Rice is one of the biggest staple foods in the world, feeding over 3 billion of the worlds population.There are hundreds of different varieties of rice available and endless ways to prepare them.(I have a post here talking about 4 delicious varieties ). But in this post I want to focus on the debate between brown rice vs. white rice. It seems these two are often compared when debating which one is “healthier”.White rice is thought to be “empty calories” and more related to weight gain so brown is seen as the better choice. But which one is better? Well the answer isn’t so simple. Lets start by looking at their nutrition stats.
Since I had some in my pantry, I compared Lundberg Brown Long-grain Rice to Lundberg White Long-grain. Per serving, the white has 160 calories, 0g fat, 36g carbs, 0g fiber and 4g protein. The brown has 150 calories, 1.5g fat, 35g carbs, 3g fiber and 3g protein. When looking at those stats side by side they are quite similar. The only significant difference is fiber, but it’s only by 3g.
Now when comparing the two in vitamins & minerals, brown rice does have the advantage there. It has more calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.(plus more). This doesn’t mean that white rice has none of these though. Many believe white rice is devoid of all nutrients, but it still has these nutrients just less of them in comparison. In fact, most white rice found in the grocery store has more folate than the brown. It still doesn’t mean white rice is that nutrient dense, but brown rice really isn’t either if you compare it to other foods like fruit and veg.
So on a micronutrient level, brown rice appears a bit more nutritious than white. However their macronutrients are basically the same. But there is more to food than just nutrients.
It’s important to address the context in which we eat. We rarely consume rice by itself. It is usually a part of a meal accompanied by veggies, meats, legumes, nuts, sauces, fruit & etc. If you are eating a balanced diet with lots of variety, you don’t have to rely on getting your nutrients from rice. You are already getting all those vitamins and minerals elsewhere. There is no nutrient in rice that you can’t get from other sources of food. So you may not be getting much calcium and fiber in white rice, but you eat that white rice with some calcium&fiber rich kale and you’re good to go. See how important context is?
Context also applies to the individual needs we all have. Everyone has different lifestyles and bodies that may benefit more from eating brown or white rice. It really does depend on the individual. For example, if you are someone with digestive problems like IBS, white rice would be the better choice.The bran and germ that remains on brown rice is harder to digest therefore making white the better option. If you are someone with a metabolic disorder or blood sugar issues, brown is the better option due to it’s fiber and slow-release sugar. But if you want white, be sure to consume it moderately with a source of fat or fiber to help stabilize blood sugar.
If you are an active person, white rice is a good after workout carb to consume because it is a fast digesting starch. This is beneficial post workout to restore glycogen levels. Brown rice would be good pre-workout because its a slow release carb ensuring sustained energy.
Which is best? On a nutrient level, brown rice appears to be the winner slightly. But we don’t eat nutrients, we eat meals in various contexts. Food is not inherently”good vs. bad”. When we start comparing foods in this way we can put unneeded guilt & stress into eating. If you like white rice, eat that. If you prefer brown, eat that. If you like both, switch back and forth between them so you can get all the texture,taste & benefits they both have to offer. Both are perfectly ok to eat depending on your needs.The takeaway here is to eat whichever rice you’d like and to stop looking at foods like they are isolated nutrients. It is a bit more complex than that. Personally, I like both.White rice is good in sushi or dishes with thick sauces like curries. I just can’t get on board with brown rice sushi. I’d rather enjoy brown rice in soups,pilafs and veggie bowls. I don’t eat rice often so when I do eat it, it’s a matter of what mood I am in rather than which has more nutrients.
Eat a varied diet and you can enjoy whichever type of rice you’d like in reasonable amounts. You know yourself well enough to understand what your body needs. But don’t take my word for it- I’ve given you some food for thought. I have underlined click-through linked sources you can check out to aid you in your research.