By-Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Rice is a versatile grain consumed by people around the world. It serves as a staple food for many people. Rice comes in several colors, shapes and sizes, but the most popular are white and brown rice. White rice is the most commonly consumed type, but brown rice is widely recognized as a healthier option. Brown rice is much higher in nutrients than white rice. This includes fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. (1)
Because brown rice contains all parts of the grain: bran (full of fiber), germ, and endosperm (which is rich in carbohydrates), it is considered a whole grain.
Research shows that whole grain foods can reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, making brown rice a healthy option.
A milling process to remove the bran and germ from brown rice turns it white and strips it of the most nutritious parts.
That is why white rice is classified as a “refined grain.” Most companies artificially fortify their white rice with additional nutrients to replace the natural nutrients removed in the milling process. (2)
Which Rice is better?
In some cases, one type of rice may be preferable to another. White rice or brown rice is better for certain people with certain conditions or goals.
Brown rice contains more phosphorus and potassium than white rice. People with kidney disease may need to limit these nutrients in their diet. This is because kidney disease makes the kidneys less able to properly regulate the levels of these nutrients in the body. If potassium levels become too high, for example, it can lead to other health concerns such as heart attack. In this case, white rice may be better than brown rice.
A low fiber diet
Sometimes, a doctor recommends a low fiber diet. People may need to adopt this type of diet if they:
- have diverticulitis
- have diarrhea
- have inflammatory bowel disease
- have a blockage due to colorectal cancer
- have had surgery involving the gastrointestinal tract
White rice contains less fiber than brown rice, so it may be a better choice for these people.
A high fiber diet
Brown rice contains more fiber than white rice, making it a better choice on a high fiber diet. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggest choosing whole foods over refined foods, such as white rice, to reduce the risk of:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- constipation (3)
Is Brown Rice More Nutritious Than White Rice?
Though white rice is enriched, it is still missing the added benefits that brown rice has including protein, fiber, potassium, selenium, choline, phosphorus, and magnesium.
The higher amounts of fiber in brown rice will also work to keep you fuller longer, potentially making you consume less calories over time. It also improves the good gut bacteria of your microbiome.
Brown rice has almost 4 times as much of the mineral magnesium compared to white, important for healthy bones and teeth and also helping regulate blood glucose levels and blood pressure.(4)
Brown Rice health benefits
The health benefits of brown rice are largely due to it being a whole grain.
According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), the fiber in brown rice helps lower cholesterol, moves waste through the digestive tract, promotes fullness, and may help prevent the formation of blood clots.
Brown rice is considered a low “glycemic index” food. The glycemic index (GI) refers to how quickly and how much a food raises a person’s blood sugar after eating.
Some of the phytochemicals and minerals found in whole grains may be associated with a lower risk of certain cancers. As a part of an overall healthy diet, whole grains may help improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, according to the AHA.
The following nutrients are found in whole grains, according to the AHA:
- B vitamins, which are involved in many biological functions;
- Folate (folic acid), a B vitamin that helps the body form new cells and can prevent certain birth defects;
- Iron, a mineral that the body uses to carry oxygen in the blood;
- Magnesium, a mineral that is involved in more than 300 biological functions;
- Selenium, a mineral involved the immune system and regulating the thyroid gland.(5)