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Rice vs Bulgur - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Zvart Movsisyan by Zvart Movsisyan | Last updated on November 29, 2020
Education: Medical biochemistry MD
Rice
vs
Bulgur

Summary

Bulgur is higher in fiber and protein in nutritional comparison to rice. In mineral content too, bulgur is undoubtedly the winner, particularly due to phosphorus and magnesium. Bulgur is also higher in vitamins, except for folic acid (vitamin B9), which is higher in rice.

Both of them are widely used in food aid programs because of their nutrients, affordability, and shelf time. On the other hand, some elements, revealed especially in rice, can lead to serious diseases, such as cancer and heart pathologies. The final choice is up to the consumer.

Introduction

Bulgur is a yellow-colored product that is precooked, dried, slightly scoured, pounded, or grounded whole grain. It is known as the first food processed by man. Rice is a popular food for more than half of the world’s population.

Despite the constant development of the food industry, both of them are widely used in today’s competitive cuisine. They are recommended by older members of the family as well as nutritionists.

Which features contribute to their significant and increasing usage? In an effort to find out the answer, we gained insight into scientific aspects and revealed the comparative advantages and disadvantages of these grains.

Nutritional Content

From the very start, it is necessary to point out that although bulgur is a precooked product, it preserves all nutritional components due to its specific processing. And, since we consume bulgur and rice cooked, all the comparative information below is outlined according to this state.

As indicated in the data set out below, rice wins with lower sugars and sodium and, to some extent, with lower prices. On the other hand, bulgur contains a huge amount of fiber and is also rich in protein and slow-releasing carbs.

Vitamins

What about vitamins? It is evident from the charts below that bulgur is richer in vitamins, especially in vitamin B3 and vitamin B6. However, at the same time, rice contains higher folic acid (B9), which is largely absent in bulgur.

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
Rice
1
:
7
Bulgur
Contains less Sodium -94.1%
Contains more Calcium +250%
Contains more Iron +105%
Contains more Magnesium +1266.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +597.7%
Contains more Potassium +1071.4%
Contains more Zinc +293.9%
Contains more Copper +385.5%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 3% 45% 9% 19% 4% 1% 14% 24%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 11% 93% 118% 129% 37% 3% 53% 112%
Contains less Sodium -94.1%
Contains more Calcium +250%
Contains more Iron +105%
Contains more Magnesium +1266.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +597.7%
Contains more Potassium +1071.4%
Contains more Zinc +293.9%
Contains more Copper +385.5%

Minerals

In terms of minerals, content bulgur wins hands down. According to the comparison charts, bulgur is extremely rich in magnesium and phosphorus, and to a lesser extent, in copper, potassium, iron, and zinc, whereas they are almost non-existent in rice.

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
Rice
1
:
8
Bulgur
Contains more Folate +114.8%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +50%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +42.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +784.6%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +246.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +167.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +267.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
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%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 1% 2% 0% 0% 59% 27% 96% 63% 79% 21% 0% 5%
Contains more Folate +114.8%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +50%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +42.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +784.6%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +246.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +167.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +267.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%

It follows logically from what has been said that bulgur can be considered the “title-holder” in nutritional content comparison. That is why it is widely recommended by nutritionists and dieticians.

Consumption

There are several reasons for the widespread use of bulgur and rice. We decided to emphasize some of them.

Among the many global problems, starvation remains a challenge despite the increasing development in a wide range of areas. That is why food aid plays an essential part in many emergency and developmental programs.

Bulgur is an appropriate food aid product due to its nutritional and functional properties (4). Despite the lower content of vitamins and minerals, rice is commonly used as a food aid product as well. These products are healthy and cheap.

Low in saturated fats and high in protein and fiber, bulgur can help satisfy hunger while preventing obesity, making it a favorite product of dieticians. On the other hand, rice sometimes is recognized as rich in carbohydrates and unhealthy. From this point, let us smoothly move to health impact.

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Bulgur is higher in vitamins B1, B3, and B6, which contribute to the proper function of the nervous system and metabolism, provide us with essential energy. On the other hand, rice is rich in folate (vitamin B9), which is very important for prospective parents because it plays a significant role in the correct formation of germ cells. It decreases the level of homocysteine in the blood, high levels of which lead to damage of blood vessels and the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. Besides, it is crucial for the development of the embryo’s brain, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Bulgur is rich in dietary fiber, which we need for a healthy digestive tract and cardiovascular system. It also improves blood sugar control.

Downsides and Risks

According to a study (1) published in 2017 that assesses an exposure-risk for potentially toxic elements (PTE) in rice and bulgur, a comparison of the determined concentrations to the available standard levels and the levels reported in the literature revealed that cadmium, cobalt, and lead in rice might be of concern. The results of this study showed that health risks associated with PTE exposure through bulgur consumption are lower than those of rice.

