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With tens of thousands of rice types available worldwide, which you should buy can be a daunting task to undertake. However, in the majority of cases, two rice varieties are often bandied about as popular choices. These are basmati rice and jasmine rice. Which is better though? And is basmati rice more healthful than jasmine rice?
Which is better for your health can be measured in the differences in the nutritional count, number on the glycemic index and whether you go for white or brown rice varieties. However, before exploring that it’s important to understand the difference between these rice types.
Table of Contents
What is Basmati Rice?
Basmati rice is at its simplest an extra-long and thin rice variety often used in Indian cooking. Like many other rice varieties, it can often be found as white rice or brown rice.
Additionally, like jasmine rice, basmati rice is very popular globally and as a result, can easily be found in most supermarkets.
Origins of Basmati Rice
Basmati rice originated in the foothills of the Himalayas. As such it has become a common staple of both Indian and Pakistani cuisine.
Additionally, the name basmati itself literally means fragrant. The rice is named as such due to the fragrant aromas it gives off, especially during cooking.
Taste Of Basmati Rice
Basmati rice’s fragrant aroma has a very nutty scent to it. This also translates to the taste of the rice itself which keeps the fragrant aroma and nutty flavour even after cooking.
Texture of Basmati Rice
Basmati is a long-grain rice variety. However, unlike other long-grain rice such as jasmine rice, basmati rice is longer, more slender, and pointed at its ends.
When cooked basmati rice will also typically double in size and be quite dry yet fluffy in texture. Additionally, basmati rice grains tend to remain separate from each other, rather than clumping.
Cooking Technique For Basmati Rice
Many of the principles of cooking rice are universal across different grain types. However, there are always going to be some slight differences in the cooking and preparation methods of different rice types.
In the case of basmati rice, after washing it, leave it to soak in water for around half an hour. This method is done to hydrate the rice before cooking. Doing so will reduce the cooking time and help maintain more of the basmati’s naturally nutty flavour.
Dishes Made With Basmati Rice
Due to originating in the Himalayas, basmati rice is a classic staple of Indian and Pakistani cuisine. With classic examples being biryani or curry dishes. Additionally, due to its fluffy texture, distinctive taste and aroma it can complement a wide variety of different ingredients from coconut to prawns.
Basmati can also make for an excellent choice in fried rice dishes due to how its grains tend to stay separate. However, due to the rather long grains, eating with a spoon or fork would be much easier than using chopsticks.
Another boon of basmati rice is that its particularly fluffy nature makes it great at soaking up sauces from dishes. As such it can make an excellent side dish to something like stroganoff similarly to how it would a particularly creamy curry.
What is Jasmine Rice?
Similarly to basmati rice, jasmine rice is a long-grain rice that can come in brown and white rice varieties. Additionally, jasmine rice can often be found in most supermarkets.
However, there are some distinct differences between these two types of rice.
Origins of Jasmine Rice
Jasmine rice originates in Thailand, as such, it is often used when cooking Thai foods that call for rice.
However, it is also popular in Taiwanese cuisine and is also commonly grown in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Taste Of jasmine Rice
As its name implies, jasmine rice has something of a floral aroma. When cooking you notice a very rich and sweet smell, that is somewhat reminiscent of jasmine flowers. Some people also compare jasmine rice’s aroma to that of popcorn.
This aroma also translates into the flavour of jasmine rice, which is rather sweet and nutty.
Texture of Jasmine Rice
Jasmine is a long grain size of rice. However, unlike basmati, the grain size of jasmine rice is slightly shorter.
Additionally, uncooked jasmine rice has rounded edges and is naturally slightly translucent.
When cooked, jasmine rice will also be slightly sticky and slightly clumped together due to being more of a glutinous rice.
Cooking Technique For Jasmine Rice
Like basmati, jasmine rice also has specific methods which are best used in order to cook it perfectly.
With most rice, washing is an important first step. However, this is particularly true for jasmine rice as the excess starch if unwashed can make the rice more clumpy than it should be, To effectively wash it simply rinse your jasmine rice repeatedly with cold water until the water runs clear.
An additional difference between how jasmine rice is cooked is that many often use the absorption method. All this means is that a larger amount of water is used than would be typical and that the rice is cooked into this water is fully absorbed.
Dishes Made With Jasmine Rice
Many staple dishes of Asian cuisine incorporate jasmine rice as either a side or foundation of the dish.
Examples include stir fry, nasi goreng and egg fried rice. However if freshly cooked the jasmine rice may be slightly too soggy to be a foundation. As such jasmine rice prepared and left to dry in the fridge overnight will often produce better fried rice dishes.
In addition to being used in Thai food, the sweet and slightly sticky texture of jasmine rice is ideal for desserts, along with certain western rice dishes such as paella.
Nutritional Content of basmati Rice vs Jasmine Rice
In terms of their nutritional content, basmati rice and jasmine are rather similar. However, the main difference between the types of rice is their caloric content.
basmati rice contains roughly one hundred and ninety calories per cup, whilst jasmine rice contains approximately two hundred and forty calories per cup.
Additionally, jasmine rice is made up of five percent fat whilst basmati rice contains one percent fat. Basmati rice also contains twelve percent iron, whilst jasmine rice contains only eight percent.
The Glycemic Index of basmati Rice vs jasmine Rice
Whilst the nutritional content of basmati rice and jasmine rice are quite similar, where they rank on the glycemic index is not.
Jasmine rice is almost twice as high on the index as basmati rice. Jasmine reaches as high as one hundred and nine whilst basmati is as low as fifty-eight.
What Is The Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index is a method of measuring the carbohydrate content of different foods. This is typically used to measure the rate that various foods will affect your blood sugar levels after being eaten.
The lower this score is, the longer it will take for your body to digest these foods and for them to have an impact.
As such lower-scoring foods will release energy slowly. This can be useful for diabetics as this slow release helps to maintain stable levels of insulin and blood sugar. Additionally, this will help you feel full for longer and can assist with weight loss
Higher scoring foods however will release their energy much quicker. Therefore this energy will be burned through by the body at a faster rate. Whilst you will feel hungry sooner than with low scoring food, high scoring food provides immediate energy which is useful for certain contexts, such as bodybuilding.
Brown vs White jasmine Rice and Basmati Rice
Both jasmine and basmati are available as white rice and brown rice. Brown rice typically has a slightly stronger taste that is considered bread-like to some.
When compared to white rice, brown rice typically has a higher calorie count. The trade-off here however is that brown rice is much richer in nutrients such as its high fibre content.
The reason why for example, brown jasmine rice is higher in nutritional value than white jasmine rice is that the process of making white rice essentially strips away a layer of the rice.
This layer is called the bran. Along with containing much of a rice grain’s nutrition, this bran also makes it more difficult for the rice to absorb water. As such, this is why brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice.
So Which is Healthier?
Unless specifically trying to reduce your calorie intake, brown rice will always be the healthiest out of the choice of brown versus white. This is due to the rice fundamentally being less processed and containing more vital nutrients such as fibre.
The health difference between whether jasmine rice or basmati rice, however, is less cut and dry. For weight loss or maintaining steady insulin and blood sugar levels for diabetics, basmati is easily the healthier option.
However, those that are very physically active or trying to build muscle mass such as by weightlifting may benefit more from jasmine rice. This is due to how this particular type of grain releases a large burst of energy quickly, rather than over a long period.
Ultimately, whichever will provide the greatest health benefits will come down more to your personal needs. However, whether you’re seeking to build muscle or lose weight, brown jasmine rice and brown basmati will more than likely be better for you than their white alternatives.