Hey there Folks! Before we start our discussion on ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’, allow me to ask you all a simple question. What sort of snack food comes to mind when you seek a quick fix to quench your hunger?
Well, most of you would think of Snack pies, Potato chips, Pretzels, Cookies, Pop-Tarts, French fries, Sugar wafers, and other bakery items or packed foods. Honestly, me too! But it’s a pity that though these snacks taste wonderful, eating them is quite unhealthy for our bodies. This is why people are looking for healthy snack food and delicious at the same time.
So, while I was searching for ‘Healthy snacks,’ I came across a popular snack named ‘Rice cake.’ In this article, we will discuss what rice cakes are, whether they are healthy, and what makes them a healthy snack.
What is a Rice Cake?
As the name suggests, the main ingredient of rice cake is rice. The most basic rice cakes are made up of puffed rice, water, salt (and other spices), and most of the time, pressed in a circular shape.
Rice cakes are not only available in different flavors and type, but it also has different varieties in terms of culture. They are best known in Korea, China, Japan, and other Pacific Rim countries.
An unsalted plain rice cake of 9 grams made from brown rice contains:
- Calories – 35
- Carbohydrates – 7.2 gm
- Protein – 0.8 gm
- Fiber – 0.3 gm
- Magnesium – 11.5 mg
- Fat – 0.3 gm
- Potassium – 0.25g
- Niacin – 0.7 mg
- Phosphorus – 32.5 mg
- Manganese – 0.3 mg
- Zinc – 0.4 mg
Rice Cakes in Different Cultures
1) American Rice Cakes
American rice cakes are quite different from Asian rice cakes. If you are an American or a resident of America, you would have often spotted bags of puffed rice discs at the grocery stores.
These puffy rice discs are none other than American rice cakes. These are often used as snacks rather than some ingredient or side dish.
These kinds of cakes were very popular among the people of America in the 80s and 90s. Its sprinkle of flavor crystals, spices, delicious toppings, and satisfying crunch made it a popular snack.
This doesn’t mean that rice cakes have lost their essence; it’s just improving with time. Many companies are coming up with new flavors and ways to make it more of a healthy snack. Also, this post about ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’ mainly talks about the benefits and disadvantages of American rice cakes.
2) Korean Rice Cakes
There are varieties of rice cakes in Korean culture. Rice cakes in Korean cuisine are quite different from American rice cakes. One of the most famous classes of rice cake in Korea is called ‘Tteok.’ Many people mistake it as a synonym for rice cake, but it is not so.
Tteok is a class of traditional Korean rice cakes made with glutinous or non-glutinous rice. These cakes are not only used as desserts because of their sweet and versatile taste but also as a meal.
Tteok has many different versions and categories. Some of the most popular types of Tteok are stated below:
- Tteokbokki – Tteobokki is fried rice cakes that have a spicy taste, often sold as street food. It is mostly customizable; one can easily change or add ingredients according to their preference. It is one of the best comfort food in the world.
- Injeolmi – These are steamed rice cakes made of glutinous rice flour and are often covered with powdered dried beans or other ingredients. It also has varieties, such as kkaeinjeolmi and ssuksuk injeolmi.
- Chapssaltteok – Chapssaltteok is another variety of Tteok; it is popular as a dessert and snack eaten during the winter season. It is similar to Japanese daifuku mochi and is prepared with glutinous rice and red bean paste. It has a special meaning in Korean, as it is often given to students to wish them good luck for their exams.
- Ggul tteok – These are traditional Korean desserts, are colorful rice cakes shaped into small balls. These are stuffed with sesame or Korean syrup.
- Sirutteok – Sirutteok is another type of tteok named after ‘siru,’ an earthenware steaming vessel. It is made of glutinous rice or steamed rice flour, usually filled with beans or red beans. These cakes are often used in rituals by the people of Korea.
- Garaetteok – Garatteok is a long cylindrical-shaped Korean rice cake. It is made by steaming non-glutinous rice flour in a steamer. It is often sold as street food or used as an ingredient to incorporate into other foods.
