By Lucy Yanckello, Ph.D.
We have all been in the kitchen, out of rice, wondering if you can substitute orzo in its place. They are the same shape, they look similar, and both are made from grains…right? Although they look similar, orzo is actually a type of pasta (that is shaped like rice)! Let's dive in and learn more about the differences and similarities between these grains.
What is healthier to eat: orzo or pasta or risotto or rice?
Since orzo is pasta shaped like rice, orzo, and pasta have similar nutrient profiles and are high in carbohydrates. Although rice is its own entity, it has a similar nutrient profile to pasta. Risotto is a rice dish that uses specific types of rice called Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano. These rices have a high carbohydrate content allowing for the creamy texture signature of risotto dishes. The nutritional profiles of all of these carbohydrates are similar, and one is not considerably healthier than the other.
What is the difference between orzo vs. pasta? Is pasta or orzo healthier?
Orzo is rice-shaped pasta. Although its appearance resembles grains of rice, orzo is actually made from a specific type of flour called semolina. Since orzo is a type of pasta, the health benefits of orzo and pasta made from the same ingredients are the same.
What is the difference between rice vs. risotto? Is risotto or rice healthier?
The carbohydrate content of white rice and the types of rice used in risotto is similar, at about 37 grams per quarter cup serving. However, Arborio rice and other types of rice used in risotto are a higher source of fiber, with 2 grams per serving compared to 0.6 grams per serving in white rice. Due to the higher fiber content in Arborio rice versus white rice, risotto will have more health benefits, including regulation of cholesterol and positive impacts on heart health.
What is the difference between orzo vs. rice? Is orzo or rice healthier?
Although orzo and rice are similar in their shape and look, orzo is a pasta made to look like rice and rice is, well,…rice! Because of its resemblance to rice, it is a popular substitute in dishes where rice is traditionally used. As a pasta, orzo has a higher protein content than rice per serving. Orzo also has a higher fiber content than rice as well. Orzo does, however, have a higher carbohydrate content per serving, but not by much. Due to the higher protein and fiber content, orzo will leave you feeling fuller for longer which is helpful for those trying to lose weight.
Which is better for a diabetic: rice or risotto or pasta or orzo?
Orzo and pasta have the lowest glycemic index of all of these options at around 50, which is considered low. Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food can make your blood sugar rise, and it’s an important metric for diabetics. The lower the number, the less a food will raise blood sugar. In terms of glycemic load of a 100 gram serving, rice comes in lower than pasta (and orzo) at 15, compared to their 15.4.
Glycemic load is a number similar to glycemic index, but instead refers to how much the amount of food (100 grams in this comparison) raises a person's blood glucose level. For comparison, the glycemic index of risotto is 70, and the glycemic load of 100 grams of risotto is 22.1, which is considered to fall into the high range. Rice also has a high glycemic index of 60. Diabetics should try to avoid risotto and rice, or eat them in moderation.
Which is the best for weight loss: rice or pasta or orzo or risotto?
Pasta and orzo have the highest protein content and highest fiber content of the options. This means that after eating pasta or orzo, you will feel fuller for longer leading to less snacking. In addition, the glycemic index and glycemic load of pasta and orzo are considered low, meaning they will not cause spikes in blood sugar. Blood sugar spikes lead to cravings and poor food choices. However, this does not mean that rice and risotto should be completely cut out when trying to lose weight, just eaten in moderation.
Where can I buy the best fresh pasta online?
At Wildgrain, we specialize in making high-quality, fresh pastas that are delivered directly to your door. Wildgrain is the first bake-from-frozen delivery subscription service for breads, pastries, and fresh pastas. Some of our popular pastas include potato gnocchi, cheese tortellini, fresh fettuccine, and fresh tonnarelli. Learn more about Wildgrain and our artisanal baking and cooking methods.
About the Author
Lucy Yanckello received her Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. She currently works as a medical writer and enjoys being able to help people better understand nutrition and science.
This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional nutrition and/or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific nutrition and/or medical recommendations. Please talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns.