Rice cakes are considered a healthy and very popular snack. But in recent years, many doubts have arisen. Especially after the Ökotest 2012, which found an alarmingly high concentration of toxic, inorganic arsenic in the tested rice cakes (1). So the question arises how healthy the rice waffles really are? Since rice cakes are so low-carb and offer an ideal source of energy, is it possible that they are not so good for in-between hunger pangs?
In the following article, we've highlighted crucial topics like rice cake making and ingredients, and insightful studies and questions to find out how healthy rice cakes are or aren't.
the essentials in brief
- The ingredients and nutrients make rice cakes a healthy snack. They are popular because rice cakes are particularly low in calories and fat.
- By-products such as arsenic or acrylamide are often produced during the manufacture of rice cakes. Both substances are considered toxic and should be consumed in small amounts.
- There are different types of rice cakes that are considered to be healthier. On the one hand, the higher quality products, but also certain compositions of rice waffles are classified as healthier.
Rice cake: What you should know
The most important questions have been compiled for you here. This way you can get a better picture of the nutritional value, calories , fitness aspects and healthy amount of rice cakes, among other things. Say if rice cakes are as beneficial to health as has always been assumed.
How are rice cakes made?
As the name suggests, rice weapons are made of rice. Production may vary depending on the manufacturer. However, the basic manufacturing principle remains the same. Grains of rice are often heated under intense heat and pressure.
The result is bloated and puffed grains that stick together due to the high starch content. These so-called rice buffers are now pressed into the typically round shape. Often these are then treated with either chocolate, sugar, salt or other glazes and offered for sale. The rice cakes are ready. (2)
What Are the Healthy Ingredients in Rice Cakes?
As already mentioned, rice cakes are made from rice, often from whole grain rice. But the question arises, why are these rice waffles so healthy? Which components make them healthy or perhaps not healthy? We have therefore compiled a table with the nutritional values for you (3):
|Nutritional values of rice cakes||Per 100 grams|
Of course, the nutritional values can vary a little depending on the manufacturer. Also, if salt, sugar or other additives are used, the content of the nutritional values can change. Nevertheless, it remains the case that rice cakes are very low in calories and fat. This makes the rice cakes very healthy and also explains why they are so popular.
How healthy are rice waffles?
The nutritional facts of rice cakes listed above are promising at first. Rice cakes are low in calories and fat, but the carbohydrate and protein content is comparatively high.
This means that with few calories you still have a high proportion of energy when eating rice cakes. All this is sometimes very positive. However, they also have some ingredients that raise doubts when it comes to the health benefits of rice cakes:
In a study by Ökotest 2012, an unexpectedly high amount of arsenic was found in the rice cakes tested (1). Arsenic is a naturally occurring metalloid and is considered a toxic substance for humans.
Arsenic is found in many minerals and gets into our water and soil from things like mining, the metals industry, and the burning of fossil fuels. It can come in different forms, i.e. organic or inorganic (4).
- More organic arsenic is mostly found in water and in foods that come out of the water, such as fish and seafood (5). Although there are also toxic organic arsenic compounds, these are not classified as problematic. At least not classified as toxic as much as the inorganic arsenic (6).
- Inorganic arsenic is very common in soil. From the ground it then gets into the groundwater. The toxic inorganic arsenic can also be found in most foods. The highest levels of inorganic arsenic have been found in rice and rice-based foods (7). The high proportion of inorganic arsenic gets into the harvested rice through the soil or the water of the growing regions and is finally processed into rice cakes.
Acrylamide is a substance that is produced when foods containing protein and starch are heated to a high temperature, such as when deep-frying french fries. Rice is also a food with a lot of protein and starch.
In many cases of rice cake production, rice grains are puffed by high heat, which can release acrylamide. Although this substance has not been proven to be carcinogenic in humans, it is classified as increasing the risk of cancer (8).
Acrylamide and arsenic in the body
These two toxic substances, i.e. acrylamide and arsenic, are very commonly found in rice cakes. The latter of the two being the more harmful. A steady increase in inorganic arsenic, which is contained in rice, can lead to health problems. Rice cakes often have more arsenic than other rice products (9).
