Rice vs Pasta Nutrition Comparison: Which is Healthier?

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Rice and pasta are both relatively cheap carbohydrates that are easy to cook with.

However, they are different in many ways, including the nutritional value that each can offer.

We’re going to look at rice and pasta side-by-side so that you can figure out which one fits in your diet best.

Nutritional Value Comparison of Rice and Pasta

Let’s start with the macronutrient profiles for both of these foods.

The data here and below on this page is per 100 grams of cooked food. The data comes from the USDA’s food database.

Note that the pasta data is for general unenriched pasta, but nutrition will vary a little bit based on brands and types of pasta in actual life.

  White Rice Brown Rice Pasta
Energy (kcal) 130 123 157
Protein (g) 2.7 2.7 5.8
Total Lipid (g) 0.3 1.0 0.9
Carbohydrate (g) 28.2 25.6 30.6
Fiber (g) 0.4 1.6 1.8
Sugars (g) 0.1 0.2 0.6

Pasta has a very similar macronutrient profile to brown rice, except that pasta has significantly more protein, and is a bit higher in calories. That’s not surprising since wheat is relatively high in protein compared to most other grains.

Compared to white rice, both brown rice and pasta also have more fat and fiber.

SUMMARY

Pasta has more calories than rice, but also about twice as much protein, which is a good trade-off for most people.

Vitamins and Minerals in Rice vs Pasta

Next let’s look at the amount of vitamins and minerals per 100 gram serving of these foods.

I’ve included a column with the general RDA amount for adults so that I could sort the data from most to least. I’ve highlighted the biggest differences that stand out in bold.

  RDA White Rice Brown Rice Pasta
Selenium (µg) 55 7.5 5.8 26.4
Manganese (mg) 2.3 0.5 1.0 0.3
Niacin (mg) 16 0.4 2.6 0.4
Phosphorus (mg) 700 43.0 103.0 58.0
Thiamin (mg) 1.2 0.0 0.2 0.0
Magnesium (mg) 400 12.0 39.0 18.0
Riboflavin (mg) 1.3 0.1 0.1 0.0
Sodium (mg) 1500 1.0 4.0 131.0
Vitamin B-6 (mg) 1.3 0.1 0.1 0.0
Zinc (mg) 11 0.5 0.7 0.5
Potassium (mg) 2000 35.0 86.0 44.0
Iron (mg) 18 0.2 0.6 0.5
Folate (µg) 400 3.0 9.0 7.0
Choline (mg) 550 2.1 9.2 0.0
Calcium (mg) 1200 10.0 3.0 7.0
Vitamin E (mg) 15 0.0 0.2 0.1
Vitamin K (µg) 75 0.0 0.2 0.5
Copper (mg) 900 0.1 0.1 0.1
Vitamin C (mg) 90 0.0 0.0 0.0
Vitamin B-12 (µg) 2.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Vitamin A (µg) 900 0.0 0.0 0.0
Vitamin D (µg) 15 0.0 0.0 0.0

Overall it’s pretty clear that brown rice has a stronger micronutrient profile than pasta.

While pasta has more selenium than either type of rice, its profile is pretty similar to white rice for the rest of the vitamins and minerals.

Meanwhile, brown rice has significantly more:

  • Manganese
  • Niacin
  • Phosphorus
  • Thiamin
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Choline
SUMMARY

Brown rice offers significantly more vitamins and minerals than either white rice or pasta (typically made from white flour). Pasta and white rice offer a similar amount of nutrients.

Rice vs Pasta: Which is Healthier?

The healthiest option depends on what you need in your diet most.

You could argue that pasta is the healthiest because it is higher in protein than rice, and also has a lot of selenium, which can be tough to get.

Alternatively, you could argue that brown rice is healthier than pasta, because it has a larger amount of several vitamins and minerals.

One thing that I should mention now is that rice is relatively high in arsenic for grains. It soaks up excess from polluted environments, and eating a large volume of it on a regular basis could lead to health issues. I’ve written about this in a bit more detail in my rice vs quinoa comparison if you’d like to learn more.

Is Rice or Pasta Better for Weight Loss?

Brown rice is typically better than pasta for weight loss. Even though they have a similar amount of fiber, most people find brown rice to be more filling. 

Alternatively, most pasta is better than white rice for weight loss, since white rice is less filling and has less protein, making it harder to reach high protein targets without exceeding calorie goals.

Is Rice or Pasta Better for Bodybuilding?

Pasta is typically the better choice than rice for bodybuilding since it has significantly more protein (5.8 vs 2.7 grams per 100 gram cooked serving), and not that many extra calories.

However, if someone is really struggling to eat enough calories, white rice may be the better choice as it’s less filling than pasta or brown rice.

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.