Potatoes vs Rice: Nutrition and Cost Comparison


Potatoes and rice have been cheap, widely available staples across history throughout the world.

We’re going to take a quick look at how rice and potatoes stack up against each other in terms of cost and nutrition

Specifically we’ll be looking at a few different varieties: white rice, brown rice, white potatoes, sweet potatoes.

Cost of Potatoes vs Rice

As someone who’s lived with an extremely limited grocery budget at times, both potatoes and rice are great options.

Prices are going to vary widely depending on where you live and shop, but we can do a quick general comparison using Walmart prices and then we can factor in price per nutritional value later:

  • White potatoes – $0.42 per pound
  • White rice – $1.36 per pound

These prices were for medium sized bags, although you can get rice cheaper if you buy it in huge bags at Costco or an Asian grocery store.

Nutrition Comparison of Potatoes and Rice

The most fair way to compare the nutritional value of all of these foods in my opinion is to look at the amount per 100 grams of cooked food.

It’s tough to look at dry weight since potatoes lose water while cooking, and rice absorbs a bunch.

We’ll start by looking at the macronutrients of these foods. Data comes from the USDA’s food database.

  White Potatoes Sweet Potatoes White Rice Brown Rice
Energy (kcal) 92 90 130 123
Protein (g) 2.1 2.0 2.7 2.7
Total Lipid (g) 0.2 0.2 0.3 1.0
Carbohydrate (g) 21.1 20.7 28.2 25.6
Fiber (g) 2.1 3.3 0.4 1.6
Sugars (g) 1.5 6.5 0.1 0.2

Surprisingly, the different types of potatoes or rice don’t vary from each other too much here.

However, it’s clear that either rice is significantly higher in calories, protein, and carbohydrates. Potatoes are much higher in fiber, especially compared to white rice.

But if you ate the same amount of calories of both, the calories, protein, and carbohydrates would be very similar.

Vitamin and Mineral Comparison

While the macronutrients aren’t all that different between potatoes and rice, there are quite a few differences in the micronutrient profiles of both.

The table below contains a column for the “RDA”. This is a general value (can vary based on age, gender), but does allow us to sort the data.

I’ve bolded the biggest differences.

  RDA White Potatoes Sweet Potatoes White Rice Brown Rice
Vitamin A (µg) 900 1.0 961.0 0.0 0.0
Potassium (mg) 2000 544.0 475.0 35.0 86.0
Manganese (mg) 2.3 0.2 0.5 0.5 1.0
Vitamin C (mg) 90 12.6 19.6 0.0 0.0
Vitamin B-6 (mg) 1.3 0.2 0.3 0.1 0.1
Phosphorus (mg) 700 75.0 54.0 43.0 103.0
Niacin (mg) 16 1.5 1.5 0.4 2.6
Folate (µg) 400 38.0 6.0 3.0 9.0
Thiamin (mg) 1.2 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.2
Riboflavin (mg) 1.3 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.1
Magnesium (mg) 400 27.0 27.0 12.0 39.0
Vitamin E (mg) 15 0.0 0.7 0.0 0.2
Iron (mg) 18 0.6 0.7 0.2 0.6
Vitamin K (µg) 75 2.7 2.3 0.0 0.2
Calcium (mg) 1200 10.0 38.0 10.0 3.0
Zinc (mg) 11 0.4 0.3 0.5 0.7
Choline (mg) 550 14.4 13.1 2.1 9.2
Sodium (mg) 1500 7.0 36.0 1.0 4.0
Selenium (µg) 55 0.5 0.2 7.5 5.8
Copper (mg) 900 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1
Vitamin B-12 (µg) 2.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Vitamin D (µg) 15 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

The most important things to observe from that table are:

  • Potatoes are more nutritious than rice – Potatoes have significantly more potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and vitamin K.
  • Brown rice has significantly more nutrients than white rice – Brown rice has significantly more, or as much of almost every vitamin or mineral that white rice has.
  • Sweet potatoes are a bit healthier than white potatoes – But the difference isn’t huge between the two varieties, and white potatoes have more of certain nutrients like folate. White potatoes aren’t processed like white rice or flour, they’re just called white because of their appearance.

Are Potatoes or Rice More Cost Efficient?

The cost per calorie of both potatoes and rice are very similar to each other. However, when you look at the nutritional value of each food, it’s clear that either white or sweet potatoes are more cost efficient than white or brown rice.

Even though we saw that rice is more expensive earlier when you compare on a dry basis, the amount per calorie is almost the same when cooked. You’ll have to trust my math on that one.

Which is Healthier: Potatoes or Rice?

Both potatoes and rice are relatively healthy foods, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that potatoes are healthier in most situations.

Per a standardized serving, potatoes have:

  • Fewer calories
  • More fiber
  • More vitamins and minerals (in most cases).

In most cases, there’s not a huge difference between white and sweet potatoes once cooked. However, sweet potatoes do have a lot more vitamin A and calcium, while white potatoes have much more folate.

Not surprisingly, brown rice is healthier than white rice. Brown rice has more fiber and a stronger nutritional profile.

Are Potatoes or Rice Better for Bodybuilding?

Bodybuilders are usually interested in foods with more calories and protein, and vitamins and minerals are a nice bonus.

Rice is the preferred choice for bodybuilding in most cases as it is about 30% higher in calories and protein when you compare 100 grams of cooked rice to 100 grams of cooked white or sweet potato.

Rice also has substantially less fiber, which is a big part of why it’s less filling. That can be beneficial for bodybuilders who are struggling to meet calorie targets.

Are Potatoes or Rice Better for Weight Loss?

Both rice and potatoes are mostly carbohydrates and aren’t great foods to consume in large quantities while trying to lose weight.

However, potatoes are better than rice for weight loss if one of them has to be in someone’s diet. Potatoes are more filling while also having fewer calories.

Are White Potatoes and White Rice Unhealthy?

The “white” in the name of white potatoes is a bit misleading. In the case of grains like rice and wheat, “white” refers to removing the bran and husk of the grain, which removes a lot of fiber and nutritional value.

White potatoes are a whole food that haven’t been processed any more than sweet potatoes.

So while you can easily argue that white rice is unhealthier than brown rice, you can’t make the same argument that white potatoes are unhealthy.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. I've spent over 6 years as a freelance nutrition writer and researcher. During this time, I've tested over 50 vegan protein powders, and over 100 other types of vegan supplements.

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