Brown vs. white rice: Which one is healthier?

White rice often gets a bad rap for not being as healthy as brown rice, but nutritionists say both options provide important nutrients. But people should be careful to eat in moderation.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, more than 3.5 billion people around the world eat rice every day. It is an important food in many cultures. White rice is the most common option, partly because its neutral taste goes well with other foods.

“Rice is a staple in diets around the world and is a rich source of carbohydrates, the body’s primary fuel,” said Stephanie Sassos, deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute.

In the United States, white rice is often called a “bad” food because it loses some of its nutrients during the food production process. But some nutritionists say that this is not an accurate assessment.

“Is it the best food for you? No,” nutritionist Beth Cherwini told the Cleveland Clinic. “But it won’t hurt you.”

Brown rice still contains all three parts that make up a whole grain: the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. The bran is full of fiber and gives the rice its brown color.

White rice has its starchy texture and white color down to the endosperm. In this process, it loses the nutrients found in the germ and the brine. However, food manufacturers enrich white rice with iron and B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.

Here’s how 1 cup of cooked long-grain brown rice compares to 1 cup of cooked long-grain white rice, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database.

Brown rice White rice
Calories 248 205
Total fat 1.96 grams 0.442 grams
Protein 5.54 grams 4.25 grams
Total carbohydrates 51.7 grams 44.6 grams;
Fiber 3.23 grams 0.632 grams
Sugar 0.485 grams 0.079 grams

Since brown rice is a whole grain, it is high in fiber, protein and fat. It is more filling and aids in healthy digestion and weight management. Studies show that it can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It also helps keep blood sugar stable.

Critics of white rice often equate it to eating pure table sugar. Some studies indicate that this increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But it can help people meet their nutritional needs.

White rice is a source of iron, especially important for women during childbirth. Like brown rice, it contains folic acid that helps prevent neural tube defects during and after pregnancy. People who need to eat a low fiber diet or have a sensitive stomach may choose to include white rice in their diet.

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 6 ounces of whole grains per day, half of which comes from whole grains and less than half from refined grains like white rice. If a person’s only daily grain source is rice, she should eat 3 cups, with at least 1.5 cups of brown rice filling.

Dietitian Toby Amidor, author of “The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: Over 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Day Meal,” says people don’t just have to eat whole grains to be healthy. White rice can be included in a healthy diet plan.

However, most Americans do not get the recommended amount of whole grains in their daily diet. In addition to brown rice, other whole grain options include quinoa, barley, and ancient grains. Nutritionists recommend that everything people eat helps them meet their nutritional needs. It helps to be creative in choosing recipes and planning meals.

Tess Nguyen, professional chef, nutritionist and founder of Taste Nutrition Consulting, told The Defense that brown rice and white rice can be used interchangeably in many recipes. Just remember that brown rice takes a little longer to cook and the process is different. White rice is soft and fluffy while brown rice has a chewy texture.


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