Rice: All you Need to Know – Complete Guide

Did you know that 2004 was declared the International Year of Rice by the United Nations General Assembly? Let me explain, it was done to draw the world’s attention on the role that rice can play in society for food security and poverty alleviation.

In this blog you’ll learn all about rice, its morphological characteristics, types, benefits, amazing history, industry, cultivation and by-products. So without further ado, let’s get started!

What is rice and what are its characteristics?  

Scientific nameOryza Sativa, L.
Common nameRice
Place of originAsia
HabitatTropical and Sub-tropical regions.
DistributionIt is cultivated in America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania.
FruteRice grains.

What is rice? 

Rice is a cereal that belongs to the family Gramineae or Poaceae. The species of this family are characterized by being mainly herbaceous. The plant produces seeds that are commercialized and consumed all over the world.

Below, we show you the morphological characteristics of the plant so that you can know what it looks like as it grows.

What are the characteristics of rice? 

This plant has vegetative organs such as the stem, roots and leaves, as well as reproductive organs such as flowers and seeds.

The rice stem grows vertically, is cylindrical, hairless, shiny, and usually green, although this depends on the variety. From this main stem other secondary and tertiary stems grow, called “tillers”, which is how the whole stem of the plant is formed.

In addition, each stem has 4 to 5 leaves and the whole plant can reach a length of 60 to 120 cm. The rice flowers are commonly known as “spikelets or spikes”, and it is actually in this part of the plant where the rice grains grow. The flowers are green in their early stages of growth and turn beige or brown when mature.

Now, the rice grains, which are known as the seed, are found along the flowers and are covered by a husk that must be removed for the commercialization of this cereal.

What are the varieties of rice? 

Classification of rice 

First, rice is usually classified according to its size, so here you are going to see a table with the classification of this cereal.

Classification by sizeDescriptionCountries that use it
Large-grain riceThey are approximately more than 6 mm long and more than 3 mm wide.India, and United States, among other
Semi-large or medium grainThey are 5.2 to 6 mm long and less than 3 mm wide.Widely used in Latin America.
Short or circled riceThey are less than 5.2 mm long and less than 2 mm wide.Japan, China, and Korea, among others.

Curious fact:

The short or round rice grain is used to prepare sushi because the grains remain compact when cooked.

Types of rice according to the industrial process of the grain

When the rice is taken out from the field it is known as “paddy rice”, then it must be processed industrially to obtain the following types of rice:

Cargo rice 

Usually known as “whole rice”, the process it goes through is merely to remove the outer husk, that is to say, it does not go through any other type of procedure and that is why it has a light brown or beige color.  

White rice 

This rice is the most consumed worldwide. The outer husk has to be removed from these grains and they also go through a polishing process that turns them white. The process to obtain white rice is done in the factories as follows:

  • The grains are cleaned and dried to remove excess moisture.
  • Then they are introduced into a machine that threshes the rice, that is to say, it removes an outer layer that allows to obtain brown rice.
  • Finally, this rice is introduced into a polishing machine that removes more outer layers, thus, white rice is obtained, it should be noted that this process is repeated several times until the grains are white.

Parboiled rice 

As its name indicates, this rice grains, including the husk, are treated with hot water and then dried. Many people prefer it because this process retains vitamins and minerals that are removed in the polishing process of white rice. When finished, the color of the grains is yellow and it is easier to cook.

Aromatic rice 

There is also aromatic rice on the market, which, as its name suggests, is characterized by a distinctive smell. For example, jasmine rice is aromatic, it is found in Thailand, has long grains and when cooked, they stick together well, making it easy to eat with chopsticks. Also bastami rice is aromatic, this is given in India, it has long grains and when cooked they are looser, something curious is that in Hindi the name means “queen of fragrances”.

Curious fact:

Black colored rice is mainly grown in Asia, with round and short grains. This variety was used in ancient times in China to feed the emperor and his family.

What are the benefits of rice? 

Rice nutritional information 

Here you will see a nutritional table of rice taken from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, 2019). The amount was analyzed by the page from 100 g of medium-grain white rice without enrichment.

