Which is healthier: brown rice or white rice? A nutritional history of the band provides a clear winner by knockout. “Without question, brown rice brings more to the table,” says dietitian Beth Czerwony, MS, RD, CSOWM, LD.
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But brown rice might not always be your best choice based on some personal health factors. (Nothing is ever 100%, is it?)
So let’s break it down with Czerwony in a little Rice 101.
Why rice is a big dietary problem
About 20% of the world’s calorie intake is linked to the humble grain of rice, making it one of the most important foods on the planet. More than 3.5 billion people depend on rice as a daily staple of their diet.
To meet this need, farmers are growing more than 100,000 different varieties of rice in a rainbow of colors. Fortunately, however, your meal choice usually comes down to a pair of options: brown or white.
Of the two, white rice is by far the more common on your plate, largely due to its ease of cooking, longer pantry shelf life, and a neutral flavor profile that s ‘harmonizes well with other ingredients.
Differences between brown rice and white rice
Whole grains like rice can be broken down into three main parts: germ, bran, and endosperm. Each component contains different minerals, vitamins and proteins which provide you with varying nutritional value.
Brown rice contains all three parts, making it a whole grain. White rice? Not so much, Czerwony said. The processing strips the white rice of germ and bran, leaving the center of the starchy (and least nutritious) endosperm.
Manufacturers fortify white rice to replace some of what is lost during processing. “Basically they take it apart and try to fix it,” Czerwony explains. “But the end product still doesn’t reach the nutritional level it started off.”
Benefits of brown rice
Don’t be fooled by the small size of a grain of rice. Inside that little shell are nutrients that have the power to lower your cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Brown rice outperforms white rice in:
It’s also a complex carbohydrate that can help you manage your cholesterol and lose weight. “Brown rice will also keep you feeling fuller for longer, which is helpful when you watch how much you eat,” Czerwony explains.
There is a negative point in the register of brown rice: arsenic. Brown rice contains high levels of the natural toxic element, which is present in many foods. It is not enough to cause damage in a typical diet. Pregnant women may want to limit their intake, however.
Is White Rice Bad For You?
The short answer is no… at least when consumed in moderation. “Is this the best food for you?” No, ”Czerwony said. “But it’s not going to hurt you.”
Fortified white rice is a good source of folic acid, which is recommended for pregnant women to aid in the prenatal development of their child. It is also recommended for nursing mothers. (Arsenic is not as present in white rice after processing.)
White rice may also be best if you are on a low-fiber diet or have a sensitive stomach.
But it’s not hard to find reviews of white rice, especially how it can spike your blood sugar. Some researchers even equate a serving of white rice with consuming pure table sugar.
Plus, research shows that a diet high in white rice may increase your risk of developing diabetes. (Whole grain brown rice has the opposite effect.)
Be creative with your menu
If you can’t decide between brown rice and white rice, choose both. Czerwony says she often advises people to mix varieties. Cooking times vary for brown rice and white rice, which will require some adjustment in the kitchen.
She also encourages people to explore potential substitutes for rice, such as quinoa, barley, and ancient grains. These can also be mixed with rice or served on their own. Countless recipes can be found online.
“It’s important to know that there isn’t just one option or a simple choice between brown rice and white rice,” Czerwony explains. “Take advantage of the variety. “
And that, she says, may be the healthiest choice of all.