More research and agricultural development has made the brown vs white rice debate more pronounced in recent time. With over 8,000 varieties, rice feeds the world! The next time you reach for the white rice, you may want to reconsider. While we all know ‘brown’ is healthier than ‘white’… we might be challenged to answer the “why” question when the little ones ask.
Brown rice is the whole grain with just the first outer layer (husk or hull) removed through milling. It retains its fiber and germ which contains vital nutrients.
White rice is brown rice that has been milled to remove the bran and much of the germ, reducing fiber and nutrient content drastically. The grain is further polished to take away the remaining layer of germ (called the aleurone layer) which contains essential oils.
The Health Differences
Brown rice is essentially what almost all forms of white rice looks like before it has been put through a refining process. To process rice into the sparkling white pieces we buy in stores, first the out-side hull and bran is removed. This makes rice lighter and faster to cook.
Rice that has been stripped of its natural wholeness has been stripped of its fiber, proteins, thiamine, calcium, magnesium and potassium. It is commonly known how important fiber is for digestive health and maintaining a healthy weight.
Have you noticed white rice is usually labeled as “enriched?” White rice is usually full of unnatural fortifications and additives. These fortifications are used because the stripping process removes most of the iron, vitamins, zinc and magnesium from the rice. In fact, white rice is so devoid of nutrients that it does not offer the minimum nutritional requirements of the FDA. For this reason, white rice must be chemically altered with vitamins and iron just so that it can be sold in supermarkets.
Brown Rice VS White Rice
Brown rice generally contains slightly fewer calories per serving than white rice. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database reports that 1 cup of cooked brown rice provides 218 calories, while cooked white rice contains 242 calories per cup. Therefore, if you’re trying to cut calories, brown rice is the better option.
Carbs and Fiber
Brown rice and white rice are both high-carb foods, but brown rice contains fewer overall carbs and more fiber than white rice. The USDA reports that a cup of brown rice provides 46 grams of total carbohydrates, including 4 grams of fiber. One cup of white rice contains 53 grams of carbs, but less than 1 gram of dietary fiber. Because fiber helps boost satiety, aids in healthy weight management, and can help improve blood cholesterol levels, fiber-rich brown rice is again the better choice.
Protein and Fat
Both brown and white rice are low-fat foods, and each provides about 4.5 grams of protein in each 1-cup portion. In other words, these two types of rice don’t differ much in terms of protein and fat content.
Vitamins and Minerals
While brown rice naturally contains more vitamins and minerals than white rice because white rice is a refined grain, most white rice varieties are enriched with certain vitamins and minerals — meaning manufacturers have added nutrients to the rice during processing. Brown and white rice are both sources of B vitamins, and small amounts of iron and zinc. White rice is often a good source of folate.
Brown rice has a lower glycemic index (GI) than white rice. According to Harvard Health Publications, the average glycemic index of brown rice is 50, and the average white rice GI is 89. Foods with higher glycemic indexes tend to make your blood sugar rise quickly, but then drop. Lower GI foods don’t cause a rapid blood sugar spike, but help you to feel full for longer periods of time.
Brown Rice is extremely high in selenium, an important trace mineral known to drastically reduce our chances of developing many illnesses.
One cup of brown rice provides over 80% of our daily manganese requirements. This mineral helps the human body create the important fatty acids that make healthy forms of cholesterol. It is also beneficial to the health of our nervous and reproductive systems.
Naturally Occurring Oils
These heart-healthy oils are naturally found in brown rice and can help the body reduce LDL (bad) forms of cholesterol.
Because of its fiber-richness and ability to keep healthy bowel function, brown rice “keeps things moving” in a way that promotes weight-loss and metabolic function. After one bowl of brown rice, you’ll feel more full despite eating a smaller amount of food.
Unlike white rice, brown rice has not lost its wholeness. Studies show that six servings of whole grains weekly can lower the creation of arterial plaque build-up and reduce chances of developing heart disease and high cholesterol.
Most people associate antioxidants with blueberries and green tea, but many are unaware that brown rice is also a source of antioxidants.
High in Fiber
Studies have correlated the high use of whole grains like brown rice with lowered levels of colon cancer. This may be related to its high fiber content. Studies show that fiber actually attaches to cancer-causing substances and toxins, helping to eliminate them from the body, and keeping them from attaching to the cells in our colon. Brown rice also contains the necessary components to stabilize digestion, prevent/relieve constipation and promote proper elimination/bowel function.
Slow-Release of Sugar
Unlike stripped rice, brown rice can help keep blood sugar stabilized as it releases sugars slowly and in a sustained fashion. This makes it a better option for diabetics, as compared to white rice. While studies in Asia have shown a link between the consumption of white rice and risk of type 2 diabetes, new research shows that individuals who eat at least two servings of brown rice weekly can reduce their chances of developing diabetes 2 by up to 11 percent.
A Note of Caution
One main reason brown rice is processed is to increase its storage time. The essential oils in brown rice go rancid after 6-8 months while white rice lasts up to 10 years. So, buy your brown rice in smaller quantities and make sure you’re not cooking with a rancid grain.
I personally recommend using organic wild brown rice as the best option. But, even if you don’t buy organic, just making the switch from white rice to brown rice is a great first step to a healthy diet.
Over to you. What is your best type of rice and why?