Nutritional information of Rice 
Serving: 100 grams of rice 
Water68,6 grams
Energy130 calories
Protein2,38 grams
Total lipids (fat)0,21 grams
Carbohydrates8,53 grams
Calcium3 milligrams
Iron0,2 milligrams
Magnesium13 milligrams
Phosphorus37 milligrams
Potassium29 milligrams
Sodium0 milligrams
Zinc0,42 milligrams
Copper0,038 milligrams
Manganese0,377 milligrams
Vitamin C0 milligrams 
Tiamine0,02 milligrams
Riboflavin0,016 milligrams
Niacine0,4 milligrams
Pantothenic Acid0,411 grams
Vitamin B60,05 milligrams
Folate2 micrograms
Folic acid0 micrograms
Vitamin B120 micrograms
Vitamin A0 micrograms
Retinol0 micrograms
Vitamin D0 micrograms
Total saturated fatty acids0,057 grams
Total monounsaturated fatty acids0,065 grams
Total polyunsaturated fatty acids0,056 grams
Cholesterol0 grams
Tryptophan0,028 grams
Threonine0,085 grams
Isoleucine0,103 grams
Leucine0,197 grams
Lysine0,086 grams
Methionine0,056 grams
Cystine0,049 grams
Phenylalanine0,127 grams
Tyrosine0,08 grams
Valina0,145 grams
Arginine0,198 grams
Histidine0,056 grams
Alanine0,138 grams
Aspartic acid0,224 grams
Glutamic acid0,464 grams
Glycine0,108 grams
Proline0,112 grams
Serine0,125 grams

5 benefits of rice that you need to know   

1. Good source of energy 

Rice is rich in carbohydrates, which, if you didn’t know, are responsible for recharging our bodies with energy. Specifically, rice has large amounts of starch, a carbohydrate that allows it to fulfill this function. In the same way, carbohydrates enable the transportation of proteins, micronutrients and other essential components.

2. Good source of fiber 

Cargo rice or brown rice is a favorite of many people because it contains high amounts of fiber.

Now, do you know what function this component fulfills in the organism? Well, insoluble fiber serves to accelerate intestinal transit, that is to say, it allows the digestive system to be healthier and helps people who suffer from constipation. In addition, soluble fiber creates compounds in the human body that allow to have a feeling of satiety.

3. Rich in protein 

Rice, believe it or not, is a source of protein. Among its components it has high amounts of lysine, an amino acid that has several functions in the body such as building muscle tissue, producing collagen, and helping to absorb calcium, among others.

The scientific Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry (2018) states that 8% of a grain of rice corresponds to protein and contains 8 essential amino acids, which form proteins or are a source of energy. When rice protein is converted into these amino acids, there are benefits such as:

  • Building healthy and resilient muscles.
  • Healthy hair and skin.
  • Healthy vision.
  • Nourish the body, among others.

4. Low in fat 

Rice is low in fat, since only 1 % of a grain contains fat. Besides, lipids (fats) predominate mainly in the external part of the rice, which is removed in the processes carried out in the factories.

5. Source of minerals 

Rice contains minerals such as phosphorus, a substance extremely important for the formation of bones and teeth, besides helping in the production of energy through carbohydrates.

It also contains zinc, a mineral found in all cells of the body that has vital functions such as strengthening the immune system or building proteins. When a person has zinc deficiency, he/she may have problems such as weight loss, diarrhea, and healing problems, among others.

Similarly, rice has iron, whose main function is the creation of hemoglobin. This substance is a protein found in red blood cells that allows the transport of oxygen to the different organs of the human body. Iron deficiency also has negative effects such as anemia, fatigue or brittle nails.

It contains other minerals such as potassium, needed for the proper functioning of the body, for example, it allows a good metabolism, a normal heart activity, and participates in the function of cells or tissues, among others. Finally, it contains small amounts of copper and manganese.

Medicinal uses of rice 

Here are some medicinal uses of rice that are practiced in different parts of the world, but it should be clarified that they are not scientifically proven, but rather traditional.

  • In the Philippines they use rice bran as a source of vitamin B, besides using it to cure the beriberi disease, which is characterized by thiamine or vitamin B1 deficiency.
  • In Malaysia, they use boiled rice as a type of eye lotion and also to reduce skin inflammation. Another use is that dried rice is applied to different areas to soothe pain.
  • In Cambodia, they use rice husks to treat something called “dysentery”, which is caused by bacteria that inflames the intestines and causes diarrhea.
  • Chinese believe that rice “strengthens the stomach”, increases appetite and cures indigestion.  
  • And in India, rice water is used as an anti-inflammatory liquid.

