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Are Japanese Rice Crackers Healthy?

are japanese rice crackers healthy

Are Japanese rice crackers healthy? Here’s all you need to know about Japanese rice crackers from how Japanese rice are made to types of rice crackers. Check it out!.

Rice is a staple in Japan, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the major contributing factor in their snacks is also rice. Rice crackers are not as boring as they sound, especially if you’ve seen how innovative the Japanese can get with one simple thing. 

Keep reading to find out more about Japanese rice crackers and about how healthy they are.

A little background before we begin? These addictive little snacks are said to first be found in Sōka in Saitama, during the Edo period. The townspeople used to store all the extra rice during the harvest season in the form of dumplings and dried them for later consumption. 

Little did they know that it would start to sell as a traveller’s snack at the Sōka station. Experimentation with soy bega and a binge snack was born. What’s better than a snack that’s healthy and munch-worthy?

Are Japanese Rice Crackers Healthy?

What are Japanese rice crackers made of?

These rice crackers are severely popular all across Japan. There are commonly called senbei (it is one of the types, but more on that later). They are wholesome and so simple to make. The ingredients that constitute it are rice, oil, and salt. Of course, people use a variety of add-ns to create the flavourful dish that it now is. 

It is quite versatile. It can be a side dish with your main course, a midnight snack or even something to have with a couple of drinks. It’s just that good.

Nutritional facts about Japanese rice crackers

Let me break it down for you. 16 pieces of rice crackers come up to weigh around 28 grams. This total serving consists of 110 calories and just one gram of fat. Breaking it further down, 1 gram of fat equals 4 calories. 

The best thing about these Japanese rice crackers is that none of the fat that makes up the cracker is saturated fat. When you’re trying to lose weight, not including saturated fat in your diet is a good way to go. Additionally, it also significantly lowers the risk of stroke and protects the health of your heart.

Other nutritional components that these crackers include are 2 grams of protein in the same amount of serving. Research indicates that that amount of protein accounts for around 4% of the protein intake women need every day and about 5% of the protein intake men need every day.

Related: WHy Are Japanese Fruits SO Expensive?

Types of Japanese Crackers

If you are calorie conscious, there are some things you should know. If the packet of Japanese rice crackers says ‘senbei’, know that they are regular rice crackers. These are made with uruchi rice, the rice that is used in everyday food in Japan. 

On the other hand, if the packaging says ‘okaki’ or ‘arare’, the Japanese rice crackers, the main ingredient is glutinous rice or mochi rice. ‘Arare’ refers to small rice crackers and ‘okaki’ are ones that are large. They’re often used as snacks when you’re drinking. 

If the rice crackers are shaped in medium to big size, they’re okaki. And if they’re shaped into tiny pieces, they’re arare. The word arare means snow hail, hence the tiny size. 

All the rice crackers made with mochi rice become brittle after a while, so it’s best to buy and eat fresh ones. Besides, some of the okaki and arare are even found in deep-fried forms. So if you’re looking for a healthy snack that is rice crackers, steer clear of okaki and arare.

Traditionally, all the rice crackers were found in circular disk shapes, but nowadays you can find them in the store in shapes of stars, cats and popular cartoon characters.

Related: What is Hakusai?

Sodium Content in Japanese Rice Crackers

Rice, just on its own, can make the thing you’re eating quite bland. A major contributor to the flavouring of these Japanese rice crackers is salt. The 16 piece-28 calorie portion I was talking about earlier in total consists of 75 milligrams of sodium. 

That much sodium roughly translates to 5% of the recommended amount of 1500 milligrams of sodium one is supposed to intake per day. 

According to American Heart Association, this amount is perfectly healthy for those trying to keep their heart health in check. Staying within this limit also ensures that you avoid the risk of stomach cancer and kidney disease.

Do not mistake this data for all kinds of rice crackers, Japanese rice crackers are a healthy exception. Other rice crackers easily have a high sodium content. In fact, you can find as much as 120 mg of sodium in just a 100 grams portion.

