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Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Is There a Difference for Your Health?

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD December 23, 2022

Rice originated in China and has been consumed in numerous shapes and forms by many cultures worldwide. Cooked rice is even considered a stable food in countries like Japan and India, but it has also gained popularity in other regions.

Some people believe that brown rice is the healthiest rice. Others claim that white rice is better. But, how is it, really?

In this article, we’ll compare brown and white rice to see if there’s a difference in terms of health and weight loss.

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Brown Rice vs. White Rice: What Is the Difference?

Brown rice contains endosperm, bran, and germ, meaning it is whole grain. On the other hand, white rice is a refined grain that only contains the endosperm center, which is the least nutritious part. White rice only has the endosperm because the germ is removed along with the bran in the process.

Even though white rice has just a few essential nutrients, it cooks faster and is softer than brown rice. Hence, a few of the reasons people prefer white rice might be its milder taste and that it’s easier to cook.

However, in terms of nutrients, brown rice is healthier. Besides, consuming brown rice instead of white rice can reduce glucose and insulin responses.

Brown rice is more nutritious because the germ contains B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, vitamin E, and iron, and the bran contains fiber. The endosperm is loaded with carbohydrates, the only component in white rice.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Nutritional Information

An overview of the nutritional values of one 3.5 ounces of brown rice:

  • Calories: 111
  • Carbs: 23 grams
  • Fiber: 1.8 grams
  • Fat: 0.9 grams
  • Protein: 2.6 grams
  • Thiamine (B1): 6% of the RDI
  • Niacin (B3): 8% of the RDI
  • Iron: 2% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 11% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 8% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 4% of the RDI
  • Copper: 5% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 45% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 14% of the RDI
  • Folate: 1% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI

An overview of the nutritional values of 3.5 ounces of unenriched white rice:

  • Calories: 123
  • Carbs: 30 grams
  • Fiber: 0.9 grams
  • Fat: 0.4 grams
  • Protein: 2.9 grams
  • Thiamine (B1): 5% of the RDI
  • Niacin (B3): 12% of the RDI
  • Iron: 1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 2% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 6% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 2% of the RDI
  • Copper: 4% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 18% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 13% of the RDI
  • Folate: 1% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 8% of the RDI

Looking at the nutritional differences, although white rice has higher amounts of iron and folate, brown rice contains higher amounts of other vitamins and minerals and much more fiber. Aside from that, brown rice contains fewer calories.

Brown rice’s nutritional value and the number of certain nutrients indicate that it is healthier than white rice.

Moreover, because white, as well as brown rice, are naturally gluten-free, they are a good choice for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

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Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Benefits

Let’s compare brown and white rice in greater detail to determine which offers the most health benefits.

Good for weight loss

Both white and brown rice might help you lose weight. When it comes to refined grains such as white rice, it’s better to eat enriched white rice. Enriched white rice has extra iron, niacin, and folic acid, making it more nutritious.

Brown rice, on the other hand, is a whole grain, and whole grains, in general, have been demonstrated to aid with weight control. Moreover, brown rice is a better choice for weight loss because it contains more nutrients and is a good source of fiber that helps with digestion.

Likewise, fiber can help you feel full with fewer calories, allowing you to eat less and prevent snacking or cravings throughout the day.

White rice contains more calories and less scientific proof that it aids in weight loss. As a result, while it might not help you lose weight, it has no negative effects on your body.

Full of healthy nutrients and antioxidants

By looking at the nutritional value of whole-grain brown rice, you would see that it’s rich in antioxidants and nutrients.

The healthy nutrients brown rice contains:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

The antioxidants brown rice contains:

  • Phenols
  • Flavonoids

These antioxidants can help decrease inflammation and eliminate toxic free radical compounds. Moreover, it can help reduce damage to cells and reduce the risk of premature aging.

White rice has higher amounts of folate and iron but is a poor source of antioxidants. Overall, brown rice is superior when it comes to nutrients and antioxidants.

Helps control blood sugar levels

Eating a lot of white rice might increase your likelihood of developing diabetes. It could be due to its high glycemic index, which assesses how quickly a meal or food raises your blood sugar.

For instance, white rice has a GI of about 89, and brown rice has a GI of about 50.

Cooked brown rice, on the other hand, is high in fiber and magnesium, which help manage blood sugar levels. Moreover, consuming whole grains or replacing white rice with brown rice can decrease the risk of diabetes or other chronic diseases.

Keep in mind that both, brown or white rice, does contain a lot of carbohydrates, which means that both types can raise your blood sugar in some cases.

Good for heart health

Whole grains like brown rice may have lower total and bad cholesterol, which is very important for good heart health.

Besides that, brown rice, as opposed to white rice, has been shown to minimize various risk factors for heart disease, including high blood sugar. This type of rice is better for heart health because it’s loaded with heart-healthy food such as fiber and lignans.

Brown rice also includes a good amount of magnesium, which has been linked to a lower risk of heart failure and stroke.

White rice contains fewer beneficial components and appears not to affect heart health.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Which Is Better for Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an excellent, scientifically proven way to lose weight and improve overall health. It’s a food-restricting eating pattern with various types of fasts to select from based on your goals, lifestyle, and the level of effort you’re ready to put in.

For instance, beginners are advised to try the 12:12 fast first (a fasting window of 12 hours and an eating window of 12 hours), and then adjust the fasting window as they see fit.

Fasting is the practice of not eating for an extended period. This means that you need the best, nutrient-rich, healthy meals during your eating window to achieve the best results and feel as satisfied as possible during your fasting window.

The need for extra nutritious food is why brown rice is preferable over white rice for intermittent fasting. Brown rice includes nutrients that will enhance your diet and provide several advantages. Besides, whole grains are known to be beneficial for losing weight.

Moreover, if you wish to begin fasting or make fasting more manageable, try the DoFasting app. It includes a calorie, step, and water tracker, a fasting timer, constant wellness tips from wellness professionals, as well as dietary guidelines.

It also provides over 5000 diet-specific meals that you may cook anytime. Thus, if you want to try rice with sweet and sour vegetables – you’re just one click away from a wide range of options for preparing it.

The app has a tab of the most popular articles that educate you about everything from intermittent fasting to a healthy diet.

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Conclusion

Brown rice is whole grain and has more magnesium, fiber, and vitamins than white rice. While white rice is not harmful to your health, it does not provide many advantages either.

As a result, brown rice is the better option overall.

Author

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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