Where did rice originate? 

Rice (Oryza Sativa, L.) originated in Asia, the specific place is highly debated, although different authors accept and affirm that it was in Southeast Asia, near the southern part of India.

Rice cultivation is said to have started 10,000 years ago in humid tropical and subtropical regions of Asia. The first cultivation is attributed to the Chinese emperor Shen-Nung, who was and has been considered the father of agriculture and medicine. In fact, in Chinese literature it is said that the planting of rice was an important religious ritual, and rice was intended solely for the feeding of the emperor and his family.

Rice is believed to have spread from Southeast Asia and southern India; although there are no exact dates, it could be said that this occurred more than 3000 years BC. In the Philippines it is said to have been cultivated more than 2000 years BC and is also believed that it was introduced in Korea and Japan in the 1st century BC. It should be noted that these dates are approximate as they are not well established.

The Greeks began to cultivate rice when Alexander the Great invaded Persia and part of India in 320 BC, but it is possible that they already had prior knowledge of this food. Arabs played an extremely important role in the distribution of rice throughout the world: in the 4th century B.C. they introduced rice in Egypt, and between the 8th and 10th century they took this long grain cereal to East Africa, Morocco and Spain.

However, not everything is specified, since it is not known where it came from and when rice arrived to the western hemisphere. There are different theories, one says that Christopher Columbus brought seeds of this cereal to the New World (America) in 1493, but that they did not germinate. Another theory says that in Colombia, more exactly in the Magdalena river valley, the food was already being sown around 1580.

On the other hand, the first ideogram (image or symbol representing an idea) of rice existed before the 11th century. As early as the 17th century, the Dutch and Portuguese introduced it to North America in the colony of Carolina, where a ship coming from Madagascar was damaged and left 40 pounds of rice seeds in a port of Charleston in 1685.

Rice industry in the world 

If you want to know more about rice, in this case its industry, read on!

Top 5 rice-producing countries 

Rice is the second most cultivated cereal in the world, so learn about the 5 countries that produce the most rice in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 2020).

PositionCountriesAvocado production in tons

1. China 

As you may have noticed, China is the largest producer of rice in the world. By far, it accounts for about 28% of the world’s rice production. In fact, it is an extremely important food in the daily diet of the Chinese because it is consumed in nearly every main meal of the day.

China has more than 30 million hectares devoted to rice cultivation alone, which is characterized by the high grain yield in its harvests. This cereal grows in almost all Chinese regions, except in Qinghai. In addition, about 65 % of the population of this country depends on rice.

2. India 

India has been an important country since the origin and history of rice. This cereal plays a vital role in the daily diet of its inhabitants, in its culture and in the economy of millions of people who depend on the cultivation and production of this food, which is why they say that “rice is life”.

This country has 45 million hectares devoted to rice cultivation, among the states that produce the most rice are:

  • West Bengal
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Punjab
  • Odisha
  • Bihar
  • Chhattisgarh
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Assam
  • Tamil Nadu

3. Bangladesh 

Bangladesh has a crop area of more than 11 million hectares, which represents about 78 % of the total cultivated area in the country. Rice is grown in three seasons throughout the year, they call them Aus, Aman and Boro. Among the regions that produce the most rice are:

  • Mymensingh contributes 13.9 % of the national production.
  • Rangpur contributes 9.8%.
  • Bogura accounts for 8.6%.
  • Jashore also contributes 8.6%.
  • Rajshahi contributes 8.2%.
  • And, Chattogram contributes 8 %.

4. Indonesia 

As you may have seen, all Asian meals must contain rice. In Indonesia, more than 93 % of the families consume rice daily. This country has more than 10 million hectares of rice crops, and 90% of the national production of this cereal are small farmers. Some of the regions that produce the most rice are:

  • Java
  • Sulawesi
  • Sumatra
  • Lampung
  • Aceh
  • Banten

5. Vietnam 

In Vietnam more than 15 million people make their living from rice production. The country has more than 7 million of hectares, which represents about 82 % of the country’s arable land. Crops are concentrated in 53 % in the Mekong River Delta region and 18 % in the Red River Delta region.

