Healthy Brown Rice

A Nutritional Comparison of Brown and White Rice

You may have heard that brown rice is more healthy for you than white rice. The health benefits of brown rice have become a point of discussion in the health-food industry lately. Let's have a look at what the differences are between the two popular grains.

What Is Brown Rice?

Brown rice is the whole grain, un-milled (or partially milled) version of white rice. In order to produce white rice brown rice is husked and polished until only the starchy insides remain. In short, brown rice is the unprocessed version of white rice. If you are a fairly health conscious person this is the part where your alarm bells are probably beginning to sound.

Health Comparison

White and brown rice are only slightly different when it comes to carbohydrates (calories or kilojoules), the major differences actually lie in what is taken away.

Vitamins, Minerals and Fibre

In the processing of brown rice to make white rice much of the vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre is lost. In the US, food manufacturers put some of the lost vitamins and minerals back into the white rice to 'enrich' the end product - but not all of them. Magnesium and the dietary fibre is not added back into white rice after processing. Brown rice can contain as much as 4.4 times the Magnesium than it's white counterpart.

Magnesium is essential in the body and is responsible for:

  • Mainatinence of normal muscle and nerve function, 
  • Keeping a steady heart rythim,
  • Maintaining a healthy immune system, and, 
  • Keeping bones strong.  [2058]

Such a huge difference in the magnesium content is reason enough to go out and buy a bunch of brown rice right now. But if you need more convincing, read on.

Brown rice also contains an oil in the bran layer that may help lower cholesterol in some individuals. [2054]

Brown Long-grain Rice (cooked)

Nutritional Info Per 100 grams
Energy (KCal) 111
Protein (g) 2.58

Total Fats (g)

Carbohydrates (g) 22.96
Dietary Fibre (g) 1.8
Magnesium (mg) 43
Niacin (mg) 1.528

USDA Nutrient Database[2056]

White Long-grain Rice (cooked)

Nutritional Info Per 100 grams
Energy (Kcal) 130
Protein (g) 2.69
Total Fats (g) 0.28
Carbohydrates (g) 28.17
Dietary Fibre (g) 0.4
Magnesium (mg) 12
Niacin (mg) 1.476

USDA nutrient Database[2057]

A more detailed comparison can be made at the USDA nutrient database website.

Glycemic Index

Glycemic Index or GI is a method of measuring how fast a food is digested and the effect of the food on blood-sugar levels. 100 is the baseline set by white bread and all other foods are compared to that. Generally, the lower the GI, the better.

As white and brown rice are the same plant their GI is actually pretty similar. Brown rice is only a little bit better than white rice at a rating of 55 to 56 (long-grain white rice). This is because the husk that is removed contains no extra carbohydrates and this fills out the serving size.

However, the GI differs depending on the variety of rice. For example short-grain white has a GI of 72, far higher than the 55 of brown rice. So for a choice between short-grain white and a brown variety based only on GI (ignoring the earlier mentioned points), always choose brown.

Zojirushi NS-LAC05 Micom 3-Cup Rice Cooker and WarmerCredit:, Which Rice is Better?

Brown rice is better than white on all counts. Even though it was close in the Glycemic Index comparison, brown still wins out. So, if you are looking to improve your diet or are just interested in eating less processed foods pick up some brown rice (and maybe a good rice cooker) next time you are at your local supermarket or health food shop.


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