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Rice vs. Corn — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on February 12, 2023
Medically reviewed by Igor Bussel Article author photo Igor Bussel
Rice
vs
Corn

Summary

In short, rice is higher in calories and carbohydrates, namely net carbs, such as sugars and starch. Corn is richer in dietary fiber, fats, and protein, except for tryptophane.

Corn is overall richer in vitamins, being 4 times richer in vitamin B2 and containing vitamins A, C, and K, which rice lacks entirely. Corn also contains 6 times more potassium.

Rice, however, contains 3 times more folate or vitamin B9, calcium, and iron.

On average, rice tends to have higher glycemic and insulin index values compared to corn.

Introduction

Corn, also known as maize, is a cereal grain that originates in parts of South America, particularly domesticated by the 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

The infographics below demonstrate the nutritional information about 100g of yellow sweet corn, boiled without salt and cooked regular, enriched, white, long-grain rice.

The average serving size per person is one cup, equal to 158g, for rice and an ear of medium corn, weighing around 103g.

One large and one small ear of corn weighs about 118 and 89g, respectively.

Macronutrients and Calories

Rice is overall denser in nutrients, consisting of 68% water and 32% nutrients, compared to corn which is made up of 73% water and 27% nutrients.

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Rice
1
:
4
Corn
Contains more Carbs +34.3%
Contains more Protein +26.8%
Contains more Fats +435.7%
Contains more Other +66.7%
Equal in Water - 73.41
3% 28% 68%
Protein: 2.69 g
Fats: 0.28 g
Carbs: 28.17 g
Water: 68.44 g
Other: 0.42 g
3% 21% 73%
Protein: 3.41 g
Fats: 1.5 g
Carbs: 20.98 g
Water: 73.41 g
Other: 0.7 g
Contains more Carbs +34.3%
Contains more Protein +26.8%
Contains more Fats +435.7%
Contains more Other +66.7%
Equal in Water - 73.41

Calories

Rice is higher in calories, providing 130 calories per 100g or 205 calories per cup, while corn contains 96 calories per 100g.

Carbohydrates

Rice contains 7g more carbohydrates per every 100g serving compared to corn. A 100g serving of rice and corn provide 28g and 21g of carbohydrates, respectively.

However, corn is 6 times richer in dietary fiber, while rice contains more net carbs. Rice provides only 0.4g of fiber compared to corn's 2.4g. The predominant type of fiber in corn and rice is insoluble (1).

The main carbohydrate found in both these foods is starch, which later breaks down into glucose in the digestive system. Rice is higher in starch compared to corn (2).

Protein

Corn is somewhat richer in protein than rice. It provides 3.4g of protein per 100g serving, whereas rice contains 2.7g.

Corn and rice contain some levels of all essential amino acids. Corn is higher in all of these except for tryptophane.

Fats

Both of these foods are very low in fats; however, corn is 5 times higher. 

While corn contains more of both saturated and unsaturated fats, its fat composition is more favorable, with polyunsaturated fats making up more than 50%.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Rice
1
:
2
Corn
Contains less Saturated Fat -60.9%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +325%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +693.4%
32% 37% 32%
Saturated Fat: 0.077 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.088 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.076 g
17% 32% 51%
Saturated Fat: 0.197 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.374 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.603 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -60.9%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +325%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +693.4%

As plant products, corn and rice naturally do not contain cholesterol.

Vitamins

Corn is the ultimate winner in the vitamin category as it is 4 times richer in vitamin B2, 2 times richer in vitamins E and B5, and contains vitamins A, C, and K, which rice lacks entirely.

Corn is also somewhat higher in vitamins B3 and B6.

That being said, rice contains almost 2 times more vitamin B1 and 3 times more folate or vitamin B9. 

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Rice
2
:
8
Corn
Contains more Vitamin B1 +75.3%
Contains more Folate +152.2%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +125%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +338.5%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +14%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +103.1%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +49.5%
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 16% 2% 0% 19% 24% 14% 32% 48% 33% 18% 0% 1%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +75.3%
Contains more Folate +152.2%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +125%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +338.5%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +14%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +103.1%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +49.5%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%

Minerals

Corn and rice provide good amounts of various minerals.

Corn is 6 times richer in potassium, 2 times richer in magnesium, and somewhat higher in phosphorus and zinc.