The 10 countries that exported the most rice

Here you can meet the 10 countries that exported the most rice in 2019 and 2020, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 2020).

PositionCountry 2019Exports in tons (2019)Country 2020Exports in tons (2020)
United States3’053.552United States2’791.901
Continental china2’723.332Continental china2’270.515


From 2019 to 2020, exports grew by 5.97%.

Top 10 rice importing countries 

At this point, you already saw the production and export of this cereal, now you’ll see a list of the 10 countries that import the most rice worldwide by the number of tons.

  1. China, Mainland: 2’901,538 tons of rice
  2. Philippines: 1’907,614 tons
  3. Saudi Arabia: 1’535,180 tons
  4. Ivory Coast: 1’338,285 tons
  5. Ghana: 1’319,990 tons
  6. Malaysia: 1’218,684 ton
  7. United States of America: 1’182,701 ton
  8. Senegal: 1’126,949 tons
  9. Iran: 1’112,165 tons
  10. Mozambique: 1’059,592 tons

How is rice cultivated? 

If you have wondered what conditions are required to grow rice, read the answer here.

Climate, rainfall and rice soil 

Rice requires relatively high temperatures ranging from 23 to 27 °C, and in any case, it must not be sown in regions with temperatures below 20 °C or above 32 °C. In addition, it grows from 2,500 meters above sea level.

On the other hand, it is considered that rice should have at least 1,200 mm of rainfall distributed during the growing cycle to obtain good yields.

Finally, the soil for rice cultivation should be flat because machinery is almost always used. Moreover, it should have a fine to medium texture with a high clay content as it allows water retention and it should also have a large amount of organic matter.

Rice propagation 

Rice can be propagated through seeds directly sown in the soil or can be sown in a seedbed and later transplanted in the field.

Rice harvesting

There are three different methods for harvesting rice:

  1. Manually, as its name indicates, involves farmers collecting the cereal manually, this is done in small plantations or when it is not possible to access the necessary machinery.
  2. In the semi-mechanized method, both methods are used, one part of the harvesting is manual and the other is done with machines.
  3. And, finally, mechanized harvesting is done with machines that cut the plant’s spikes and then thresh the rice, thus separating the grains from the spike, which are then stored inside the machine.

Rice post-harvest

The rice is cleaned to remove impurities and remains of the harvest, then it is dried to get a grain humidity of around 13 to 14%. Once the grain is dry, the husk is removed with the help of a machine used specifically for this purpose. This is how brown rice is obtained, but to obtain white rice, the grain is polished, which removes the light brown or beige color.

Rice by-products

Rice is an important product in many countries around the world, so we want you to know some of the by-products that are made from rice worldwide.

Products made from rice husk 

Here the husk of the grain is used to make handcrafted products. As you can hear, this residue covering the grains is normally a problem for farmers; however, with innovation as the pillar, it is now being used to create products such as boards, plates, and other products. It is worth noting that this is still under investigation in many parts of the world.

Industrial rice products

Rice, as you already know, is the second most important cereal worldwide, which is why the industry is constantly coming up with new products based on this food, such as:

  • Rice flour
  • Blown rice
  • Rice milk
  • Ready mix of rice with coconut
  • Ready mix of rice with milk
  • Brown rice with quinoa
  • Rice vinegar
  • Rice crackers, among others.

Rice cosmetic products

Rice has always been a fundamental food in society, especially for Asian culture. It is said that in Korean culture rice water has been used since ancient times as it has moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. On the other hand, in Japan, women prepared rice-based ointments to achieve white and smooth skin and also used rice water. In addition, in the Renaissance period, men and women applied rice powder to give the appearance of lighter skin.

Currently, the cosmetic industry includes rice in beauty products that moisturize, nourish, exfoliate, lighten the skin, absorb oil, among others. That is why companies are making products such as:

  • Masks
  • Rice water tonics
  • Moisturizing creams and gels
  • Shampoos
  • Anti-aging creams
  • Massage oils
  • Compact powders
  • Soaps, among others.


As you may have seen, rice is life, as it is the main axis of the culture of many countries, especially in Asia. It also has a great importance in the economy of a great number of people.We invite you to include this cereal in your diet and make the most of it in all its presentations.