Brown Rice Vs. White Rice: Which One is the Healthy Food Option?

Key Takeaways:

1. Nutritional Value
: Brown rice retains its outer bran layer, germ, and endosperm, offering higher fiber, minerals like magnesium and phosphorus, and a diverse vitamin profile compared to white rice.

2. Glycemic Index
: Brown rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice, causing a slower, steadier rise in blood sugar levels, making it a better choice for managing blood sugar.

3. Health Benefits of Brown Rice
: Brown rice contains bioactive compounds like phenolic compounds, γ-oryzanol, and GABA, which contribute to its antidiabetic, antiobesity, cholesterol-lowering, and heart-healthy properties.

4. Arsenic Content
: While brown rice contains slightly higher levels of arsenic compared to white rice, consuming it is safe with

Introduction

In the tapestry of Indian cuisine, rice is an essential thread knitted into the fabric of our daily meals. Today, we will untangle the nutritional enigmas surrounding two popular rice varieties—brown rice vs white rice.

Our diet choices play a crucial role in shaping our health, and rice is no exception. We aim to decipher the merits of each rice, providing you with the insights to make informed decisions about your diet.

What is Brown Rice?

It is unrefined and whole-grain rice, hailing from the same rice plant as white rice. It retains its outer bran layer, germ, and endosperm, providing a nutty flavour and chewy texture.

The key distinction lies in the processing. Brown rice undergoes minimal milling, preserving its natural nutritional bounty, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

What is White Rice?

White rice undergoes a more thorough milling process. This process removes the outer bran layer, germ, and husk, leaving behind the starchy endosperm. The result is a polished, refined grain with a softer texture but diminished nutritional content compared to brown rice.

Brown Rice vs White Rice: Nutrition & Calories

Let's analyze their health aspects and determine which suits you better.

Comparing the Nutritional Value per 100g in Detail

Brown Rice (per 100g):

  • Energy: 122 kcal
  • Protein: 2.73g
  • Total Fat: 0.96g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.259g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.367g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.364g
  • Carbohydrates: 25.45g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1.6g
  • Minerals:Calcium: 3mg
  • Iron: 0.56mg
  • Magnesium: 39mg
  • Phosphorus: 102mg
  • Potassium: 86mg
  • Sodium: 202mg
  • Zinc: 0.71mg
  • Copper: 0.105mg
  • Selenium: 5.8µg
  • Thiamin: 0.177mg
  • Riboflavin: 0.069mg
  • Niacin: 2.548mg
  • Vitamin B-6: 0.122mg
  • Folate: 9µg
  • Vitamin E: 0.17mg

White Rice (per 100g):

  • Energy: 129 kcal
  • Protein: 2.67g
  • Total Fat: 0.28g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.077g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.087g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.076g
  • Carbohydrates: 28g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0.4g
  • Calcium: 10mg
  • Iron: 1.19mg
  • Magnesium: 12mg
  • Phosphorus: 43mg
  • Potassium: 35mg
  • Sodium: 245mg
  • Zinc: 0.49mg
  • Copper: 0.069mg
  • Selenium: 7.5µg
  • Thiamin: 0.162mg
  • Riboflavin: 0.013mg
  • Niacin: 1.47mg
  • Vitamin B-6: 0.092mg
  • Folate: 58µg
  • Vitamin E: 0.04mg

Brown rice packs a punch with higher fiber, minerals like magnesium and phosphorus, and a more diverse vitamin profile. White rice, on the other hand, is slightly higher in iron and has a softer texture.

Glycemic Index of Brown Rice & White Rice: A Deep Dive

Blood Glucose spike due to high glycemic index of rice
Image by xb100 on Freepik | High blood glucose due to rice
Brown Rice Glycemic Index: Approximately 50-55.
White Rice Glycemic Index: Around 70-73.

Understanding rice's glycemic index (GI) is crucial for managing blood sugar levels. The glycemic index calculates how rapidly a food increases blood sugar levels after consumption. Here's the breakdown:

  • Brown Rice (GI 50-55): With a moderate glycemic index and high fiber, brown rice causes a slower, steadier rise in blood sugar.
  • White Rice (GI 70-73): White rice, having a higher glycemic index, leads to a quicker spike in blood sugar levels. The refining process removes much of the fiber, causing a faster absorption of glucose in the bloodstream.

Choosing rice with a favorable glycemic index is crucial for managing blood sugar. Whether it's brown or white, understanding the impact on blood sugar levels allows you to make informed choices aligned with your health goals.

Brown Rice Benefits: Beyond the Nutritional Numbers

1. Bioactive compounds

Brown rice has a few bioactive compounds, including-

  • Phenolic Compounds: Antioxidants like ferulic acid, p-coumaric acid, and isoferulic acid contribute to overall health.
  • γ-Oryzanol: This compound gives wild rice its color and fights oxidative stress.
  • GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid): GABA has potential calming effects, promoting relaxation and stress reduction.

The composition of these bioactive compounds can vary among rice varieties. Cultivation, rice color, and processing methods also influence it.

2. Antidiabetic effect

For those managing type 2 diabetes, brown rice is a valuable ally. Studies indicate that it exhibits potential antidiabetic activity.