According to other research (2)(3) published in 2013, rice contains higher arsenic concentrations (160±38 ng/g) than bulgur, which results in risks of cancer and coronary heart disease.

Historical Background

Bulgur conversion is an ancient process that originated in Anatolia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. It was a preferred dish of the armies of the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan. In approximately 2,800 B.C., the Chinese emperor Shen Nung declared it one of the five sacred crops along with rice, millet, barley, and soybeans. Biblical references indicate that it was prepared by ancient Babylonians, Hittites, and Hebrew populations some 4,000 years ago, and Arab, Israeli, Egyptian, and Roman civilizations record eating dried cooked wheat as early as 1,000 B.C.

What about the rice? There is a long debate around the origins of rice (5). Some archaeologists claim that rice originated from South Central China, while others argue that according to evidence, rice owes its origin to India. Both theories could date rice back to approximately 5000 B.C. Today Chinese specifically dedicate one of the days of New Year festivals to rice.

Storing and Preparation Time

Due to specific processing technology and cooking operations, bulgur is resistant to mold contamination, larva formation, and insect attacks. According to studies, bulgur remains fresh for up to six months at 370 C.

The shelf life of rice depends on different types. Most rice types have an indefinite shelf life, except for brown rice. Given that it is a whole natural grain, its higher oil content makes it easier to spoil than other types.

White rice, by contrast, can be kept almost for indeterminate periods due to its low moisture content.

Both of these grains should be stored in air-tight containers in a cool and dry place.

In terms of preparation time, bulgur again wins. As it is already partially cooked, it needs very little time for preparation. In some dishes, it does not need cooking at all. On the other hand, rice requires more time for cooking, although the exact time depends on the rice type.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28397064
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30665120
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24296133
  4. https://www.aaccnet.org/publications/plexus/cfw/pastissues/2007/Documents/CFW-52-5-0249.pdf
  5. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/rice/history-rice/debating-origins-rice
Article author photo Zvart Movsisyan
Education: Medical biochemistry MD
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Rice vs Bulgur 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.
Rice Bulgur
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Rice Bulgur Opinion
Net carbs 27.77g 63.37g Bulgur
Protein 2.69g 12.29g Bulgur
Fats 0.28g 1.33g Bulgur
Carbs 28.17g 75.87g Bulgur
Calories 130kcal 342kcal Bulgur
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 0.05g 0.41g Rice
Fiber 0.4g 12.5g Bulgur
Calcium 10mg 35mg Bulgur
Iron 1.2mg 2.46mg Bulgur
Magnesium 12mg 164mg Bulgur
Phosphorus 43mg 300mg Bulgur
Potassium 35mg 410mg Bulgur
Sodium 1mg 17mg Rice
Zinc 0.49mg 1.93mg Bulgur
Copper 0.069mg 0.335mg Bulgur
Vitamin A 0IU 9IU Bulgur
Vitamin E 0.04mg 0.06mg Bulgur
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B1 0.163mg 0.232mg Bulgur
Vitamin B2 0.013mg 0.115mg Bulgur
Vitamin B3 1.476mg 5.114mg Bulgur
Vitamin B5 0.39mg 1.045mg Bulgur
Vitamin B6 0.093mg 0.342mg Bulgur
Folate 58µg 27µg Rice
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 0µg 1.9µg Bulgur
Tryptophan 0.031mg 0.19mg Bulgur
Threonine 0.096mg 0.354mg Bulgur
Isoleucine 0.116mg 0.455mg Bulgur
Leucine 0.222mg 0.83mg Bulgur
Lysine 0.097mg 0.339mg Bulgur
Methionine 0.063mg 0.19mg Bulgur
Phenylalanine 0.144mg 0.58mg Bulgur
Valine 0.164mg 0.554mg Bulgur
Histidine 0.063mg 0.285mg Bulgur
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat g g
Saturated Fat 0.077g 0.232g Rice
Monounsaturated Fat 0.088g 0.173g Bulgur
Polyunsaturated fat 0.076g 0.541g Bulgur

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Rice Bulgur
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
13
Rice
29
Bulgur
Mineral Summary Score
14
Rice
69
Bulgur

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
16%
Rice
74%
Bulgur
Carbohydrates
28%
Rice
76%
Bulgur
Fats
1%
Rice
6%
Bulgur

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Rice
Rice is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.36g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Rice
Rice contains less Sodium (difference - 16mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Rice
Rice is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.155g)
Which food is cheaper?
Rice
Rice is cheaper (difference - $1)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Bulgur
Bulgur is lower in glycemic index (difference - 13)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Bulgur
Bulgur is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Bulgur
Bulgur is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

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. Rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168878/nutrients
  2. Bulgur - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170688/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.