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Maize vs Rice - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on November 29, 2020
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Maize
vs
Rice

Summary

Both foods contain essential vitamins and minerals and can lead to adverse effects if overused.

Corn is predominantly richer in sugar and protein, vitamins A, C, K, E, B2, B5, also choline and fiber. On the other hand, rice is higher in carbs, calories, iron, calcium, and vitamin B9. So the correct choice depends on what the organism needs.

Introduction

Corn, also known as maize, is a cereal grain that originates in parts of South America, particularly domesticated by indigenous people of Mexico. Corn production surpasses rice production, but most of the crop is used in agriculture as animal feed or to produce corn ethanol, starch, and syrup, instead of directly being consumed by people as food. Corn is a warm-season annual crop but is grown all year round in greenhouses. It is an excellent source of vitamins and micronutrients.

Rice is the seed of a grass species, classified as a cereal grain as well. It is said to provide about twenty percent of all human caloric intake worldwide. Rice can be grown practically in every country, but its parent species are native to eastern Asian countries and certain parts of Africa. Overall, it is an easy and cheap source of calories and micronutrients all year round, including ecotypes with different textures, tastes, and nutritional values.

In this analysis, we discuss what qualities the two foods have in common, but more importantly, their main nutritional differences and impacts on health.

Nutrition

Corn is richer in sugars and protein, but rice is higher in calories and carbs due to its starch content. Corn has a lower glycemic index, while rice is the preferred choice in a low-fat diet.

Vitamins

Maize wins in this category.

Corn contains vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin K, whereas rice entirely lacks these vitamins. Corn is also richer in most B vitamins, such as vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B5 (pantothenic acid) in particular, except for vitamin B9 (folate).

Rice contains more vitamin B9 compared to corn.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Maize
7
:
2
Rice
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +75%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +323.1%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +19.9%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +83.8%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Folate +38.1%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.163
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.093
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 12% 2% 0% 23% 39% 13% 34% 44% 22% 32% 0% 1%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 1% 0% 0% 41% 3% 28% 24% 22% 44% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +75%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +323.1%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +19.9%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +83.8%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Folate +38.1%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.163
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.093

Minerals

When it comes to micronutrients, the winner depends on what you’re looking for. Corn contains more potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus, whereas rice is richer in iron, calcium, and copper.

Corn is also higher in sodium.

Both foods are equal in amounts of zinc contained.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Maize
3
:
5
Rice
Contains more Magnesium +208.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +107%
Contains more Potassium +671.4%
Contains more Calcium +400%
Contains more Iron +130.8%
Contains less Sodium -93.3%
Contains more Copper +27.8%
Equal in Zinc - 0.49
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 1% 20% 27% 39% 24% 2% 13% 18%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 3% 45% 9% 19% 4% 1% 14% 24%
Contains more Magnesium +208.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +107%
Contains more Potassium +671.4%
Contains more Calcium +400%
Contains more Iron +130.8%
Contains less Sodium -93.3%
Contains more Copper +27.8%
Equal in Zinc - 0.49

Fortification

When speaking of nutrients, it is important to pay attention to fortification (enrichment or adding micronutrients to food). In more recent years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed guidelines for fortifying rice with iron, zinc, vitamin A and B-complex vitamins to reduce malnourishment (1).

Corn and Rice Starches

Starch or amylum, a polymeric carbohydrate, can be extracted from both plants, but the two have different physicochemical and morphological properties. Corn starch has a greater average granule size and amylose content. Rice starches are more challenging to extract and profitably use in products. It cooks at a higher temperature and does not form a gel as strong. That is why corn starch is much more common in households (2).

Health impact

Corn is higher in fiber, as well as choline, which is an essential nutrient for cellular growth, DNA synthesis, and metabolism that the body gets mostly from dietary sources.

There are two types of choline: fat-soluble and water-soluble. The choline in corn is fat-soluble, so the body absorbs it from the gastrointestinal tract. Choline is an essential nutrient for fetal brain development and greatly improves cognitive functioning in older people. It is a part of the vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Choline deficiency can lead to fatty liver disease and liver damage, muscle damage, and cognitive decline, among other issues (3, 4). So corn can provide nutrients that are necessary for every system of the body.

Fiber is essential for the health of the gastrointestinal tract, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Refined and processed white rice lacks this element, while brown rice contains much more. To see more information about the differences between these two types of rice, you can look at our White rice vs. Brown rice comparison.

Corn is also higher in most vitamins, predominantly vitamins A, K, C, B2, and B5, that play a significant role in human metabolism.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a large role in growth and development, the immune system, and vision. It is partly responsible for the yellow pigment of corn. The retina uses vitamin A to synthesize rhodopsin that later breaks down when absorbing light, sending a neuronal signal to the brain about the picture in front of your eye. Therefore, vitamin A deficiency leads to reversible vision loss, especially in dim-lit spaces and immune system and skin issues.

Vitamin K is an essential part of the body’s coagulative response, creating blood clots and preventing excessive bleeding.

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is only found in sweet corn and is widely known for its crucial role in the immune system. It is also involved in tissue reparation and the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters. Corn has the highest total antioxidant activity due to its vitamin C content among other grains such as rice and wheat.