The list of rice cakes doesn’t end here; there are many other varieties of rice cakes in Korea. So, if you are a fan of rice cakes, trying rice cakes in Korean cuisine is a must. Koreans love rice cakes; they also think about ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’ and try to invent a healthier version of their traditional rice cakes.
3) Filipino Rice Cakes
Filipino rice cake is quite famous and has many varieties. Furthermore, it has been divided into steamed rice cakes and baked rice cakes. The rice cakes in the Philippines are generally prepared using galapong, a type of glutinous rice.
Some popular varieties of Filipino rice cakes are:
- Masi – Masi is a specialty of Cebu, made into the shape of small balls with peanut and muscovado fillings. It also has different flavors like chocolate and coconut.
- Biko is made using sticky rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. It is chewy and has a sweet taste. It is usually topped with latik.
- Ube kalamay – These are soft, and sticky rice cakes made using rice flour, white rice, and ube flavoring.
- Palitaw – Palitaw is a flat-shaped rice cake prepared using coconut, sesame seeds, and sugar. It is chewy and has a sweet taste.
- Kiping – Kiping is rice cakes that are mostly fried or grilled. Especially taste good when dipped in sauces. Colorful Kiping is used as decorations in the Pahiyas festival.
- Tupig – It is often sold as street food, especially during Christmas and the new year. Tupig is made using glutinous rice and coconuts strips, then wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over charcoal. Tupig has a shelf life of around a month when kept in the refrigerator.
- Espasol – Espasol is another variety of rice cakes; it is prepared by toasting rice flour with sweetened coconut milk.
Don’t miss out on these delicious desserts and snacks if you visit the Philippines. You don’t have to think much about ‘Are rice cakes healthy’ in the Philippines. Since the common Filipino rice cakes usually include healthy ingredients. But, do not consume it in excess, and watch out if you have allergies or health problems.
4) Indian Rice Cakes
Indian rice cakes are quite different from those prepared in other cuisines. Let’s look at some popular Indian rice cakes:
- Idli – Originated from Southern India, idli is a well-known Indian dish worldwide. It is fermented rice cakes and many different versions. It is often eaten will sambar or steamed lentil. Moreover, eating idli is good for health, as it is rich in protein and fiber.
- Pittu – One of the popular breakfast options in Southern India is Pittu with black chickpeas curry. It has a cylindrical- log-like structure of rice layered with coconut shaving. Pittus are easy to make at home but require a utensil called puttu kudam.
- Vattayappam originated in Southern India; it is a sponge rice cake made using shaved coconut and fermented rice batter with yeast. It is often served with sambar or chicken curry.
These may sound like just plain rice cakes, but it is not the case. You will know once you taste it. The flavors and taste will make you wonder why you thought of it as some plain rice cakes.
Since most Indian rice cakes are eaten during breakfast, one would have thought there is no need to think about ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’. But it is not so. Though most of the ingredients are healthy, mostly they feel heavy when consumed.
5) Chinese Rice Cakes
Rice cakes in Chinese cuisine are not much different than other Asian rice cakes. There are many varieties available of rice cakes in China. Some popular types of rice cakes in Chinese cuisine are:
- Ciba – Immensely popular in the Southern region of China, Ciba is a traditional Chinese dessert made up of sticky rice pounded into a paste and shaped into small balls.
- Fa gao – The name of this cake symbolizes many things, and among them, the ‘cake of prosperity’ and ‘the smile cake’ is the most popular homonym of Fa gao. It is prepared using rice flour and yeast.
- Song gao – Song gao is a Shanghai-born dessert prepared using rice flour, sugar, azuki red beans, and other dairy ingredients.
- Nian gao – Basically, nian gao refers to steamed rice cakes prepared using brown sugar, but it has many varieties, and its taste can be slightly different in different regions.
- Funing big cake – Funing big cake, also known as Yipin Yudai Cake, is a delicious rice cake. It has a sweet taste, is nutritious, and is suitable for all age groups.
The rice cakes in China cuisine taste fantastic, but there are also many rice cakes will deep history and special meaning. People of China eat different rice cakes on different occasions, and some are even used in different rituals.
