Brown rice is healthier than white rice because it is more nutritious.
A serving of brown rice has more fiber, potassium, and magnesium when compared to white rice.
Nutritionists say that both white rice and brown rice can be part of a healthy diet, as long as you surround the grains with vegetables and lean proteins.
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Rice is an integral food for more than half of the world’s population. Filling and full of flavor and aroma, the grain forms the base of many favorite dishes.
But when it comes to the choice of white versus brown rice, which is better for your health? Here’s what you need to know to make the right dietary choice for you.
Brown rice vs. white rice
Brown rice is known as ‘unpolished’ rice, which means it only goes through one milling process. Milling the rice further gives us ‘polished’ or white rice.
After the first milling, the bran layer, germ, and endosperm are what make up a grain of brown rice. When rice is processed further, it removes that bran and germ layer, and with it, most of the nutrition.
“The brown rice is left essentially whole because the three key parts remain after processing: the bran layer providing the fiber, the germ layer which is the vitamin and mineral-rich core and the starchy middle endosperm layer classifying rice as a carbohydrate,” says Chloe Paddison, RDN, LD, owner and lead dietitian of Cureative Nutrition. “White rice has been processed further to remove the bran and germ, therefore leaving only the endosperm with very little vitamin, mineral, or fiber content.”
Brown rice nutrition facts
Brown and white rice have some of the same nutrients, but the quantities vary. Here are the nutrition facts in a cup of brown rice and how it compares to the recommended daily value (DV) suggested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
Fat. 1.6 grams, 2% DV
Dietary fiber. 3.5 grams, 14% DV
Iron. 1 milligram, 6% DV
Calcium. 19.5 miligrams, 2% DV
Potassium. 154 milligrams, 3% DV
Phosphorus. 150.2 milligrams, 12% DV
Magnesium. 85.8 milligrams, 20% DV
Zinc. 1.2 milligrams, 11% DV
White rice nutrition facts
White rice is actually lower in fat and higher in iron, but is lacking in a few of the key nutrients found in brown rice. Here’s how a cup serving compares, including the daily value:
Fat. 0.4 grams, 1% DV
Dietary Fiber. 0.6 grams, 3% DV
Iron. 1.9 milligrams, 11% DV
Calcium. 15.8 milligrams, 1% DV
Potassium. 55.3 milligrams, 1% DV
Phosphorus. 67.9 milligrams, 5% DV
Magnesium. 19 milligrams, 5% DV
Zinc. 0.8 milligrams, 7% DV
Paddison says that white rice is commonly enriched, meaning that nutrients are added that were lost when the food was processed. Folate is often added to enriched white rice, making the levels higher than brown rice.
Folate is particularly important to add to enriched foods because women experience lower levels in their diets, and in. It’s needed to form healthy cells and help restore red blood cells. In the early parts of pregnancy, it helps protect from prenatal birth defects of the spine and brain.
The importance of fiber
Dietary fiber is very important for your health, and brown rice has a much higher fiber content when compared to white rice. Eating whole-grain foods high in fiber have been shown to reduce the chance of many chronic illnesses, including:
If you have any of these health conditions or may be at risk for them, it’s likely wise to eat more brown rice than white rice. The higher fiber and overall nutrient content in brown rice can be an important step towards preventing or treating these conditions and improving your health.
However, a high fiber intake doesn’t make sense for everyone. The high fiber in brown rice may cause gas or bloating after eating, an unpleasant side effect to many, especially those with gastrointestinal conditions. If you aren’t used to eating high-fiber foods, it’s important to gradually increase your intake of these foods and drink lots of water to minimize side effects.
Occasionally, fiber can also block absorption of certain medicines, so it’s important to discuss your intake of fiber with your physician.
Which is better for your health?
While both versions of rice can be satisfying, filling, and a great compliment for a meal, nutritionists generally give brown rice the edge.
“Overall, brown rice is the more nutritious choice because it offers the body essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber along with the energy from the starch,” Paddison says. “White rice only offers the body energy because the fiber, vitamin, and mineral components have been stripped away during processing.”
However, Paddison notes that many people prefer the smooth, light flavor of white rice, as opposed to the nuttier, chewier brown rice. And it’s perfectly okay to eat white rice – as long as you surround it with healthy complements.
“There are many people who do not like the consistency of brown rice and therefore we will work on how to complete the meal to include vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins that offer the nutritional value for the meal if they choose white rice,” Paddison says. “I have recommended mixing white and brown rice to some clients to help transition to eating more brown rice.”
Portion control is also just as important as nutrition. “No matter if you choose brown rice or white rice, we should practice the same portion awareness with both, ideally 1/3 cup of cooked rice, either brown or white,” Paddison says.
If you are looking to increase your dietary fiber intake, brown rice is a better choice than white rice. And overall, nutritionists say brown rice is the healthier choice in general.
But that doesn’t mean white rice is unhealthy – it all depends what you eat it with. Both white rice and brown rice can be part of a healthy, balanced diet when paired with vegetables and lean proteins.
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