What is Cream of Rice?
Cream of rice is a type of cereal that is made from finely ground white rice. It’s often used in recipes that require thickening, but it also works well as a breakfast food when served hot with milk and sugar or honey. Cream of rice is a popular staple in many Asian cultures where the dish congee (rice porridge) is enjoyed by millions across the region every day.
The creamy texture comes from boiling water or milk into cooked rice until it becomes soft and smooth – much like polenta. While this may sound bland, don’t write it off just yet – there are quite a few additions that make the dish enjoyable.
Some examples include berries, cinnamon & raisins, banana & brown sugar, or even nuts and seeds!
Is Cream of Rice Healthy?
Cream of rice is actually more nutrient dense than most would anticipate, as it contains Vitamin B6, thiamin (B1), niacin (B3), folate, iron, magnesium and dietary fiber. Not to mention the health benefits of any toppings that are added!
Usually, because of how carbohydrate heavy cream of rice is, it is consumed by bodybuilders who are looking for energy that is quickly processed. However, the average person can also enjoy the vitamin & macronutrient benefits of cream of rice in controlled quantities. In one cooked cup of cream of rice, there are approximately 125 calories, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein, less than a half gram of fat, and little to no sugar.
Cream of rice is gluten-free as well, which is an important health consideration for some. To make this an even healthier choice, it can be prepared at home in a non-processed manner. This is easy and intuitive to do, with many resources available online for guidance.
All in all, cream of rice is about as healthy as one would expect. It is not extremely nutrient forward, nor is it balanced in its macronutrients, but it does have a fairly surprising list of vitamins & minerals, and is great for a quick, filling meal.
Cream of Rice vs Cream of Wheat
Cream of wheat is a type of porridge made with cooked whole wheat kernels, milk or water, and salt. It can be eaten as cereal for breakfast, or used as an ingredient in other dishes like casseroles or soups.
Cream of wheat was first produced by the Cream-of-Wheat Manufacturing Company in 1872. The company was founded by James Caleb Jackson who wanted to create healthier food options for people living on the frontier at the time. Today you can find this popular breakfast staple in many grocery stores’ shelves all over North America!
One cooked cup of cream of wheat contains approximately 130 calories, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of protein, and half a gram of fat. It is also abundant in iron, and contains B vitamins like folate, niacin, Vitamin B6, thiamine, and riboflavin. These vitamins are quite similar to what cream of rice contains.
As you can see, the macronutrient and vitamin differences between the two breakfast options are pretty minimal. Cream of wheat does tend to have a bit more protein, but overall they fare very similarly. Another important distinction worth mentioning is that cream of wheat is of course not gluten-free. Also, cream of wheat has a considerable amount of sodium in a one cup serving, which is unlike cream of rice. The sodium levels can of course be controlled if the dish is made at home.
The most distinct difference is obviously the root ingredients of the two: rice vs wheat. Cream of rice is a flour-like dish that is made from ground rice, and cream of wheat is made from a kind of milled wheat. Rice and wheat are two of the most popular grains in the world. The two date back to very early civilizations, and serve as the foundation of dishes in many cultures.
White rice is classified as a refined grain, and wheat is a whole grain. Rice tends to have a finer consistency between the two, and wheat is described as more fiber-like. This trait translates pretty clearly into the texture of the two in their cream form. Cream of rice is described to have a smoother feel, while cream of wheat feels a bit less refined.
Not surprisingly, wheat in its raw form is quite a bit more nutrient dense than white rice, but this advantage largely evaporates when it is processed into cream of wheat. An interesting aside – rice consists of 68% water, and wheat contains only 11%. Not only is wheat more nutrient dense, it also is more dense in mass.
One cup of wheat weighs in at 192 grams, compared to 158 grams for one cup of rice. Another point of comparison is in regard to the glycemic index of the two. Glycemic index is a relative ranking from 1-100, describing the rate at which available carbohydrate is digested, absorbed, and metabolized after eating.
Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index are quicker to raise blood sugar (glucose) levels after eating. The glycemic index of white rice is in the medium to high category, and wheat falls into the low category. This means that someone at greater risk for diabetes, or more impacted by spikes in blood sugar levels, may find it advantageous to consume cream of wheat over cream of rice.
Overall, the two dishes are similar in many ways, with some discernible differences that drive certain groups of people toward one or the other. One is not leaps and bounds healthier than the other – they both provide a similar nutritional profile, with the couple keys differences mentioned above.
How to Make Cream of Rice
You can obviously purchase the store bought version, Cream of Rice, but if you’re ready to make and try out this delicious homemade treat, see the instructions below!
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- 4 cups water (you can use milk, or a milk alternative to suit your tastes)
- Bowl water in a pot
- Blend rice into a fine powder and add it to the boiling water
- Stir, cover and reduce heat until rice thickens, and becomes a creamy porridge
- Serve with your favorite toppings like nuts and berries, and flavor with honey or sugar
While cream of rice can easily be mistaken for cream of wheat, they are certainly not the same thing. They have different textures, flavors, nutritional profiles, and more. They both have health benefits, and can be positive additives in people’s diets, so long as the amount being consumed is considered.
Next time you’re at the grocery store and deciding between the two for yourself, another family member, or a friend, hopefully some of the takeaways of this article are able to aid your decision! Or even better yet – you’ll take your chances at making one of the two from home. That way you can control the consistency of your creation, as well as additives like sugar and salt.
The more control we have over our consumption choices, the healthier a life we can lead. And no better meal to start with than breakfast. Grab some cinnamon, raisins, and granola, and toss them on top of a bowl of cream of rice (or wheat). Or go for blueberries, raspberries, and a bit of brown sugar as your topping.
Whatever you fancy, cream of rice & wheat are food choices with a great degree of customization! Whether you’re a bodybuilder, marathon runner, or stay at home dad, meal time can be made a bit easier, and healthier, with some ground grains in the form of a creamy cereal.