6) Japanese Rice cakes
What I like most about Japanese rice cakes is their appearance, just looking at them makes you drool! Its cute shapes and aroma can easily arouse your appetite. Some popular types of Japanese tice cakes are:
- Onigiri – Onigiri is one of the most popular food in Japan; you can easily find it in departmental or grocery stores. Onigiri is rice balls, often shaped triangular and wrapped in nori. It is often mistaken for sushi, but onigiri isn’t sushi. It is quite portable and easy to preserve.
- Mochi – It is prepared using mochigome and molded in a rectangular or circular shape. Mochis are easily available in packed form, and you have to roast or boil them in a roaster or boiler.
- Daifuku – Daifuku is a Japanese dessert prepared by wrapping a thin layer of rice cakes on red bean paste. It is often called ‘daifuku-mochi,’ but daifuku is different from mochi.
7) Rice Cakes in Other Countries
There are many varieties of rice cakes in other cuisines as well. For instance, plain rice cakes in Indonesia are often treated as food staples; at the same time, many varieties of rice cakes are used as snacks and desserts. Lemper, serabi, ketupat, longton, and lupis are some of its famous varieties.
Other countries like Vietnam, Taiwan, Sri Lankan, Myanmar, Iran, etc., also have varieties of rice cakes in their cuisines. So, as you can see, the food called ‘rice cake’ is eaten all over the globe. Thus, it makes ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’ important.
Are Rice Cakes Healthy Snack?
There would be no country on this earth that does not use rice. Rice is a staple food and has many health benefits.
Rice contains rice protein and fiber, provides energy, restores glycogen levels after exercise, is a gluten-free grain, and some types of rice can also be used to avoid diseases.
You must be thinking, why I’m telling you the health benefits of rice when the topic is is ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’ and not about rice. This is because a rice cake with minimal ingredients is just puffed rice pressed into a cake.
From this perspective, rice cakes provide most of the nutrition that rice provides to one’s body. But this is just a general idea; the question ‘Are rice cakes healthy’ can’t be answered this way.
So, let’s see what makes rice cakes healthy and an unhealthy choice.
Benefits of Including Rice Cakes in the Diet
1. Low Calories
Rice cakes are one of the best alternatives for higher-calorie foods. Since rice cakes are low in calories and mostly fat-free, they are better than other unhealthy snacks.
Though rice cake is a good choice for weight loss, it should be consumed in moderation. The choice of toppings on rice cakes is also an important factor.
Healthy toppings like Greek yogurt, peanut butter, almond butter, strawberries, sliced bananas, etc., should be added to rice cakes for a healthy diet.
This is especially the best option for people craving a crunchy snack but is on a diet. So, if you are looking to maintain your weight, the answer to ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’ is positive for you.
2. Easy to Digest
Most of the rice cakes available in the market are gluten-free. So you guys do not worry about bloating, and indigestion since rice cakes include starch.
There are many snacks available in the market; though delicious, they can take a toll on your digestive system. Rice cakes, on the other, are easy to digest and a good option for people with celiac disease.
People with celiac disease or nonceliac gluten sensitivity can eat rice cakes, but they should carefully choose the toppings and check the label.
Though this one benefit doesn’t answer the question ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’, it’s still an important aspect. Rice cakes are inexpensive and have a longer shelf life. Whether you buy it online or in the market, you find that these are relatively cheaper and easily available.
Even the rice cakes of popular brands are much cheaper than other snacks. So, rice cakes are a good option because they crave a good snack but don’t want to spend too much money on it.
4. Contains Anti Oxidants
Yes! Rice cakes do contain anti-oxidants. An essential mineral, ‘Selenium,’ is found in rice cakes. These act as antioxidants, protecting healthy cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
Although rice cakes are not the best source of anti-oxidants, topping the rice cake with berries, herbs, cherries, beans, apples, nuts, dark leafy greens, or seeds has many effects on one’s health, as all these are good sources of antioxidants. So, it isn’t just about ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’ you can make it much healthier by just including some healthy ingredients.
