Is Brown Rice Healthier for You Than White Rice?


Rice is the staple food of more than half of the world’s population. It is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report that rice accounts for 19 percent of all calories available in the world. It is very nutritious and fiber rich in the unrefined form.

Rice is of several colors and sizes, the most popular of them are white and brown.

Brown rice, of course, is brown in color as it contains bran and germ. They are not completely processed. In other words, brown rice is a whole grain.

White rice on the other hand is the processed version of brown rice. When the bran and germ is removed from brown rice it becomes white rice.

This article shines on the differences between white and brown rice in terms of their nutritional values and the main effects on our health.


Nutritional Differences

Both white rice and brown rice are naturally gluten-free and gentle on the digestive system. But due to the refining and polishing process, they have the following nutritional differences in terms of  fiber content, total calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Now many white rice varieties are enriched with vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, folic acid and iron to replace the nutritional loss during processing

Below is a comparison of the amount of carbohydrates, fiber, protein, fat and total calories contained in 1 cup of cooked long-grain white rice (enriched) and brown rice, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database



White rice - 44.51g,   Brown rice - 51.67g


White rice - 4.25g,     Brown rice - 5.53g


White rice - 0.44g,     Brown rice - 1.96g


White rice - 0.6g,       Brown rice - 3.2g

Total calories

White rice - 44.51g,   Brown rice - 51.67g


Comparison of the daily percent values of vitamins and minerals in 1 cup of cooked long grain white rice and brown rice according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food labeling guide



White rice - 11, Brown rice - 6


White rice - 17, Brown rice - 24


White rice - 12, Brown rice - 26

Vitamin B6

White rice - 7, Brown rice - 12


White rice - 38, Brown rice - 5


White rice - 7, Brown rice - 21


White rice - 5, Brown rice - 20


White rice - 5, Brown rice - 10


White rice - 17, Brown rice - 17


White rice - 5, Brown rice - 11


White rice - 37, Brown rice – 98

Brown rice contains high amounts of plant lignans, magnesium and selenium which are known as heart healthy nutrients. It is also a very rich source of manganese, the trace mineral that is extremely important for optimal health. Manganese is needed for many vital body functions like nutrient absorption, bone development, production of digestive enzymes, immune system defenses and formation of blood-clotting factors. A cup of cooked brown rice contains almost 88 percent of our daily manganese needs.


Effect on Blood Sugar Levels

Long term consumption of white rice is associated with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in noted Asian populations,” stated the authors from the Harvard school of public health, Boston. The 2010 study revealed that if you consume a little over two servings of white rice (about 12 ounces) per week, making a shift to brown rice could decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes by an estimated 16 percent.

Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly a food is absorbed into the blood and increases the blood sugar level of a person. Brown rice has a low GI indicating it doesn't quickly get absorbed into blood. But white rice has a high GI. When eating, it quickly gets absorbed into blood and this increases the risk of diabetes related disease conditions.


Effect on Improving Heart Health

Studies have confirmed the cardio protective effect of brown rice and the ability to reduce the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Brown rice is a rich source of plant lignans which helps to protect  against various diseases including heart disease. It is also high in magnesium and selenium which are absolutely vital for heart health. Scientific studies show that increased dietary intake of magnesium helps to significantly improve  heart health and maintain normal heart rhythm in both men and women. Studies also show that intake of dietary magnesium is preferable to supplementation, especially for people who have a history of heart diseases in the past. Also the bran and fiber contained in brown rice may be able to lower unhealthy cholesterol levels.


Possible Risk Factors

Recently, some concerns have come up regarding the amount of arsenic in rice. Since the bran of rice contains more arsenic than other parts, brown rice may have higher arsenic levels than white rice,

Brown rice cultivated from some regions may contain small amounts of arsenic due to soil pollution. You can get rid of arsenic to an extent by washing and rinsing thoroughly before cooking or soaking the rice overnight. Cook rice in water 6 to 10 times the amount of rice and drain off excess water.  Rinsing the cooked rice with fresh water also helps to clear off the traces well. Soaking and sprouting brown rice before cooking helps to increase the absorption of nutrients and decrease the amount of allergens and phytic acid contained in it.


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