Which is Best White or Brown Rice

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Many ethnic food cultures have rice as a main staple in their cuisine. And the question of: Which is Best White or Brown Rice – often comes up in the minds of many ethnic foods lovers.

Which is Best - White or Brown Rice?

Rice Paddies (Photo Attributed to Author: Angie, from Sawara, Chiba-ken, Japan)

Rice is cultivated all over the world, and is naturally grown in rice paddies like this image on the left. And “natural” rice is usually some shade of brown in color. But over the past several decades, “white” foods, such as white bread, potatoes, pasta, etc., have taken a bad rap. When asked the question about being the healthiest for you: Which is Best – White or Brown Rice? – most “health conscious” cooks will automatically respond with “brown”.

But is this really the case? I have had conversations with other cooking enthusiasts, chefs, and nutritionists, whose opinions I respect, and discovered that the “Little White Lie” about which is healthier for you – white “processed” foods, or the brown, marketed as “natural” foods, are best.

So I did some digging and research of my own on this, and came up with the following conclusions to help you decide:

Which is Best White or Brown Rice


(Photo Attributed to Author: Dan McKay)

(Photo Attributed to Author: Dan McKay)

(Photo Attributed to Author: Takeaway)

(Photo Attributed to Author: Takeaway)

The truth of the situation is, at sometime in recent history, a misleading consensus started, that white rice (and other “white” foods) are bad for you, and that brown rice is better, healthier for you. How this myth started, is not clear. But it is a myth, and it is, with a little looking into, totally unfounded. The following is a list of some of the more common claims against white rice (and other “white” foods) and the repudiations discovered upon some investigation.

Myth #1: White foods, all of them, are not healthy for you.
The Facts of the Matter: Eating “white” foods, such as rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, and so on, is actually not a dietary or nutritional health hazard whatsoever, unless you eat them exclusively and to excess, and with detrimental accompaniments. The problem occurs when, because of their less full-bodied tastiness, being bland in comparison to “brown” (natural) foods, people tend to “dress them up” with their favorite condiments: salt, fats, sugars, and sugary sauces. Whereas just enjoying natural foods with their natural flavor is just fine, instead, people will prefer whitened (processed) foods for their more subtle and innocuous taste. This blandness allows the accompaniments, salts, fats, sugars, sugary and/or sodium laden sauces, etc. Loading the white, comparatively tasteless foods up with “flavorings” that are not healthy for consumption is a common eating habit which makes brown foods, in terms of actual practice, healthier for you.
Myth #2: Eating white rice will make you gain weight, because it has much less fiber than brown rice, so it will not make you feel “full” for as long.
The Facts of the Matter: It is true that brown rice is higher in fiber than white rice. White rice contains only about .5 grams of fiber, while the same one cup of cooked brown rice contains about three grams of fiber. But there are other considerations. If, for instance, you were only eating brown rice for a meal, then certainly brown rice would be the better choice for being satiated for a longer time. However, if your meal includes other foods, such as meat or seafood, salad and/or greens, eggs, vegetables and/or beans, or maybe lentils, and a serving of white rice was also part of the meal, the difference between taking brown or white rice would be insignificant.
Myth #3: Because brown rice is not as processed as white rice, it is healthier for you to eat.

The Facts of the Matter: While it is true that foods that are less processed contain more nutrients, again, there are other considerations to take into account here.  The unprocessed components of brown-rice grains contain both nutrients that are good for us to eat, and some anti-nutrients that the plant uses as a defense system against pests.

Also, the bran in brown rice contains arsenic. The processing of brown rice into white rice, (which removes arsenic, that is located in the bran, and bran is what makes rice “brown”) eliminates the arsenic.

Additionally, the removal of the bran, in the process of turning brown rice into white, removes the phytic acid contained in the bran. If you are fighting or wanting to ward off against tooth decay, keeping phytic acid (which serves to cause tooth decay) out of your diet is important.

Myth #4: White rice is devoid of any calories that are of use to your body.

The Facts of the Matter: Oh come on. Rice has been a staple diet ingredient in so many cultures the world over, for millennia. And those cultures have thrived. For thousands of years, in Buddhist temples, only white rice is traditionally served, and those monks are among the healthiest groups of people on the planet.

Taken by itself and exclusively, certainly a diet of just rice – whether brown or white – is not a well rounded, balanced diet that will produce optimum health and longevity. Rice, whether brown or white, is meant to be a “diluting” and “augmenting” element in any diet. You eat it along with other foods. What you eat with the rice is what makes the question: Which is better – White or Brown Rice? – relevant.

Again, brown, unprocessed rice, by itself, and if eaten only by itself, might prove to be a healthier choice than processed white rice. But also, again, you have to take into consideration the above admonitions: The bran in unprocessed brown rice contains arsenic and phytic acid. Here are a few facts to put the caloric content of white versus brown rice into perspective:

  • 1 cup of cooked white rice contains 205 calories. The same 1 cup of cooked brown rice has 216 calories.
  • 1 cup of white rice has ZERO fat – the same cup of brown rice contains 2 grams of fat.
  • The amount of carbohydrates in brown and white rice is exactly the same.
  • The amount of protein in 1 cup of cooked white rice is 4 grams. Brown rice gives you just one more, 5 grams.

So now here’s my answer to the question: Which is best White or Brown Rice?

You know what? It is really up to you. Eating white rice or brown rice is a matter of personal and dietary preferences. Taken properly, they are both equally healthy for you.

Chow, Y’all, enjoy eating rice whether brown or white, and please feel free to leave a comment. Which do you prefer? And why?

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14 thoughts on “Which is Best White or Brown Rice

  1. Wow, I had no idea…..always thought brown rice was better and healthier for you. Thanks for clearing this up……I’m gonna have eme some white rice! LOL

  2. Very informative and interesting article, thank you. I’ve always felt kinda guilty for using white rice because I prefer the flavor and texture. Now I can eat white rice guilt free! LOL

  3. Hi Marvin,

    I found your post very interesting!
    I didn’t know that white rice, and brown rice is the same in term of nutrition. I always thought that white rice was not good for the health and that’s the reason why I didn’t eat it for years. Now that I know this, I will definitely start to eat the white rice again. I do have a question, though. There are two kinds of white rice, round and long. Is the round one also good for the health?

    Thank you for this useful post!

    • Daniella, thank you for the comment and kind words. As for your question, my research tells me that there is not much difference in nutritional value between the long and round grains of white rice.

  4. You know, I had always wondered about this. Thanks so much for clearing the subject up, dude. White or brown, taken either way in moderation, is totally okay. That is what I had thought, in my gut, buy this post really cleared things up for me. Cool beans, dude.

  5. You are right on with this post. And the documentation of why, included with links to verification, is much appreciated and welcomed.

  6. OMG! I had no idea! I just thought, naturally, all brown vs white was the healthier choice … thanks so much for this informative and enlightening post, Marv!

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