5. Good Source of Energy
Like rice, rice cakes are a good energy source because they contain carbohydrates. Especially the one made with brown rice and healthy toppings is a whole grain wrap.
A whole-grain brown rice cake topped with just honey, berries, hummus, and veggies is a good bread substitute; it can control your appetite and help your body keep up energy levels.
6. Healthy Immune System
Zinc is a trace mineral, which is an important mineral for the body, but at the same time, our body needs it in a small amount. A plain rice cake of 9 grams contains only around 0.4 mg of zinc, appropriate for consumption.
Zinc and some other components of rice cakes are good sources of prebiotics for the body, which are good for our immune system.
Disadvantages of Including Rice Cakes in the Diet
Though rice cakes have benefits, there are things that it lacks and some issues which make people hesitant to consider them as a full-fledged healthy snack. Let’s see some of these reasons:
- Lack of Nutritional Value – Looking at the label, one can easily guess there isn’t much in it. A plain rice cake contains low fats, vitamins, and minerals, making it a little more than refined carbohydrates. So, if you are nutritional intake through rice cakes, you have to add nutritional value by adding things like peanut butter, cottage cheese, sliced hard-boiled egg, tuna salad, or other good sources of healthy fats and fiber.
- High Glycemic Index – A Glycemic Index (GI) rates the effects on blood sugar. Rice cakes have a high glycemic index irrespective of the type of rice used to prepare them. As most types of rice have a high glycemic index, it may lead to a blood sugar spike. Many brands have added sugar which can be harmful to diabetes patients.
- Contains added salt – Most rice cakes available in the market contain added salt, harming patients suffering from high blood pressure or heart-related diseases.
- Added sugar or artificial flavors – This is one of the biggest disadvantages, making people question ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’ before eating them. While choosing, one should be careful as many brands include added sugar or artificial flavors. These sweet flavors may taste good but cause allergic reactions, food hypersensitivity, or abdominal pain.
What Kind of Rice should be Used to Make Rice Cakes?
Usually, different cuisine may use different types of rice and different techniques to prepare rice cakes. Some types are rice that is commonly used to make it are:
1) Brown Rice
Most of the time, brown rice is the first preference for making rice cakes. It is said that rice cakes made up of brown rice are much healthier in comparison to the other types of rice. Nutrients in brown rice can help keep your heart healthy; it contains more fiber than white rice and has a comparatively low glycemic index. All these things make it the best choice.
Click here to know the wonderful benefits of brown rice.
2) White Rice
Rice cakes made of white rice can be good and bad for you. White rice is considered bad because it is highly processed, losing many minerals and vitamins. But white rice in the USA and many other countries is enriched with added nutrients, making it much better for consumption.
White rice is easier to digest and keeps the gut healthy. But white rice has higher glycemic, thus helpful for diabetes patients. Also, white rice may contain arsenic, which increases the risk of heart diseases.
3) Jasmine Rice
Jasmine rice is a distinctive flavor and fragrance type of rice and comes in different varieties. The most commonly used by people are white and brown jasmine rice. Whole grain jasmine rice provides more nutrients, especially iron, and is good for the body’s immune system. It has a quite high glycemic index and is a refined carbohydrate. High carb intake can help because of many health issues.
Like I said before, it isn’t just about ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’ you have to look at its ingredients. Choosing the type of rice is also an important factor to determine are rice cakes healthy.
In the End
In conclusion, I would say that the answer to the question ‘Are rice cakes healthy?’ is quite indefinite, since it has many health benefits but at the same time some disadvantages. So, it can be said that it is a healthy snack but not a full-fledged one.
It may become one in the future, but it isn’t right now, and there are many other alternatives of it that many other alternatives of it can be more beneficial to people.
But if you can, try eating rice cakes once to bring back your nostalgic childhood memories and allow yourself to taste something delicious and fulfilling. I hope this post on ‘Are rice cakes healthy’ was helpful for all the readers. Comment your favorite toppings and other healthy food alternatives you can think of.
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