Asian food has always been considered a better option health wise than most of its western counterparts. But is it always true?
Are Korean rice cakes healthy and help you lose weight? Or are they nutritionally no better than your average burger or pizza?
Related: Best Korean Rice Cake Brands
This was the question I sought to answer in this article on behalf on Korean food lovers everywhere!
Korean rice cakes are made of glutinous sticky rice. The most common recipe involves the use of rice flours and tapioca starch to make sticky balls of rice in various shapes and sizes.
The tapioca is added to increase the starch content and make these rice cakes chewier.
Korean rice cakes can be made in any shape but long cylindrical cakes and small, pasta-like ovalettes are the most popular ones.
They are usually consumed by adding them to different sauces, not unlike pasta in the west.
The most popular Korean rice cake dish is perhaps the Tteokbokki. It involves serving rice cakes with a sweet and spicy sauce called gochujang, some form of protein, and vegetables.
Are Korean Rice Cakes Healthy
Korean rice cakes are eaten with different sauces, vegetables, and fish cake or chicken. So you can customize it according to your liking.
If you take a small serving of Korean rice cakes that are pre-packaged, it can contain approximately 220 Calories, 50g of Carbohydrates, and almost 25% of your total sodium intake.
And these are just the rice cakes in itself. If you are making Tteokbokki with it, you’ll have to take into account the protein from the chicken or the fish, the sodium levels from the sauce, and the carbohydrates from vegetables or cheese used.
Korean rice cakes are healthy if you make them in a healthy way with the right ingredients and sauces. These rice cakes are also good for consumption as a snack food. It’s not healthy to eat Korean rice cakes everyday.
How To Eat Tteokbokki On A Diet
Control Your Carb Intake
About 400g of Tteokbokki contains 71g of carbohydrates, this includes the veggies, fish cakes, eggs, and other ingredients in there.
Carbohydrates are necessary for the body to get energy. But an excess of calories can lead to weight gain.
What you need to do is figure out if your calorie intake matches your physical activity level.
If you’re a very active person and can burn off these carbs, there is no reason why you can’t have Korean rice cakes.
But you’ll also have to take into account your metabolism and other factors that might not allow the carbohydrates to be burned up quickly.
If you’re going to have Tteokbokki while you’re on a diet, you can also try limiting the consumption of other carb-rich foods for the day.
For example, if you’ve eaten Korean rice cakes for lunch already try having a purely protein-based meal for dinner like chicken steak or fish.
Add More Proteins
If you’re trying to lose weight then protein is your friend. It gives you energy just like carbohydrates does and it helps build and repair muscle too.
Another great thing about protein is that it makes you feel full. So you’ll automatically cut down on your portion size.
Traditional Tteokbokki usually contains a boiled or poached egg, chicken pieces, and fish cakes sometimes to complete the dish.
What you can do to make your Korean rice cakes healthy is to cut down on the quantity of rice cakes you’re adding to the Tteokbokki and increase the protein.
Rice cakes are pure carbohydrates, they do not contain any other macronutrients.
Sure if you’re adding a whole egg or fish cakes, then there will be some amount of fats and carbohydrates in there too. But the omega-3 fatty acids in fish cakes are actually very beneficial to your body.
If you’re adding 1 Oz of fish cake to your Ttbeokbokki, it contains 4.5g carbs, 2g fats, and 3.5g protein.
If you’ve got heart problems you can add only egg whites as the yolk might increase cholesterol.
Limit The Amount Of Tteokbokki You’re Eating
Tteokbokki is one of the foods best enjoyed on a weekend or as a part of your cheat day. Sure it’s delicious, but the carbs can quickly add up if you’re eating it everyday.
Remember if you’re on a diet or trying to lose weight, starving yourself or getting rid of carbohydrates and fats altogether isn’t the right or healthy way to proceed.
So a dish like Tteokbokki which can contain almost thrice the number of carbs as it does proteins is something you can enjoy sporadically.
A common diet plan adopted for weight loss is to balance out carbs and proteins in a 1 to 1 ratio.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight then an ideal meal will be chicken breast and brown rice where the chicken gives you some amount of protein and the rice gives you an equal amount of carbohydrates.
Korean rice cakes are not like that. So you should eat it in moderation as a snack once in a while.
What are the Korean rice cake calories
Korean rice cakes contain approximately 230-250 calories per serving with 50-55g of carbohydrates, 5-7gm of proteins and 1g of fats. This is provided you’re preparing the traditional version of Tteokbokki.
FAQs about Korean Rice Cakes
Are Korean rice cakes good for weight loss?
Korean rice cakes are low in calories, but they might not be good for you if your goal is to lose weight.
These rice cakes contain only rice and starch as main ingredients. So they get digested quickly as they do not contain fiber at all.
But they have a high glycemic index. So the spike in blood sugar levels and subsequent rise in insulin might impact weight loss.
If you’re already eating Korean rice cakes regularly and want to lose weight, you can substitute some ingredients in Tteokbokki, like adding more vegetables, lean meat like fish, etc.
Are Korean rice cakes high in calories?
Korean rice cakes actually do not contain that many calories. If you’re making a traditional serving of Tteobokki, chances are it’ll only contain approximately 250-300 calories.
You can safely eat Korean rice cakes as a snack when you feel like you need a little something to pick you up.
But it isn’t a good idea to eat Tteokbokki everyday as it doesn’t contain any fiber or nutrients unless you add a lot of veggies or protein.
Does Korean rice cake make you fat?
Korean rice cakes are just little doughy balls made of glutinous rice. How you prepare them really makes all the difference.
If you’re preparing the healthy version of Tteokbokki with fish cakes, boiled eggs, vegetables, etc. it can be healthy, although it does contain a lot of carbohydrates.
But if you’re making Tteokbokki with cheese and fewer fiber-rich vegetables, it can add to your calories.
Korean rice cakes should not make you fat if you consume them only 2-3 times a week and if you prepare them in a healthy way with fewer carbohydrates and fats.
What is the healthiest Korean food?
There is no singular answer to this query, as everyone’s dietary needs are different. However, some of the healthiest Korean food options include:
Banchan – Banchan are a type of side dish that typically includes vegetables, meats, or seafood. They are often served as an appetizer or snack and can be enjoyed at any time of the day.
Jjigae – Jjigae is a type of stew or soup that is made from various ingredients, including beef, pork, and seafood. It is typically served hot and is often flavored with ginger or green onion.
Makgeolli – Makgeolli is a type of rice wine that is usually served cold and can be enjoyed either on its own or mixed with other drinks. It is high in sugar and has a sweet taste that some people enjoy because it brings back memories of childhood.
Korean rice cakes are a staple in South Korea. They are now becoming popular in other countries as well.
While Asian food is generally considered to be healthy, you need to be careful while consuming Korean rice cakes, especially in the form of Tteokbokki.
This dish can easily contain a lot of carbohydrates, fats, and sodium. So be extra careful while preparing the dish to make sure it’s light.
I suggest making Tteokbokki from scratch at home, instead of going for instant Korean rice cake products. This gives you more control over the nutritional content of the dish.
It’s also best if you stop eating Tteokbokki or any other form of Korean rice cakes everyday. As they can get fattening if eaten daily.
Consuming Korean rice cakes daily can also increase your blood pressure because of it’s high sodium levels.
There is one simple answer to the question, “are Korean rice cakes healthy?” Yes, if you prepare them right and eat them in moderation.