Brown Rice vs White Rice: Which is Better?
Rice is a staple food and a versatile ingredient that is found in almost every household pantry and yet there remains a debate as to whether or not rice is good for you. Although we’ve been told that whole grains are always the best choice, cultures from around the world have consumed white rice for centuries, so, how bad can it really be? Here is everything that you need to know in the debate on brown rice vs. white rice.
The Difference Between Brown and White Rice
Truth be told, brown rice and white rice are actually a lot more similar than you may think. The primary difference between brown rice and white rice is simply that brown rice is a whole grain, while white rice is a slightly processed form of the whole grain.
All whole grains, including rice, contain three integral parts; the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The bran is the outer skin of the edible kernel and antioxidants, B vitamins, and ﬁber; the germ contains B vitamins, some protein, and minerals, and stimulates the growth; and the endosperm contains mostly starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Brown rice is the whole grain version of rice, meaning that it contains the bran, germ and endosperm, while white rice only contains the endosperm, as the bran and germ have been removed.
Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Nutritional Differences
Given that brown rice contains the nutrient-dense bran and the germ, brown rice may seem like the superior choice, but it’s actually not that simple. In fact, from a nutritional perspective, there are benefits to both forms of rice, so let’s take a look at brown rice vs. white rice.
- NUTRIENTS: Because brown rice contains the nutrient-dense bran and germ, brown rice does contain more vitamins and minerals than white rice. Compared to white rice, brown rice contains 790% more thiamine, 540% more niacin, and 225% more magnesium, as well as higher amounts of riboflavin, folate, manganese, iron, and zinc. Although white rice does contain essential nutrients, the overall amounts are limited given the bran and germ are no longer present.
- ANTI-NUTRIENTS: While brown rice does contain greater amounts of vitamins and minerals, the presence of the bran and germ on the whole grain can also pose some issues. Because the bran is a protective layer for the grain, brown rice contains plant compounds called phytates, also known as anti-nutrients, which are present to help protect the grain until it is time to germinate. Unfortunately, these anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid, reduce our body’s ability to digest and absorb many of the minerals present in brown rice. These phytates can actually bind to minerals such as zinc, magnesium and calcium, and prevent them from being absorbed by the body.
- CALORIES: A 1 cup serving of long-grain brown rice contains 248 calories while a 1-cup serving of long-grain white rice contains 205 calories. Although minimal, the difference in calories is due in large part to the fact that the bran contains some fat, which is a rich source of calories, as well as additional protein.
- CARBOHYDRATES: A 1 cup serving of long-grain brown rice contains 52 grams of carbohydrates, while long-grain white rice contains 45 grams of carbohydrates per 1 cup serving.
- FIBRE: Because brown rice contains the fibre-rich bran, brown rice contains 3.2 grams of fibre, or 11% of your DV, while bran-less white rice only contains 0.6 grams of fibre per 1 cup serving.
- PROTEIN: Although not a substantial source of protein itself, brown rice does contain a slightly higher level of protein than white rice, at 5.5 grams of protein per serving as opposed to 4.3 grams of protein per serving.
- FAT: Since the bran of a whole grain does contain fatty acids, a 1 cup serving of long-grain brown rice contains 2 grams of fat, while a 1 cup serving white rice only contains 0.4 grams of fat.
- GLYCEMIC INDEX: And finally, since brown rice does contain higher levels of fibre and protein, it is often touted as the better choice given its glycemic index (GI) score, however, evidence shows that is not necessarily the case. The GI score of a food is known to represent the impact it can have on blood sugar levels; the higher the score the greater the impact on blood sugar. Although brown rice has a GI score of 50 and white rice has a GI score of 72, some research has shown that the difference is minimal and it is grain products (more so than brown or white rice) that has a greater impact on blood sugar, as different foods can impact different people differently.
So, Is White Rice or Brown Rice Better for You?
Although brown rice does contain slightly more nutrients and fibre, the difference between brown rice and white rice is minimal. Nutritionally speaking, both brown rice and white rice can be consumed in a healthy choice. In fact, for many, white rice is more easily digested given it does not contain the bran, germ and anti-nutrients that come along with brown rice. Moreover, since the calorie difference between the two is so minimal it’s hardly worth the hassle to compare brown rice vs. white rice, rather, simply choose which the type that you prefer.
The Bottom Line
Both brown rice and white rice are whole foods and can be included in a healthy diet. If you choose to consume brown rice, ensure that it is properly prepared to help mitigate the negative effect of it’s anti-nutrients, and if you choose to consume white rice, ensure that you consume long-grain versions such as basmati or jasmine and avoid ultra-processed and flavoured versions of it.