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is required for cellular respiration. Its deficiency causes a variety of issues, such as migraines and stomatitis. It has also been studied to lower the risk of colorectal cancer (5). Corn, being the better source of these vitamins, can play a significant role in the healthy processes of the organism, as well as prevent deficiencies. Overall scientific evidence suggests that the right amount of corn consumption reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases: type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and digestive issues (6).

As good as corn is for human health, it has been known to cause a malnutrition issue if overused, stemming from its lack of a few amino acids, namely lysine and tryptophan. Corn can also quickly lose its vitamin B3 content, also known as niacin, if cooked improperly, a process called nixtamalization. Niacin deficiency, especially combined with a tryptophan deficiency, causes a disease called pellagra. The main symptoms include diarrhea, inflamed skin, and cognitive issues. The lack of tryptophan leads to low serotonin levels, leading to depression. It is often referred to as the disease of four “D”s: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death (7, 8).

Some African countries where the people endure famine and use corn as their primary food source suffer from a disease called kwashiorkor due to severe protein malnutrition. It mainly affects infants and children and is rarely seen in developed countries (9).

On the other hand, rice contains less sugar and sodium and significant vitamins, such as B9, B1, B2, and B3.

Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid or folacin, plays an important role in forming DNA and RNA necessary for normal cell division and the formation of human germ cells. It also controls the level of amino acid homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine in the blood are associated with heart disease. Vitamin B9 deficiency also leads to megaloblastic anemia. Pregnant women with low levels of folate are at risk of having children with neural tube defects.

As previously discussed, vitamin B3 deficiency causes pellagra, a large issue if one misuses corn, while rice does not create the same problem. Even though rice contains satisfactory levels of essential amino acid tryptophan, it lacks lysine unless it has undergone biofortification.

Vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency symptoms such as muscle weakness and neuritis can be partially treated with some varieties of rice with a high thiamine content.

A negative aspect of overusing rice or producing it in wrong conditions is the arsenic concern. It is a natural resource in the soil and can be found in rice, but it can turn into a larger issue when used to make infant food. High levels of arsenic are considered oncogenic and play a role in coronary heart disease (10).

Rice plants can sometimes be infected with microorganisms such as the bacterium called Bacillus cereus, the spores of which can later be contained in cooked rice, producing an emetic (vomit-inducing) toxin.

Sources

  1. https://www.who.int/elena/titles/rice_fortification/en/
  2. https://core.ac.uk/reader/82100590
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6008955/
  4. Plasma free choline, betaine and cognitive performance: the Hordaland Health Study
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5514841/
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213453018301009
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14693013/
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0024320575901113
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507876/
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287284991
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Maize vs Rice infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Maize Rice
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Maize Rice Opinion
Net carbs 16.7g 27.77g Rice
Protein 3.27g 2.69g Maize
Fats 1.35g 0.28g Maize
Carbs 18.7g 28.17g Rice
Calories 86kcal 130kcal Rice
Starch 5.7g g Maize
Fructose 1.94g g Maize
Sugar 6.26g 0.05g Rice
Fiber 2g 0.4g Maize
Calcium 2mg 10mg Rice
Iron 0.52mg 1.2mg Rice
Magnesium 37mg 12mg Maize
Phosphorus 89mg 43mg Maize
Potassium 270mg 35mg Maize
Sodium 15mg 1mg Rice
Zinc 0.46mg 0.49mg Rice
Copper 0.054mg 0.069mg Rice
Vitamin A 187IU 0IU Maize
Vitamin E 0.07mg 0.04mg Maize
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 6.8mg 0mg Maize
Vitamin B1 0.155mg 0.163mg Rice
Vitamin B2 0.055mg 0.013mg Maize
Vitamin B3 1.77mg 1.476mg Maize
Vitamin B5 0.717mg 0.39mg Maize
Vitamin B6 0.093mg 0.093mg
Folate 42µg 58µg Rice
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 0.3µg 0µg Maize
Tryptophan 0.023mg 0.031mg Rice
Threonine 0.129mg 0.096mg Maize
Isoleucine 0.129mg 0.116mg Maize
Leucine 0.348mg 0.222mg Maize
Lysine 0.137mg 0.097mg Maize
Methionine 0.067mg 0.063mg Maize
Phenylalanine 0.15mg 0.144mg Maize
Valine 0.185mg 0.164mg Maize
Histidine 0.089mg 0.063mg Maize
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat 0g g Rice
Saturated Fat 0.325g 0.077g Rice
Monounsaturated Fat 0.432g 0.088g Maize
Polyunsaturated fat 0.487g 0.076g Maize

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Maize Rice
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
18
Maize
13
Rice
Mineral Summary Score
18
Maize
14
Rice

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
20%
Maize
16%
Rice
Carbohydrates
19%
Maize
28%
Rice
Fats
6%
Maize
1%
Rice

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Rice
Rice is lower in Sugar (difference - 6.21g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Rice
Rice contains less Sodium (difference - 14mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Rice
Rice is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.248g)
Which food is cheaper?
Rice
Rice is cheaper (difference - $0.2)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Maize
Maize is lower in glycemic index (difference - 8)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Maize
Maize is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Maize - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169998/nutrients
  2. Rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168878/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.