Brown rice vs white rice… which one to choose?

It’s become the eternal nutritional dilemma for the modern age: Brown rice or white rice? Which one is better for weight loss? Which has the most health benefits?

Forget trying to figure out the meaning of life. In 2018, we have far more important things to discuss, such as whether tea or coffee is better for us, whether white bread really is worse than brown bread …

… and which is best out of brown or white rice.

Why do some people eat white rice and others eat brown? And why do people from both camps insist that their rice is better?

Firstly, it’s important to point out that rice itself is generally thought to be healthy. The Okinawan’s eat lots of rice, and they have the best life expectancy on the planet. So you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re doing something right by adding rice to your dinner plate.

Secondly, brown rice is generally thought to be the healthiest choice. But is this really true?

Let’s start by looking at the glycemic index.

Round one – Glycemic index

The glycemic index rates foods according to how much they raise our blood sugar levels. If they raise them quickly and a lot, they’re given a high GI value. If they digest slower, and thus raise our levels barely and much more slowly, they’re given a lower value. And generally, people who want to stay healthy go for low glycemic foods. Diabetics are told to eat low glycemic foods. If they eat highly rated GI foods, their blood sugar levels will rocket, and there could be complications.

It might surprise few people to read that white rice has the highest GI value. So in terms of how good it is for keeping your blood sugar levels in check, brown rice wins round one.

Round two – Digestibility

Bloating, gas, cramps, constipation et cetera (we won’t continue, it’s gross) are all horrible symptoms of indigestion. Unfortunately, because so many people either have a poor diet or are just not aware of what they should be eating and what foods can’t be combined, many of us have experienced indigestion at some point. Some of us experience it regularly. Can it be prevented by eating better? It sure can.

Perhaps surprisingly, white rice is one of the best tolerated foods on earth. It’s certainly better tolerated by your digestive system than brown rice. There is a caveat, though. Brown rice is also really well tolerated. In fact, the only time it isn’t so well tolerated by your digestive system is if you have a food allergy. In which case you will likely experience discomfort.

So, white rice wins this round, but not by a knockout. It just shades it by virtue of the fact that it never wreaks havoc with one’s digestive system, while brown rice does occasionally.

Round three – Nutrients

What are the odds on the mighty brown rice defeating the villainous white rice in this round? Everyone knows that brown rice is absolutely stuffed with nutrients, while white rice just has a few, right?

Actually, although brown rice certainly does have a lot of fibre and protein, the truth is that both white and brown rice are more or less equal. They more or less have the exact same amount of protein gram per gram, while brown rice generally has a single gram more fibre. But that’s hardly enough for it to claim victory. Moreover, to claw that extra gram of fibre back, all you need to do is add a piece of broccoli to your plate of white rice. Result: A tie!

Round four – Micronutrients

Okay, so brown rice didn’t edge out white rice in the last round. But when it comes to micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), brown rice is the sworn champion. White rice was formerly brown rice, except that its outer layers have been stripped away during processing. And when the outer layers are stripped away, so are the micronutrients. Not cool.

Now, micronutrients aren’t going to cause weight, fat or muscle gain. So you don’t have to now assume that white rice will make you fat. But it is less nutrient dense than brown rice, and thus doesn’t bring with it as many health benefits. That said, food companies do sometimes add micronutrients to the white rice to make it healthier. If the label says “enriched”, that’s what it means. However, brown rice wins this round. So far, it leads 2-1 and can smell victory.

Round 5 – Arsenic

Woah! Now we’re getting to the closing stages of the battle, and things are hotting up.

And did someone say arsenic (As)?! All rice contains traces of arsenic. And, yes, we’re referring to that poisonous arsenic you’ve heard all about. But, you know, fruit also contains arsenic. Even water contains it. It’s just that everything you eat contains so little arsenic that it’s not going to kill you. Which is kinda cool. It’s like you’re risking death each time you chomp on an apple. How cool is that? No? Not cool? Fine.

Back to the point at hand: Does white rice contain more arsenic than brown rice?

Short answer: Nope! Brown rice contains more arsenic – a lot more. See, when food companies strip away the outer layer of brown rice to make white rice, they strip away micronutrients and arsenic. Now, a plate of brown rice containing arsenic isn’t going to kill you. But unless you check all the facts, we’d advise that you don’t go crazy and eat brown rice all day, every day. So white rice wins this round, which means it’s 2-2 and we’re in need of a decider.

Round 6 – Personal preference

Really, this is what it all comes down to. There are difference between white and brown rice, as we’ve just shown. But there are not enough differences to impact your health or weight loss goals. And when you consider that brown rice is harder to digest and richer in arsenic, you could probably argue that white rice wins. It might be 2-2, but we know we’d rather avoid both indigestion and arsenic poisoning, thank you very much!

Bottom line? Eat whatever you prefer.


Thuy Duong Ltd, Co.

All stories by: Thuy Duong Ltd, Co.