Is Brown Rice Actually Healthier For You Than White Rice?

Is Brown Rice Actually Healthier For You Than White Rice?

Are you wondering what’s nutritionally different between brown rice and white rice, especially when it comes to weight loss? (And does it matter which one you eat?) They have different tastes and nutritional profiles, but both come from the same plant and start out as brown rice.

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Let’s look at the differences between brown vs. white rice to help you decide which one to choose.

White rice

white vs brown rice - white rice

White rice is a type of rice where all the bran (or outer layer) and germ are polished until only the starchy middle part (called the endosperm) is left. Removing this outer bran layer also removes many of the nutrients.

 

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Brown rice

brown vs white rice - brown rice

Brown rice is a whole grain. Bran layers that are rich in fiber surround the kernels. In addition, the bran is a source of B vitamins, phytochemicals, essential amino acids, and many minerals.

The bran layer is what gives brown rice its nutty flavor and sturdier texture. Brown rice takes longer to cook, but learning how to make perfect brown rice is worth it.

 

What is the difference between white rice and brown rice?

The difference is nutrition. During the milling process, rice loses up to 15% of protein, 75% of phosphorus, 90% of calcium and 70% of B vitamins as it goes from brown rice to white rice. That’s why, in the US, white rice is often enriched with vitamin B1 (thiamin), folate, and iron.

Still, brown rice (as a whole grain) comes out on top.

“I recommend choosing brown rice more often because it has more fiber and other nutrients like magnesium and B vitamins compared to white rice,” says registered dietitian Katie Brown, MS, RD.

Here’s how the three rice varieties stack up:

1 cup, cooked White rice Enriched white rice Brown rice
Calories 242 kcal 242 kcal 218 kcal
Carbohydrates 53.2 g 53.2 g 45.8 g
Fiber (not available) 0.6 g 3.51 g
Protein 4.4 g 4.4 g 4.52 g
Fat 0.4 g 0.4 g 1.62 g
Thiamin (vitamin B1) 0.04 mg 0.3 mg 0.2 mg
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) 0.03 mg 0.03 mg 0.02 mg
Niacin (vitamin B3) 0.7 mg 3.41 mg 2.59 mg
Vitamin B6 0.09 mg 0.09 mg 0.3 mg
Folate 3.7 mcg 108 mcg 7.8 mcg
Iron 0.4 mg 2.8 mg 1.03 mg
Magnesium 24.2 mg 24.2 mg 85.8 mg
Phosphorus 68.8 mg 68.8 mg 150 mg
Zinc 0.8 mg 0.8 mg 1.21 mg
Manganese 0.7 mg 0.7 mg 2.14 mg

Health Benefits of Rice

While enriched white rice provides vitamin B1, folate, and iron, the benefits of brown rice are unbeatable. Brown rice is a good source of fiber, zinc, phosphorus, and thiamin, B6 and protein. It is also a source of other B vitamins, such as riboflavin and niacin.

Is brown rice actually better for weight loss than white rice?

The fiber in brown rice promotes weight loss, independently of other dietary factors. Simply adding more fiber to your diet might help control weight as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.

Women should consume 25 grams of fiber daily and men should aim for 38 grams, but most of us don’t meet those goals.

“The combo of fiber and protein helps you stay fuller for longer, which could help with weight loss,” says Brown.

 

What are some alternatives to rice?

brown vs white rice - riced cauliflower

Looking for alternatives to rice?

  • Try cauliflower rice, which is lower in calories and carbs, and helps you squeeze more veggies into your day.
  • If you want rice with more flavor, try wild rice (actually a grass) or forbidden rice. Forbidden rice is also known as black rice, but it’s really a deep purple. It has antioxidant qualities and has a stronger nutty flavor.
  • Around 800 varieties of rice exist in the world, so the possibilities are almost endless!
  • No matter which type you try, Brown recommends you “choose a whole-grain option more often to get the most nutrient bang for your rice buck.”

About

Mascha Davis is a registered dietitian nutritionist, humanitarian, and founder of Nomadista Nutrition, a private nutrition practice based in Los Angeles. Her writing and expertise have been featured in numerous media outlets including CNN, The Washington Post, ABC News, Men's Health, Refinery29, PopSugar, Reader's Digest, and more. Follow her on Twitter.

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