One of the most common questions I receive is what is the difference between white and brown rice. Rice comes in several colors, shapes and sizes, but the most popular options are white and brown rice. White rice is the most commonly consumed type, but brown rice is widely recognized as a healthier option. But what is the difference between the two? Is brown rice really that much healthier?
Brown rice is a whole grain. That means it contains all parts of the grain — including the fibrous bran, the nutritious germ, and the carb-rich endosperm. White rice, on the other hand, has had the bran and germ removed, which are the most nutritious parts of the grain. Brown rice has more fiber and antioxidants, as well as a lot more vitamins and minerals. However, that does not mean that white rice doesn’t have nutrients. It is still a carbohydrate, but the nutrients from the bran and germ are removed.
However, brown rice has a dark little secret – it contains antinutrients and may be higher in arsenic. Antinutrients are plant compounds that may reduce your body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients. Brown rice contains an antinutrient known as phytic acid, or phytate. It may also contain higher amounts of arsenic, a toxic chemical. Arsenic is a heavy metal that is naturally present in the environment, but it has been increasing in some areas due to pollution. Significant amounts have been identified in rice and rice-based products. Arsenic is toxic, and long-term consumption may increase your risk of chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Brown rice tends to be higher in arsenic than white rice.
Brown and white rice have varying effects on blood sugar and diabetes risk. Research suggests that regularly eating whole grains, like brown rice, helps lower blood sugar levels and decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes. In one study, women who frequently ate whole grains had a 31% lower risk of type-2 diabetes than those who ate the fewest whole grains. However, the study didn’t isolate other behavioral patterns of the women that ate brown rice. That leaves many variables unaccounted for and difficult to buttress the study’s ultimate conclusions.
Other studies opine that replacing white rice with brown has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of type-2 diabetes. High consumption of white rice has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes. This may be due to its high glycemic index (GI), which measures how quickly a food increases blood sugar. Brown rice has a GI of 50 and white rice has an average GI of 89, meaning that white increases blood sugar levels much faster than brown.
The bran of brown rice contains many powerful antioxidants. Studies show that due to their antioxidant levels, whole grains like brown rice can help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes. Studies also show that brown rice can help increase blood antioxidant levels in obese women. Eating brown rice instead of white may also significantly reduce weight, body mass index (BMI) and circumference of the waist and hips. One study collected data on 29,683 adults and 15,280 children. The researchers found that the more whole grains people ate, the lower their body weight was.
Additionally, a randomized controlled trial in 40 overweight and obese women found that brown rice reduced body weight and waist size compared to white rice.
All that being said, we can generally say that brown rice is the better choice in terms of nutritional quality and health benefits, but either type of rice can be part of a healthy diet. I personally love white rice and there is nothing wrong with some white rice every now and then.