Brown rice vs. white rice – which one is better for your health?

Rice is a food consumed worldwide. It serves as a staple food for many people especially the one’s who live in Asian countries.

Rice comes in two variants brown and white. Most of the people relate brown food with health, for example people consider brown bread a healthier option as compared to white bread.

Brown rice are considered to be more good, clean and healthier food choice worldwide. But is it really true? Let’s uncover some facts in this article “Brown rice vs. white rice – which one is better for your health?” to help you understand better.

Brown rice and white rice nutrition comparison:

 Brown Rice (1 cup)White Rice (1 cup)
Protein4.88 g4.10 g
Carbohydrate49.7 g49.6 g
Fat1.17 g0.205 g
Dietary Fiber3.32 g0.74 g
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)0.176 mg0.223 mg
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)0.039 mg0.021 mg
Niacin (Vitamin B3)2.730 mg2.050 mg
Vitamin B60.294 mg0.103 mg
Folacin10 mcg4.1 mcg
Vitamin E1.4 mg0.462 mg
Magnesium72.2 mg22.6 mg
Phosphorous142 mg57.4 mg
Potassium137 mg57.4 mg
Selenium26 mg19 mg
Zinc1.05 mg0.841 mg

Difference between brown and white rice

Brown rice is whole grain containing all parts of the grain i.e. bran (contains fiber), germ (contains nutrients), endosperm (contains carbohydrates).

On the other hand white rice is refined rice i.e they only contain the endosperm. Germ and bran is removed from the white rice which removes most of the nutrients from them.

This is the reason why brown rice are preferred to white rice.

Some key factors which separate brown rice and white rice:

1. Glycemic Index

The glycemic index or GI determines how quickly the food will be digested and how it will raise the blood insulin levels. The more the GI of the food the more quick it will digest and the higher it will spike blood insulin levels and vice versa.

So what is the GI rating of brown and white rice?

White rice have a GI of around 65 while the brown rice have a slightly less GI rating of around 55. Going by the GI value brown rice seems to be better choice. But does GI matter that much? Let me explain.

GI value of any food is calculated when the food is eaten in isolation after an overnight fast, and in real life no one really eats a food in isolation. No one really sits and eat rice all alone, rice are eaten along with some other food.

A meal of white rice with some fat/protein/fiber foods will digest at the same rate and effect the blood insulin levels in the same way as a meal of brown rice with some fat/protein/fiber food.

So when eaten along with other foods high GI of white rice does not have a significant impact on blood insulin levels as compared to low GI brown rice.

Thus GI value becomes insignificant when rice are eaten along with other meals as they both are going to digest slowly.

2. Nutrition Value

Brown rice has a huge advantage over white rice in the nutrition area. Look at the nutrition chart above, you can clearly see that brown rice has a lot more nutrition value than white rice.

Brown rice are loaded with more fiber and anti-oxidants while on the other hand white rice mostly contains empty calories as the bran and germ are remover from them.

So considering the nutrition aspect brown rice clearly beats white rice or so it seems, but here’s something you should know.

While brown rice have more nutritional value they also contain some anti-nutrients which are not good.

Anti-Nutrients present in brown rice:

Anti-nutrients are plant based compounds which reduces your body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients. Anti-nutrients present in brown rice:

a. Phytic acid (Phytate)

It reduces the body’s ability to absorb nutrients like iron and zinc from the diet. Phytic acid may offer some health benefits but consuming it over long duration can contribute to mineral deficiency.

b. Arsenic

Brown rice can also have a high content of arsenic which is a toxic chemical and long term consumption of arsenic may increase the risk of chronic diseases like type-2 diabetes, cancer or heart problems.

Arsenic is a heavy metal naturally present in the environment and brown rice tend to have more arsenic content as compared to white rice.

3. Digestibility

White rice are the most well tolerable foods and least likely to cause any digestive issues (gas, bloating, constipation, cramps etc.).

While on the other hand brown rice may pose problems for some people who have allergies, food intolerances or digestive issues with foods like grains, cereals.

So in overall digestibility white rice beats brown rice.

4. Effects on insulin levels or Diabetes

Brown rice are rich in magnesium and fiber so they will not spike the insulin levels quickly. A regular consumption of whole grains helps in regulating the blood sugar levels and controlling diabetes and further lowering the risk of type-2 diabetes.

So consumption of brown rice may reduce blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, while on the other hand white rice are linked with increased risk of type-2 diabetes because of higher GI rating.

5. Other health factors

a. Heart Benefits

Lignans (plant based compounds) present in brown rice may protect the heart against diseases. Lignans are linked with reducing the amount of fat in blood, regulate blood pressure and reduce inflammation in the arteries.

Eating brown rice may also reduce bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and raise good cholesterol levels (HDL). Some studies say that brown rice may help in reducing the risk of heart diseases.

b. Anti-oxidant properties

Bran present in brown rice is loaded with anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants destroys free radicals formed in the body due to the oxidative stress and thus reduces the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, inflammation and further boosts immune system.

c. Weight Loss

Fiber present in brown rice keeps you full for longer period of time, this reduces food cravings and may help in weight loss or weight management.


There is not exact answer as to which one is better brown or white.

In overall nutrition and health benefits brown is better that white. But in terms of digestive issues white gives a beat to brown plus white rice do have anti-nutrients.

So it’s a tie and neither one outweighs other. It is a matter of personal choice. Consider all the facts presented above and decide which type suits you best and you have least issues with, be it white or brown.



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