Rice is a staple food all across the world with many different cultures and countries including it within their cuisine. In South America, Asia, Europe and Africa many of the typical diets and dishes they are associated with will contain some form of rice. The reason for this is that in many places, rice is cheap, versatile and when cooked right, delicious. As a result, it is often seen as a source of food security in regions where food can be scarce. Like with people wondering if butter is a carb, many people come to wonder, is rice a vegetable?
What Are Vegetables?
At its most broad, the definition of a vegetable is a plant grown specifically for a particular edible part. This will then be eaten, either by itself or as part of a meal. If going by this definition it can be argued that rice is a vegetable.
However, by this definition, many plant-based foods, including most fruits and grains would also be considered vegetables as well. Since we know though, that they are their own distinct food groups, then we need to be even more specific about our definition of vegetables.
How Are Vegetables Defined?
There are five subcategories that vegetables can be classified under according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in America. These categories are:
- Starchy Vegetables such as potatoes.
- Dark Green Vegetables such as cucumbers.
- Beans and Peas such as garden peas and kidney beans.
- Red and Orange Vegetables such as carrots.
- Miscellaneous Other Vegetables which don’t fit into the other four but are still defined as vegetables.
Botanists may dispute certain plants having the classifications they do since some are technically botanical fruit. However, in the majority of cases, the regulators and botanists are in agreement.
Is Rice A Vegetable or Not A Vegetable?
So does rice fit into the category of vegetables according to the USDA or indeed botanists?
Not really, since it doesn’t fit into any of the five subcategories at all.
Where does that leave us then?
Well, apart from vegetables, there are four other categories of food. These being protein sources and dairy along with the aforementioned fruits and grains.
Immediately, protein sources and dairy can be illuminated from where rice belongs as neither are typically plant-based. This leaves with fruits and grains.
Can Vegans And Vegetarians Eat Rice?
Vegetarians and vegans can eat rice since it does not come from an animal source and is entirely plant-based in nature. However, if the rice is cooked with any animal-based ingredients such as milk or eggs then vegans won’t be able to have it. Additionally, vegetarians can’t eat it if cooked with meat.
What Other Food Groups Come From Plants?
Whist rice is not a vegetable, they are not the only food group to be plant-based. Along with vegetables, fruit and grains are also derived from plants. Despite this though, these two food groups are as distinct from each other as they are from vegetables.
Whilst vegetables typically grow from the section of a plant underground, fruits typically grow from branches and above the surface. Generally speaking, fruits like apples and oranges will be juicy and sweet in fragrance and taste rather than savoury.
However, not all fruits are like this. Some, like tomatoes, are savoury instead of sweet and are typically eaten with vegetables.
These will always be edible parts and are meant to appeal to encourage people and other animals so they’ll eat them. Doing so will spread their seeds far and wide.
The grain group consists of the harvested seeds of certain types of grass such as corn, oats, wheat, rye and barley. Often these grain seeds are used as ingredients to make certain foods such as cereal, bread or flour. However, oats, corn and certain other grain seed strains will be consumed relatively intact.
When discussing grains, there are two types that are important to know, these are whole grains and refined grains. The difference between them is that the former is kept intact, whilst the latter has the husk, bran and germ removed during the milling process.
What Food Group Does Rice Belong To?
Some may argue that rice can be classified as a fruit. This is because it does have something similar to a dry fruit wall that surrounds the seed. This isn’t the norm for fruits which are typically seeds surrounded by a large covering. However, certain types of fruit known as “caryopsis” are the exception.
However, typically rice is seen as a kind of grain. This is because it comes from the seed of grass just like wheat seeds or corn and the seed covering is not very significant at all. Additionally, people eating rice will do so in different contexts to those eating what are typically seen as fruits.
Are Brown Rice And White Rice Different?
Brown and white rice are still both considered grains since they are both from the same source. However, the difference is in the type of grain they are since brown rice is a whole grain whilst white rice is a refined grain. For this reason, sometimes brown rice will be referred to as whole grain rice.
Whilst rice is derived from the edible part of a particular plant, it is not considered to be a vegetable. It is in fact considered from a culinary standpoint to be grain like wheat, corn, rye or barley. However, some may make the argument that rice and indeed all kinds of grains are technically fruits. Although, this argument has no real bearing on rice’s place in either a food pyramid or food group, merely how it may be classified botanically.
White rice is not a vegetable, in fact, it is classified as a grain. Specifically, white rice is considered to be a refined grain. This means that during the milling process the husk, bran and germ portions of the grain were stripped away and discarded. Doing so leaves only the inner white core of the seed.
Rice is considered to be part of the grain food group, with rice grain being harvested from specific kinds of grass. From a botanical perspective, some people may consider rice to be a fruit due to it sharing traits with caryopsis fruits, as would most grains. However, from a culinary and dietary perspective, fruits and grains are considered distinct.
Grains are not considered to be a type of vegetable from either a botanical perspective or a culinary one. However, whilst they are their own distinct food group some people argue that from a botanical perspective that grains should be considered a subcategory of fruit. This is due to them sharing certain traits with caryopsis fruits.
From a culinary and dietary perspective, rice is considered to be grain like corn, rye or barley. However, from a botanical perspective, some argue that rice and indeed many other grains should be a subcategory of fruit.