Rice, more than any other grain, comes into contact with too much inorganic arsenic. (Image source: Pierre Bamin/unsplash)
However, this does not necessarily mean that rice cakes have to be avoided completely. Even if you completely avoid rice cakes, you will not escape arsenic or acrylamide, because both of these substances are present in many foods(8).
The cultivation method of rice is decisive for the content of inorganic arsenic. In other words, if arsenic were not released into the atmosphere, the soil and water would also be decontaminated (6). Therefore, the European authorities and the FDA are trying to regulate the inorganic arsenic content in food (11).
What amount of rice cakes is considered healthy for adults and children?
Eaten in moderation, rice cakes are healthy. But how much is still okay for an adult and what about children? The inorganic arsenic content is important here, because more rice consumption means more arsenic for the body (8).
The European Food Safety Authority set maximum levels for arsenic in rice and rice products in 2016 to reduce exposure to inorganic arsenic. The arsenic value in 1 kg of rice cakes must not exceed 0.30 mg (11).
|low and occasional consumption||not consumed too much arsenic, Consumption of rice cakes still seen as healthy||for children at a very young age (approx. 3-8): appropriate amount, in older children (approx. 9-14): healthy amount of rice cake consumption|
|medium and occasional consumption||usual amount of arsenic, reasonable amount, Consumption of high-quality rice cakes (e.g. organic goods) recommended||for children at a very young age (approx. 3-8): discouraged amount of rice cakes, in older children (approx. 9-14): appropriate amount|
|frequent and regular consumption||Health risk due to chronic and excessive intake of inorganic arsenic, not recommended||for children at a very young age (approx. 3-8): strongly discouraged, health risk, for older children (approx. 9-14): not recommended, health risk|
The adult body can often handle arsenic better than children (12). High quality rice cakes are recommended as the rice is often considered to be better grown (13).
What types of healthy rice waffles are there?
There are many varieties of rice cakes. Whether enrobed in chocolate or glazed with sugar, rice cakes are healthy when eaten in moderation. One of the healthiest, however, are natural rice cakes. They are the lowest in calories and without any additives. These are therefore very popular with dieters and athletes in particular.
Children and babies Rice cakes and organic products are the clear recommendation. In the Ökotest 2012, these rice cakes had the lowest arsenic and acrylamide content and got good marks (1).
Can rice cakes be the healthy alternative to bread?
When summer is around the corner again , the last few kilos should be shed quickly . Nothing would be more appropriate than finding a low-calorie alternative to bread. For many, these are the rice cake.
Well, as already mentioned, rice cakes have many good and healthy aspects, but also some negative ones. A few points should also be observed when consuming rice cakes instead of bread.Advantages
- Very few calories
- Gives a lot of energy
- Well suited as a healthy snack for diets and after sport
- Gluten free
- Low fat
- No long-lasting feeling of satiety due to low dietary fiber
- May contain large amounts of acrylamide and/or arsenic
Can rice cakes go bad?
The shelf life of rice cakes depends on how you store them. When stored properly, rice cakes can last for several months. They should be stored dry and airtight to remain crisp.
What healthy snack alternatives are there to rice cakes?
Whether it's a diet, muscle building or just a low-carb snack, we all want to find the right healthy snack for us. So we've looked at some other healthy alternatives to rice cakes for you.
- Corn Cake : Corn cakes are probably most similar to rice cakes. Not only are their shape and manufacturing the same, they also share many of their healthy attributes.
- Dried fruits : Dried fruits are very suitable for those with a sweet tooth among you. They are very suitable as a sweet substitute.
- Nuts : Be it walnuts, cashews, almonds, any kind of nuts are very healthy.
- Kale chips : In contrast to conventional potato chips, kale chips are real health-givers.
- Popcorn : When people think of popcorn, they don't necessarily think of it as a healthy snack. Properly processed, popcorn is a very tasty and healthy snack for in between meals.
