Rice is a popular grain that is a staple of many people’s diets, especially those in Asia. White rice is the more widely consumed type; however, many have turned to brown rice as the healthier option. There are certainly differences between these two types of rice. Both are mostly composed of carbohydrates, with little protein and little fat. Brown rice has about 30 less calories per serving than white rice, but this small caloric difference is marked by other factors that differentiate which rice becomes the healthier choice.
Brown rice is a whole grain. This means that it still has all its grains (fibrous bran, nutritious germ, and endosperm). It also contains vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber. For example, 100 grams of brown rice contains 1.8 grams of fiber. It also contains high amounts of magnesium. Both nutrients help control blood sugar. It also contains a plant compound called lignan which helps protect against heart disease. Lignans lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of fat in the blood, and decrease inflammation. Brown rice does contain phytic acid, which is known for impeding the body’s ability to absorb other nutrients including iron and zinc. Phytic acid is known as the “antinutrient”. Brown rice also contains arsenic, which is a toxic heavy metal. Arsenic is associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
The bran and germ are removed from white rice, making it no longer a whole grain. Bran and germ are the most nutritious part of a grain. White rice is also associated with empty calories due to its lack of nutrients. Unlike most grains, this rice lacks fiber (100 grams = 0.4 grams of fiber). Eating large amounts of white rice has been associated with an increased risk for diabetes. It is high on the glycemic (GI) index, so it does quickly increase blood sugar. On the GI index, brown rice is 50 whereas white rice is 89.
Sticking to ½ cup which is one serving of rice is no easy feat for rice consumers. It just pairs so well with well….everything. When it comes to which type of rice is better for their health, all taste opinions aside, brown rice is the winner. In fact, there wasn’t much to say about white rice because it is just an empty carbohydrate. There’s always a catch, right? The more informed you are the better choices and tools you have to make for your health. Feeling full when we eat should be from foods that are nutritionally packed and beneficial to our bodies, versus just filling ourselves up for pleasure and to suppress hunger.