own at home. You'll just need about 3/4 cup to one cup of white or brown rice and water. Begin by cooking the rice according to package instructions. Some people choose to soak the rice in hot water for a few hours, but many cooks find that simply cooking the rice makes the next step easier. Allow the rice to cool.

Combine the cooked rice with about 2 cups of water in a high-speed blender. At this point, you can add flavorings according to your preferences. Many cooks add a small amount of salt to enhance flavor. But others like to add sweetness and choose to add vanilla, cinnamon, or dates.

Blend the mixture until smooth, then strain through cheesecloth or another type of fine strainer. Place the milk in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for up to five days. Remember that rice milk that you make at home will not provide the nutrients available in enriched rice milk that you buy in stores.

Use your rice milk like you might use dairy milk: in smoothies, as a refreshing beverage, or warmed with cocoa. You can also top your favorite granola or oats with rice milk and bananas, cinnamon, honey, or maple syrup. Rice milk also pairs well with pumpkin and peanut butter in smoothies. It's also delicious in other popular breakfast foods like buckwheat pancakes, or chia seed pudding.

In general, rice milk is naturally sweeter than other milk alternatives. So it works well in dessert recipes like rice pudding, banana "cream" pie, muffins, pumpkin pie, or even egg nog.

Recipes

Healthy Rice Milk Recipes to Try

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