Better Choice: Brown Rice vs. White Rice

While it’s not a big deal to eat white rice every now and then, there are some definite health benefits of choosing brown rice most of the time. Rice is a grain staple in cultures around the world, and comes in different variations. White rice is the most commonly consumed form of rice, brown coming in second.  

Differences Between White and Brown Rice 

All rice is made up of pretty much 100 percent carbohydrates, with tiny amounts of protein and practically zero fat. Brown rice is less processed and is rice’s whole-grain form, meaning that it contains the fibrous bran, endosperm and germ. White rice has been processed specifically to remove the bran and germ, and for this reason loses a lot of its nutritional value.  And brown rice comes in all the different varieties white rice does (basamati, jasmine, various grain lengths). 

Nutritional Advantages of Brown Rice 

Higher in Nutrients and Fiber 

Because white rice has had its endosperm and germ removed, it loses the vast majority of its nutritional value. In fact, white rice can be considered “empty calories,” as it is still fairly high in calories, but without much nutrient content.  

Fiber is one major difference of brown versus white rice, as a 100 gram serving of brown offers 1.8 grams of fiber, while white offers about 0.4 grams. 

Check out the following chart for a side-by-side comparison, or it’s reproduced below: 

 Brown Rice (cup) White Rice (cup) 
Calories 232 223 
Protein 4.88 g 4.10 g 
Carbohydrate 49.7 g 49.6 g 
Dietary Fiber 3.32 g 0.74 g 
Net Carbs 46.38 g 48.86 g 
Fat 1.17 g 0.205 g 
Thiamin (B1) 0.176 g 0.223 g 
Riboflavin (B2) 0.039 g 0.021 g 
Niacin (B3) 2.730 g 2.050 g 
Vitamin B6 0.294 g 0.103 g 
Folic Acid ( B12) 10 mcg 4.1 mcg 
Vitamin E 1.4 mg 0.462 mg 
Magnesium 72.2 mg 22.6 mg 
Phosphorus 142 mg 57.4 mg 
Potassium 137 mg 57.4 mg 
Selenium 26 mg 19 mg 
Zinc 1.05 mg 0.841 mg 

As you can see, the macronutrient values (protein, carbs and fat) are almost the same, but brown rice contains far more vitamins, minerals and fiber. 

Superior for Balancing Blood Sugar and Better for Diabetics 

Due to both the fiber and nutrient content of brown rice, it is a far better choice for balanced blood sugar, making it a safer food for diabetics—although portions should still be kept to about 1/2 cup cooked. This is especially due to brown rice’s fiber and magnesium content, both nutrients linked with lowered blood glucose levels after eating. Also, simply substituting brown for white rice—without any other changes to your diet—has been shown to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Supports Cardiovascular Health 

Brown rice contains plant compounds (called lignans) that have been shown to lower blood pressure and arterial wall inflammation, both risk factors for heart disease. One study found that eating 2.5 servings of whole grains per day (such as brown rice) decreased the participant’s risk of heart disease by a whopping 25 percent! 

Higher in Antioxidants 

Similarly to how white rice has been stripped of its vitamin and mineral content, it also loses important antioxidants during the same process. Brown rice has been shown to be high in antioxidants, which makes it a good food to include in your diet for disease prevention.  

Better for Weight Loss 

Studies have also shown brown rice to be helpful in reducing body weight. Since white rice offers very little nutrition but is just as high in calories, a diet high in white rice could actually have the opposite effect. In fact, white rice is a food some nutrition professionals recommend in a diet specifically designed to gain weight.  

Are There Any Cons of Eating Brown Rice? 

Yes, there are certain drawbacks to eating brown rice. Phytic acid is a compound found in all seeds and grains, but in excess it can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb certain minerals, particularly zinc and iron. Brown rice is higher in phytic acid, but soaking and sprouting it (this is good for all grains, actually) can significantly help. Check out this resource to learn more.  

If you’re not eating brown rice regularly, it probably won’t make a huge difference, but if it is a staple of your diet, you could experience mineral deficiencies if you don’t (at least) soak your grains. 

Another drawback of brown rice is potential arsenic contamination, which is higher in brown rice than white. Due to higher levels of environmental pollution, this toxic element has made its way into our food supply, and consumption can be dangerous. The simple act of rinsing rice thoroughly before cooking can help, and also opting for rice from the Himalayan region of the world.  

Again, if you only eat brown rice occasionally (2-3 times per week, for example), this probably isn’t a huge concern. But for those who include rice as a dietary staple, making sure you are eating rice that has not been exposed to arsenic is critical.  

The Verdict 

Brown rice is hands-down the nutritionally superior choice over white. You will probably need to cook it a bit differently, typically with more water and for longer. Simply follow the instructions on the packaging. And remember, soaking and sprouting all whole grains will significantly increase their nutritional value.