Are Rice Cakes Actually Healthy For You? Here’s What You Need To Know
By Amy Hopkins
Did someone say cake?
Here at WH HQ most of us have rice cakes – or ‘crackers’ as we call them – stored in our desk drawers. But are they actually a healthy food option – and should we be eating that many of them?
The Good Side:
1/ Rice cakes are a good low-kilojoule alternative to bread. When kick-starting a weight-loss programme, rice cakes make for an easy bread alternative (although, let’s be honest, they’re not as satiating).
2/ They’re easy to store and keep for those emergency snacks or deadline desk lunches (along with your jar of peanut butter).
3/ They’re low in sugar. Brands differ, but generally rice cakes don’t contain added sugar. Brown rice contains natural sugar, so don’t be surprised if you see a 0.1g of sugar on the packaging! Avoid the cakes with added corn syrup, honey, sucrose or fructose. And don’t think that those ‘yoghurt’ covered cakes are good for you. The Woolworths Rice Cakes with Yoghurt Coating contain 23.6g of sugar per 100g. That’s more treat than health snack.
4/ They’re gluten-free, so they don’t give you that bloating and indigestion that regular bread often causes.
5/ They count towards your wholegrain daily count! Whoop!
The Bad Side:
1/ Sodium. Like sugar, this will differ from brand to brand, but most rice cakes do contain added salt and you can eat your RDA of sodium in one thin crispy sitting. Individuals at risk for heart disease should reduce their intake of sodium to 1 500mg or less, and we should all try to consume less than 2 300mg per day. And as tempting as those ‘chutney’ mini rice cakes look, flavoured rice cakes contain up to 10 times the salt of plain. Eek!
2/ Arsenic. Recently there was a resurgence of info linking rice-based products to arsenic. It’s not news – scientists have known about it for a long time. However, Aisling Pigott from the British Dietetic Association says that the levels of arsenic in rice products are “very, very low” and not enough to cause harm. But she errs on the side of caution, saying that rice cakes should not be the main source of carbohydrates in a meal plan and should rather be viewed as a snack. She also says: “As with anything, nothing is good in large quantities.” Don’t we know it…
1/ Go for ‘rice cakes’ made from ancient grains for a mix of good fibre and protein. We love Sonko’s new range of Superfood Cakes, from R14, per pack of six. They contain ingredients like quinoa, chia, millet, amaranth, teff and millet.
2/ Go crazy with cool toppings! Get all your nutrients in my adding a great mixture of toppings. Get protein from nut butters or hummus. Add fruit to your nutty ones, like strawberries and tomatoes to your savoury cakes – both offer a good dose of vitamin C! And there’s our faithful avocado – spread it on with a squeeze of lemon juice and you have a cracker packed with nutrients. The variety of toppings will make you feel more satiated.
Try these toppings:
— Cottage cheese with berries
— Smashed avocado with lemon juice and pepper
— Peanut butter with banana and honey (optional)
— Homemade basil pesto with tomatoes