The Brown Food Myth
“Brown rice is healthier than white rice.”
“Brown bread is healthier than white bread.”
“Brown sugar is healthier than white sugar.”
“Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs.”
Have you heard these lines before? Most likely yes. For years we have been told that brown foods are healthier than white foods, with people opting for brown bread and brown rice, but unfortunately, that’s not quite the case. Although almost considered common knowledge at this point, the concept that brown food options are the healthiest choice is simplistic and oh-so misunderstood.
Brown Bread vs. White Bread
What differentiates a healthy bread from an unhealthy bread is not its colour, but rather the way it was made and what it was made from. The quality of a bread is determined by the format of the grains, the type of flour used and the way the bread was prepared. Even brown bread can be made from refined flour and loaded with additives and preservatives, making it a less than ideal option. In fact, manufacturers will sometimes add colouring agents and molasses to darken the colour of their refined white bread to help them appear like healthier options.
Brown Rice vs. White Rice
Brown rice has long been touted as superior to white rice, however, that is certainly not the case. The major difference between brown and white rice is that brown rice is a whole grain, as it contains the bran and germ, while white rice has had the bran and germ removed from the grain. Although this may sound like a good thing, the bran and germ present on brown rice actually contain many anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid, which can make it hard for our bodies to break down and absorb the nutrients present. Therefore, for many, white rice is much more easily digested and absorbed than brown rice, and can serve a great source of energy.
When opting for white rice, be sure to choose the most unprocessed versions available; basmati, jasmine, short-grain or long-grain are ideal.
Brown Eggs vs. White Eggs
The difference between brown eggs and white eggs has nothing to do with nutrition, it simply has to do with the type of hen they were laid from. The colour of an egg’s shell depends on the breed of hen and can range from white, cream, brown, blue, and green. Generally speaking, white eggs are laid by white-feathered chickens with white or light coloured earlobes while the brown ones are laid by brown-feathered chickens with red earlobes.
So when picking eggs, don’t worry about the colour. Instead, look for the best quality eggs you can find, be them white, cream, brown, blue, and green.
Brown Sugar vs. White Sugar
Generally speaking, brown sugar is white sugar that has been slightly less processed. Raw sugar, which is brown in nature, undergoes processing in order to create white sugar, and brown sugar is simply created by adding a small amount of molasses (the by-product of sugar) to create brown sugar. Although molasses does contain some trace minerals, the amounts found in brown sugar are negligible and therefore both brown sugar and white sugar are calorically and nutritionally equivalent.
The Bottom Line
Remember, nutrition is all about context; where the food came from and how it was made, not its colour.