A common alternative to rice cakes are corn cakes. Corn cakes are similar to rice cakes in many ways. Both are round, puffed grains. The difference between these two foods is that corn cakes are made with corn instead of rice. So here is a list of the pros and cons of corn cakes compared to rice cakes.Advantages
- Low in calories and fat
- Very suitable for diets
- Free from gluten
- No arsenic content known
- Little fiber, so no long-lasting feeling of satiety
- Often contains acrylamide due to the way it is manufactured
Rice cakes :Advantages
- Very suitable for diets
Dried fruits are a sweet, healthy snack. By removing the water from the fruit, the fruit becomes particularly sweet. But be careful, because the dried fruits have such a high proportion of fructose, they have more calories than normal fruit.
It is therefore advisable to consume dried fruit in moderation. Nevertheless, they are a healthy snack due to the many valuable ingredients.
Nuts have a high proportion of healthy fats, i.e. unsaturated fatty acids. These are supposed to help with muscle building. But don't forget that nuts, such as peanuts or cashew nuts and many others, have a high calorie content. A handful a day is said to be a healthy amount and ideal for weight loss.
Nuts have many healthy ingredients and keep you full for longer. (Image source: pixabay / ExplorerBob)
Kale chips are often left out when discussing healthy snacking. They are so rich in vitamin C, healthy omega 3 fats and antioxidants . In addition, they have hardly any carbohydrates, i.e. are very low in calories. Super suitable for nibbling in front of the TV and they are healthy too.
Popcorn and cinema go hand in hand. In contrast to the popcorn you get at the cinema, this variant is healthier. Because the healthy popcorn snack should not contain excessive sugar, butter or salt.
If instead, when making popcorn, only a little salt and oil is used, we quickly have a healthy and very tasty snack on our laps. Popcorn has a lot of fiber, which is not only very good for you, but it will also keep you full for a long time.
Rice cakes can have healthy components. However, toxic substances such as arsenic enter the soil and water as a result of environmental pollution. This in turn contaminates the rice and consequently the rice cake. The production method of rice cakes therefore still has room for improvement in order to become healthier.
Nevertheless, official regulations are trying to reduce the toxic substances in our food. So the saying goes for rice cakes too: enjoy everything in moderation. As with many other foods, you should find the healthy middle when consuming rice cakes.
- Eco test. 15 rice cakes tested. In: Young Children Yearbook 2018. Category: Children and Family (2018) Source
- WeltN24 GmbH (2015). Rice cakes contaminated with arsenic. Source
- Alnatura Production and Trading GmbH. Natural rice cakes, AlnaturA. Source
- Ratnaike RN. (2003). Acute and chronic arsenic toxicity. Source
- Cao Z, Pan J, Yang Y, Cao Z, Xu P, Chen M, Guan M. (2020). Water management affects arsenic uptake and translocation by regulating arsenic bioavailability, transporter expression and thiol metabolism in rice (Oryza sativa L.). Source
- Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (2020). Questions and answers on arsenic levels in rice and rice products. Source
- Nealon NJ, Parker KD, Lahaie P, Ibrahim H, Maurya AK, Raina K, Ryan EP. (2019). Bifidobacterium longum-fermented rice bran and rice bran supplementation affects the gut microbiome and metabolome. Beneficial Microbes. Source
- European Food Safety Authority (2015). Chemical substances in food. Source
- European Food Safety Authority (2014). Dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic in the European population. Source
- European Commission (2016). COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) 2015/1006 of 25 June 2015 amending Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of inorganic arsenic in food. Source
- Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety GmbH (AGES) (2015). INTAKE OF ARSENIC OVER GROCERIES. Source
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (2020. Guidance for Industry: Action Level for Inorganic Arsenic in Rice Cereals for Infants. Source
- Liao N, Seto E, Eskenazi B, Wang M, Li Y, Hua JA (2018). Comprehensive Review of Arsenic Exposure and Risk from Rice and a Risk Assessment among a Cohort of Adolescents in Kunming, China. Int J Environ Res Public Health. Source