Is Rice a Vegetable or a Grain? (Read on to Find Out!)

Rice is a very popular food. Rice is low in fat and calories and it’s the core ingredient in wide variety of dishes including stir-fries, sushi, burritos, and paella.

Some people believe that because rice is plant-based, it must be classified as a vegetable. Others argue that because rice is mostly starch, it should be considered a grain. So… which is it?

Is rice a vegetable or a grain?

Rice is a cereal grain that is the most popular food in the world. Rice is low in fat and calories – and it’s a good source of fiber, thiamin, niacin, and vitamin B6. Rice is a food staple for more than 3.5 billion people across the globe. That’s more than half of the world’s population!

Unlike other grains, rice grows in water. In the US, these fields are irrigated and produce some of the highest amounts of yield globally. Rice is derived from the edible part of a plant. This characteristic would lead you to determine that rice is a vegetable.

Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at how to classify fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Fruits and vegetables

What Makes Something a Fruit?

A fruit is defined as anything produced from the mature ovary of a flowering plant, that is, of course, edible. The fruit itself is the overly or seed. Fruits like cherries only produce one seed. Other fruits like tomatoes produced hundreds of seeds.

What classifies a fruit is what part of the plant it comes from. To keep things simple, any edible part of a plant that comes from the flower is considered a fruit. Fruits contain seeds, which is also a necessity for their classification.

What Makes Something a Vegetable? 

Vegetables are considered to be anything edible from specific portions of a plant. Generally, vegetables are categorized from which of the plant they originate from: 

  • Leaves 
  • Stems
  • Roots
  • Tubers
  • Bulbs
  • Flowers

Vegetables include all edible portions of the plant that aren’t fruits. Remember, fruits need to contain seeds and come from the flower of the plant. If it comes from the flower of a plant but does not contain seeds, it is a vegetable.

What Makes Something a Grain?

Grains are broken down into two different categories. Cereal grains (rice, wheat) produce their own hulls before they mature. These plants can be grown either annually or perennially, depending on how much water is available.

Legumes (soybeans) have pods that may look similar but contain different seeds inside them. Legumes have been cultivated for over 6,500 years by farmers who knew that this particular strain would grow well even if only planted once a year.

All in all, grains are seeds produced by specific plants. These plants are grown in order to produce seeds that we then consume as grains, creating cornmeal, barley, bread, cereal, etc.

Bowl of uncooked rice

Are Grains Vegetables?

Grains are seeds produced by a plant that are edible. Vegetables encompass all the other edible parts of the plant including the roots, stem, leaves, bulbs, and tubers. Grains are not considered to be vegetables from a botanical or culinary perspective. 

Since grains come from the seeds of a plant, this makes them similar to fruits. Some even call for grains to be considered a subcategory of fruits, since they both come from seeds that plants produce.

Both grains and vegetables are grown, and may even be produced in similar means, but both come from completely different parts of the plant. From a culinary standpoint, vegetables and grains are also used in very different fashions.

Plants Are Pretty Amazing

Many people don’t fully appreciate the amazing things that plants can do.

Plants give us fruits and vegetables, which are essential for our health. They also give us grains, which form the basis of so many dishes. Plants also produce essential oils that can help improve our health in a number of ways.

So, what’s the bottom line?

All of these plant-based foods are great for you and offer a variety of nutritional benefits. If you want to eat healthy, include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains in your diet. They all come from plants!