That kind of snacking can be very addictive, leading to excessive consumption of sodium. Technically, our daily intake of sodium should be limited to a teaspoon worth of salt or even lesser.

Although the repercussions and sodium content are nowhere near the regular crackers, I wouldn’t recommend eating these Japanese rice crackers if you’re dealing with high blood pressure on a regular basis.

What’s not there

As exciting as it sounds, as low-calorie a food item as it may seem, it is not the most holistic food. It has low calories, low sodium content, less fat, but it doesn’t have the required nutrients and minerals to give you the nutrition you need either. 

Mainly, they don’t contain any fibre. Women who are trying to lose weight, or aren’t, need at least 25 grams of fibre in their meals, and men need at least 38 grams of the same. So, if you’re planning to use this as a major snack every day and fill up on this, it might actually not work out in your favour.

Besides, they don’t have the other necessary vitamins either. It has no signs of calcium, iron or any of the vitamins. One way to include that if you’re looking to eat Japanese rice crackers, is using a nutrient-rich spread. Low-fat cheese, hummus, ranch greek yoghurt dip, mango dip can change the flavour palate and also include the nutrients you need.

In fact, eating it with hummus can slow down the process of release of blood sugar in your body.

Related: Matcha Macarons Recipe to Try at Home!

Are Japanese Rice Crackers Healthier Than Chips?

With all that you have read until now, you’d probably come to the conclusion that Japanese rice crackers are a healthier alternative to chips, regular crackers or any crispy snack for that matter. That does maintain to an extent, but you have to keep in mind that these Japanese rice crackers are high in sodium, low in fibre and have less nutritional value.

An exact comparison might not be valid here. But using these Japanese rice crackers for tireless and binge munching is not ideal at all. Besides, add to all that the factor that manufacturers use artificial flavours to bring out new creations all the time, and you’re looking at consumption of MSG.

Well, research plays a key role here. Stand in the supermarket aisle and spend a considerable 10 minutes browning through the rice crackers section. Look out for the nutritional value section at the back of the packaging, look for words like “baked” and “not fried” and even “gluten-free”.

Even though the packaging says that it is still best to turn over and take a look at the list of ingredients that go into it. There can be too much rice flour, too much salt or sugar. In other words, they can be made with heavily refined rice that is packed with carbs.

People who are trying to battle obesity or weight loss, be careful. Do not think that Japanese rice crackers are a good alternative for chips. 

Related: How to Cook Japanese Rice in a Rice Cooker?

Are Japanese Rice Crackers Fattening?

If you’re the kind of person who can’t stop when you’re supposed to stop, anything can be fattening. Make sure to take some out on a plate, rather than sitting with a packet that you can’t stop eating out of. 

The non-fattening ingredients will only help you so long as you keep in mind how much is good for you.

Related: 4 Rules of Eating Healthy in Japan

How to make the Japanese Rice Crackers Healthy?

A good way to change the low nutritional value of Japanese crackers is by making them healthy. Now you can’t fundamentally change the way it has been made, but you can pick what you eat it with. Try making a spread with hummus, cherry tomato and basil for your evening snack.

Another alternative could be to spread a thick layer of guacamole (rich in antioxidants) and sprinkling some seeds on it. A small number of 5-6 crackers eaten that way can subside hunger for a while. What will help most in maintaining health is portion control.

Some Japanese rice crackers from Amazon.

One of the healthiest versions of Japanese rice crackers I found. These are wasabi flavoured KA-ME rice crackers, so you have the flavour and spice you need. The best part about these though is their low calorie and low-fat content. The total fat is only 2% of the total portion. Although it doesn’t have much nutritional value, you can implement some of the easy and quick modifications and make it a healthy snack, any time of the day!

Also Read:

  1. The Art of Japanese Boxed Lunch
  2. Best Japanese Curry Brands
  3. Best Japanese Rice Brands
  4. Best Japanese Matcha Brands
  5. Best Japanese Instant Coffee
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