Is brown rice healthier than white rice?

Is brown rice healthier than white rice?

As you start eating cleaner and making better food choices, you may have wondered: Is brown rice really healthier than white rice? The answer isn’t cut and dry, but brown rice does have some nutritional advantages.

“Brown rice can have a bit of a nutritional edge over white rice,” says Pam Voelkers, a registered dietitian and integrative health coach at Aurora Health Care. “In general, whole grains can lower our risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and help keep us full, thereby preventing obesity.”

How does this happen exactly? When brown rice is converted to white, the beneficial fibrous bran and germ are removed. In the process, fiber, vitamins and minerals are also removed, Voelkers explains.

Since brown rice is a whole grain, providing fiber, vitamins and minerals, your gut health will be enhanced, and your blood sugar will be controlled a bit better, she says.

If you are watching your cholesterol, blood sugar or encouraged to increase your fiber intake, brown rice may be a better option for you, in moderation.

However, white rice is often a daily staple in many cultural cuisines. Voelkers explains that for individuals who eat rice daily, white rice may be better to limit your exposure to a substance called phytic acid, which is in brown rice and other whole grains. Phytic acid can decrease the absorption of key minerals and vitamins, such as iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium, so it is something to be mindful of if you regularly consume a lot of brown rice.

Generally, whether you’re choosing white or brown rice, rice is high in carbohydrates. It’s best to pair with protein and vegetables to increase fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This combination can help control your blood sugar, appetite and provide for a balanced meal, Voelkers recommends.

Check out these recipes for a few nutritious ways to prepare rice. And did you know that red and purple rice are also higher in antioxidants because of their pigments?

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range.

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  1. Not big on brown rice

  2. Brown rice has more arsenic than white rice because arsenic is concentrated in the outer layers of the grain that are removed in white rice. Arsenic can cause mutations and increase the risk of cancer, especially for infants and young children. However, brown rice also has more fiber and nutrients than white rice. The FDA has set a limit for arsenic in infant rice cereal, but not for other rice products. The amount of arsenic in brown rice may vary depending on the soil and location. Pick your poison.

  3. Peter WERNER, M.D. March 13, 2023 at 2:44 pm · Reply

    Great Article, very informative, but well known, according to my Father, who told me 60 Years ago, that the Sailors on the Ships going from Europe to the North-American Continent in the 17th Century, ate brown Rice in Order to prevent them coming down with Scorbut, a Vitamin C Deficiency, resulting in Falling -out of their Teeth. Respectfully, Prof. Dr. med. Peter WERNER, M.D.,F.C.C.P.

  4. Hi Pam, great article. I learned something new and very valuable today!

  5. What about higher levels of arsenic in brown rice?

  6. The dose makes the poison in everything we consume. We would need to see a study about rice and arsenic. In the mean time, I’m going to eat brown rice instead of M&Ms!

  7. Regarding sailors, they were also nicknamed “Limeys” since they added limes to their drinks or food for reasons of preventing Scurvy. Biochem professor in medical school described that historical reference.

  8. I hear this a lot about rice but compare those levels to other foods. If you’re willing to cut out brown rice for arsenic levels than you might as well cut fish out. Some mushrooms can have the same amount in them naturally.

  9. I was hoping to see you address whole grain white rice like Jasmine rice which is naturally white.

  10. Soaking grains can break down phytic acid.

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About the Author

Anna Schapiro
Anna Schapiro

Anna Schapiro is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has a background in public relations and communications and studied journalism at Northwestern University. When she’s not working on internal communications for the organization, she enjoys cooking, reading and living in Chicago.