On the other hand, rice contains almost 3 times more calcium and iron and more copper.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Rice
5
:
4
Corn
Contains more Calcium +233.3%
Contains more Iron +166.7%
Contains more Copper +40.8%
Contains more Manganese +182.6%
Contains more Selenium +3650%
Contains more Magnesium +116.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +79.1%
Contains more Potassium +522.9%
Contains more Zinc +26.5%
Equal in Sodium - 1
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 3% 45% 9% 19% 4% 1% 14% 24% 62% 41%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 1% 17% 19% 33% 20% 1% 17% 17% 22% 2%
Contains more Calcium +233.3%
Contains more Iron +166.7%
Contains more Copper +40.8%
Contains more Manganese +182.6%
Contains more Selenium +3650%
Contains more Magnesium +116.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +79.1%
Contains more Potassium +522.9%
Contains more Zinc +26.5%
Equal in Sodium - 1

Glycemic Index

The average glycemic index of white Basmati rice from 10 different studies was measured to be 60. At the same time, Doongara white rice has an average glycemic index of 54, while the mean index for Jasmine white rice is 89 (3). As can be seen, the glycemic index greatly depends on the cooking method and type of the given food.

The average glycemic index of sweet corn is 53, but this number can also range widely. If interested, you can read more about the glycemic index of corn. 

Insulin Index

The insulin index demonstrates how much insulin levels rise in the blood after consumption of the given food.

Corn was researched to have an insulin index of 53, while this number for white rice is 79 (4, 5). Another study found Basmati and Jasmine rice to have insulin index values of 59 and 76, respectively (6).

On average, rice tends to have higher glycemic and insulin index values compared to corn.

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 (7).

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 (8).

Health impact

Health Benefits

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 (9, 10). 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, which 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 (11). 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, and cardiovascular and digestive issues (12).

On the other hand, rice is richer in significant vitamins, such as vitamins B9 or folate and B1.

Vitamin B9, also known as folate, 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 folate levels are at risk of having children with neural tube defects.

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.

Downsides and Risks

As good as corn is for human health, it has been known to cause malnutrition if overused, stemming from its lack of a few amino acids, namely lysine and tryptophan. Even though rice contains satisfactory levels of the essential amino acid tryptophan, it lacks lysine unless it has undergone biofortification.

Corn can also quickly lose its vitamin B3 (niacin) content if cooked improperly in 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 (13, 14).

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 (15).

A negative aspect of overusing rice or producing it in the 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 (16).

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.

Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: February 12, 2023
Medically reviewed by Igor Bussel

Infographic

Rice vs Corn infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Rice Corn
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sodium Equal
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Rice Corn Opinion
Net carbs 27.77g 18.58g Rice
Protein 2.69g 3.41g Corn
Fats 0.28g 1.5g Corn
Carbs 28.17g 20.98g Rice
Calories 130kcal 96kcal Rice
Starch 7.17g Corn
Fructose 0.79g Corn
Sugar 0.05g 4.54g Rice
Fiber 0.4g 2.4g Corn
Calcium 10mg 3mg Rice
Iron 1.2mg 0.45mg Rice
Magnesium 12mg 26mg Corn
Phosphorus 43mg 77mg Corn
Potassium 35mg 218mg Corn
Sodium 1mg 1mg
Zinc 0.49mg 0.62mg Corn
Copper 0.069mg 0.049mg Rice
Manganese 0.472mg 0.167mg Rice
Selenium 7.5µg 0.2µg Rice
Vitamin A 0IU 263IU Corn
Vitamin A RAE 0µg 13µg Corn
Vitamin E 0.04mg 0.09mg Corn
Vitamin C 0mg 5.5mg Corn
Vitamin B1 0.163mg 0.093mg Rice
Vitamin B2 0.013mg 0.057mg Corn
Vitamin B3 1.476mg 1.683mg Corn
Vitamin B5 0.39mg 0.792mg Corn
Vitamin B6 0.093mg 0.139mg Corn
Folate 58µg 23µg Rice
Vitamin K 0µg 0.4µg Corn
Tryptophan 0.031mg 0.023mg Rice
Threonine 0.096mg 0.133mg Corn
Isoleucine 0.116mg 0.133mg Corn
Leucine 0.222mg 0.358mg Corn
Lysine 0.097mg 0.141mg Corn
Methionine 0.063mg 0.069mg Corn
Phenylalanine 0.144mg 0.155mg Corn
Valine 0.164mg 0.191mg Corn
Histidine 0.063mg 0.091mg Corn
Saturated Fat 0.077g 0.197g Rice
Monounsaturated Fat 0.088g 0.374g Corn
Polyunsaturated fat 0.076g 0.603g Corn

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Rice Corn
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
13%
Rice
17%
Corn
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
22%
Rice
14%
Corn

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Rice
Rice is lower in Sugar (difference - 4.49g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Rice
Rice is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.12g)
Which food is cheaper?
Rice
Rice is cheaper (difference - $0.2)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Corn
Corn is lower in glycemic index (difference - 8)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Corn
Corn is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Sodium?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sodium (1 mg)
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

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168878/nutrients
  2. Corn - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169999/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.