  • Controlled Glucose Levels: Parboiled brown rice has reduced plasma glucose levels in healthy individuals, making it a promising choice for diabetes prevention.
  • Specialized Rice Varieties: In a study, diets supplemented with specific roasted brown rice varieties enhance antidiabetic effects in type 2 diabetic mice.
  • Gastric Health: Clinical trials suggest brown rice may have a slower gastric emptying rate than white rice.
  • Bioactive Compounds: The unique compounds in brown rice, such as γ-oryzanol, γ-amino butyric acid, acylated steryl glycoside, and phenolics, contribute to its antidiabetic potential.

In simpler terms, including brown rice in your diet could be a smart move in the fight against diabetes.

Also read: Indian diabetic diet chart: the best chart for blood sugar control

3. Antiobesity and cholesterol-lowering activity

Brown rice is a natural ally, showing potential to fight obesity and lower cholesterol. Sprouting (germination) enhances brown rice's capacity to combat obesity and reduce cholesterol. Diets with germinated brown rice (GBR) perform better, particularly in reducing weight gain and improving lipid levels.

The benefits of GBR come from nutrients—fiber, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds like GABA, γ-oryzanol, and more. γ-Oryzanol might fight obesity, and it could influence genes related to it.

Extracts from GBR have shown promise in cellular studies, reducing fat collection and calming inflammation. With brown rice, you make a small but impactful choice for weight and cholesterol management.

Also read: 3 Best Foods To Boost Your HDL Cholesterol to Improve Heart Health

4. Heart health

Choosing brown rice can be excellent for your heart. Studies have shown that regular brown rice consumption improves heart health. In a study with overweight or obese women, it reduced inflammatory markers. It also enhanced heart-related risk factors such as weight, BMI, waist size, and diastolic blood pressure.

The secret lies in bioactive compounds in brown rice, making it a heart-friendly choice for your daily diet. Consider brown rice not just as a side dish but as a proactive step toward your heart's well-being.

Brown Rice Arsenic Content: Should you worry about it?

Arsenic in brown rice
Image by Allexxandar on Freepik | Brown Rice Arsenic Content

Unpolished brown rice packs more arsenic than its polished white counterpart. But here's the reassuring bit – the arsenic levels in the brown rice do not breach safety limits.

The variance is because of the polishing. The process of stripping away the outer layers reduces arsenic levels.

Brown rice contains slightly higher levels of arsenic compared to white rice. However, consuming it is safe because the overall levels are usually within acceptable safety limits.

Additionally, brown rice is beneficial for your health. The key is to maintain a balanced and varied diet.

Suppose you have specific health concerns or dietary restrictions. In that case, it's always a good idea to consult a doctor or a nutritionist for personalized advice.

Brown Rice Recipes: Exciting Ways Eat Rice

Different Indian brown rice recepies
Brown Rice Recipes

Let's explore a variety of tempting recipes that will redefine your rice-eating experience. These recipes are delicious ways to incorporate brown rice into your meals.

  1. Biryani: Fragrant brown rice layered with spiced vegetables or lean protein for a healthier take on traditional biryani.
  2. Rice Lentil Soup: A hearty soup with rice and lentils packed with veggies and Indian spices.
  3. Spinach and Rice Pulao: Nutrient-rich pulao featuring rice, spinach, and aromatic herbs.
  4. Rice Upma: A South Indian favorite made healthier by substituting rice loaded with vegetables and herbs.
  5. Curried Chickpeas with Rice: Chickpeas cooked in a flavorful curry served over a bed of rice.
  6. Mushroom Rice Risotto: Creamy and comforting risotto made with rice and savory mushrooms.
  7. Rice Cabbage Rolls: Stuffed cabbage rolls with a filling of brown rice, mixed vegetables, and spices, baked to perfection.
  8. Vegetable Biryani: A nutritious twist on biryani featuring brown rice, assorted vegetables, and aromatic herbs.
  9. Spiced Rice and Black Bean Bowl: A protein-packed bowl with brown rice, black beans, and a medley of Indian-inspired spices.
  10. Rice Tamarind Puliyodarai: Cook rice with a tamarind-based spicy paste to create a tangy and flavorful South Indian dish.

Conclusion

As we wrap up the comparison between brown and white rice, it's clear there's more to consider than just color and taste. Brown rice has a solid nutritional profile, boasting fiber, essential minerals, and beneficial bioactive compounds. Its lower glycemic index is a practical choice for maintaining stable blood sugar levels.

Especially noteworthy is brown rice's impact on heart health. Studies highlight its potential to reduce inflammation and address heart health risk factors.

The evidence leans toward brown rice in this debate. However, your choice depends on aligning your dietary preferences with your health goals. Whether you go for brown rice or the familiar comfort of white rice, each grain shapes your journey to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

To make the right dietary choices, download the Aware Health Rewards app. The Aware app gives you free personalized diet plans that help you make the right food choices.

About the author:

Lucky Mehtani
, B. Pharm, merges his healthcare expertise with a passion for writing to enhance India's heart health. Through insightful blogs, he provides well-researched information on managing Diabetes, Hypertension, and High Cholesterol, aiming to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
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