Brown Rice vs White Rice: The Surprising Differences

Rice is a popular gluten-free grain that has been enjoyed in some parts of the world for thousands of years. It is versatile and comes in many different shapes and colors – brown and white being the two most common and recognized varieties. But with certain fad diets suggesting people eat little or no carbs, can we still enjoy rice as part of a healthy diet? And is one variety better than the other? We take a close look at the nutritional profiles of brown and white rice and compare the popular food staple…

Find out how brown and white rice stack up against each other...


History Of Rice

Rice is a popular and versatile grain that originated thousands of years ago in China and the surrounding areas, but is enjoyed today around the world. In fact, it has been around longer and fed more people than just about any other crop, with early documentations of the grain as a food source as far back as 2500 B.C. Cultivation spread throughout Sri Lanka and India over time, and was passed onto Greece and areas around the Mediterranean. From there, it made its way through Southern Europe and parts of North Africa. Eventually, it was introduced to every inhabited continent around the globe, and, because of its versatility, it is as popular as ever, used in both sweet and savory dishes. Today, rice is an important food staple in many Asian countries and comes in different shapes, sizes and colors. White rice is most commonly consumed, while brown rice is often considered a healthier substitute.

Rice farming

What Is Rice?

Rice is a gluten-free grain that comes in different varieties, shapes and colors. All varieties of rice are almost entirely made up of carbohydrates, along with a little bit of protein and pretty much no fat. Brown rice is a whole grain, which means it contains the entire grain, including the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran is high in fiber, the germ provides certain vitamins and minerals, and the endosperm is high in carbohydrates. In white rice, the bran and germ is removed, leaving only the carb-rich endosperm, leaving it with very few essential nutrients. That makes white rice a refined grain with the most nutritious parts removed. Brown rice is a bit more difficult and time consuming to cook than white rice.

Nutritional Information: Cooked White Rice (1 Cup/174g)

Calories – 169

Total Fat – 0g

Cholesterol – 0mg

Sodium – 9mg

Total Carbohydrates – 37g

Dietary Fiber – 2g

Sugar – 0g

Protein – 4g

Iron – 1% of RDI

Calcium – 0% of RDI

Thiamin – 2% of RDI

Niacin – 3% of RDI

Vitamin B6 – 2% of RDI

Magnesium – 2% of RDI

Phosphorus – 1% of RDI

Copper – 4% of RDI

Manganese – 23% of RDI

Selenium – 14% of RDI

White rice and brown rice

Nutritional Information: Cooked Brown Rice (1 Cup/195g)

Calories – 216

Total Fat – 2g

Cholesterol – 0mg

Sodium – 10mg

Total Carbohydrates – 45g

Dietary Fiber – 4g

Sugar – 1g

Protein – 5g

Iron – 5% of RDI

Calcium – 2% of RDI

Thiamin – 12% of RDI

Niacin – 15% of RDI

Vitamin B6 – 14% of RDI

Magnesium – 21% of RDI

Phosphorus – 16% of RDI

Copper – 10% of RDI

Manganese – 88% of RDI

Selenium – 27% of RDI

So, What Does That Actually Mean?

With more fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals than white rice, brown rice has a lot more nutritional value. White rice is considered a source of ‘empty’ calories and carbohydrates, with very few essential nutrients to offer. So, in short, brown rice is a better choice, nutritionally speaking, than white rice. But let’s take a closer look at how it can benefit you…


Brown Rice Lowers The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Brown rice is high in magnesium and fiber, which both help control blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of diabetes. A 2010 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating two or more servings of brown rice per week was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, while eating five or more servings of white rice per week was associated with an increased risk. Researchers estimated that replacing 50 grams of white rice, which is about one-third of a typical daily serving, with the same amount of brown rice lowered the risk of the disease by 16%. Replacing it with a different whole grain, such as whole wheat and barley, was associated with an even bigger risk reduction of up to 36%. This was the first study to specifically compare white rice to brown rice in relation to the risk of diabetes in the US.

Preparing rice

Brown Rice May Help Protect Against Heart Disease

Several studies have shown that people eating the most whole grains, including brown rice, lowered their risk of heart disease by 16 to 21%, compared to people eating less whole grains. The plant compounds, lignans, which are found in brown rice, can help protect against heart disease. They help reduce the amount of fat in the blood, lowering blood pressure and decreasing inflammation in the arteries. One study found that eating an average of 2.5 servings of whole grain foods each day, such as brown rice, may lower people’s risk of heart disease by nearly 25%. Another study found that a component in the layer of tissues surrounding the grains of brown rice may work against the protein angiotensin II, which is known to contribute to the development of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Brown rice has also been found to lower glycaemic response, potentially reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, and maybe even increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.

White rice, brown rice

Antioxidants In Rice

The bran of brown rice contains a number of powerful antioxidants, which have important anti-inflammatory properties. Whole grains, including brown rice, can have as many antioxidants as some fruits and vegetables, according to research published in 2016. In a study of 40 overweight or obese women, researchers compared the consumption of 150 grams of brown rice to the same amount of white rice daily, finding that brown rice was beneficial to inflammation and cardiovascular health.

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