White Rice vs. Brown Rice: Which Is Healthiest?

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Shapiro_010316The white rice vs. brown rice argument has been circling for decades, leaving people confused about which to buy. Anything white in food these days is assumed to be bad for you because the color is associated with refined foods such as white flour and white sugar, two items that are proven to be bad for us.

The war on which rice to eat really boils down to looking at the components of each and how our bodies absorb and use the nutrients and sugars found in them.

The Nutritional Value of White Rice and Brown Rice

Apart from taste and color, there are slight differences between brown and white rice when it comes to calories, carbs, fiber, proteins, fat, and the glycemic index (i.e., how quickly or slowly your body absorbs the sugars in the rice; and whether or not it will spike your blood sugar).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database details that brown rice has 218 calories in one cup compared to 242 calories for white rice. Brown rice also has more fiber and fewer carbs, and both have equal amounts of fat and protein. So why is there even an argument?

The Difference between White Rice and Brown Rice

There are two schools of thought on the white rice vs. brown rice nutrition debate. One side believes that white rice should be categorized with white flour and white sugar, because it has a higher glycemic index and doesn’t have its whole grains intact. Overall, however, these differences are minor and when paired with healthy proteins and vegetables, which themselves can help slow down any blood sugar spikes, white rice can be just as healthy an option as brown rice.

The argument could die right there and the real decision may just be based on something as simple as taste. Below are some white rice vs. brown rice nutritional facts—you can decide for yourself.

1. Brown rice has more fiber: Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet, and since brown rice has more fiber per cup than white rice (3.5 grams vs. 0.6 grams, respectively), the win here goes to brown rice.

2. Brown rice has fewer calories: As stated above, one cup of brown rice has fewer calories than a cup of white rice. That’s only a caloric difference of 24—that’s negligible. Unless you’re on a strict diet and/or need to lose a lot of weight, the difference won’t matter all that much. This alone isn’t reason enough to stop eating white rice if you enjoy it.

3. Brown rice can promote weight loss: Despite the small difference in calories, brown rice has more whole grain, which goes back to fiber. Fiber is excellent for weight loss because it keeps you fuller for longer, reducing the impulse to snack and helping you stick to a healthy diet.

4. White rice is a healthy starch: Once the hull and oils are stripped from the grain, what’s left is a little ball of starch, and that’s not a bad thing. Starch is composed mostly of glucose, and believe it or not our bodies need glucose to operate; it’s our fuel. And some camps believe that glucose doesn’t cause insulin resistance.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

Brown Rice White Rice
218 calories per cup 242 calories per cup
Nutty flavor Mild, sweet taste
Contains whole grains Most whole grains stripped
Takes about 45 minutes to cook Takes about 15 minutes to cook
Loaded with nutrients Many nutrients stripped during refinement process

So what are we to make of the various rice debates (brown rice vs. white rice for carbs, or brown rice vs. white rice for weight loss, etc.)? Overall, which is the more healthful option? Brown rice does come out a winner in many aspects, but at the end of the day much of it is minimal.

If a healthy diet is already part of your regimen, eating white rice every now and then, even if that’s the only rice you eat, won’t have a huge impact on your health. A case can be made for both and the decision is really up to you. If you are already healthy and lean, go ahead and dive in to a bowl of white rice.

If you are starting or are already on a diet, then perhaps stick with mostly brown rice until you hit your ideal weight and then eat both types. There are people in countries around the world who eat white rice as a staple every day, even a few times a day, and their populations aren’t obese or suffering from the same health issues as we do in North America. Don’t obsess too much but make informed decisions and eat the rice you want.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“The Difference between Brown Rice and White Rice,” Fit Day web site; http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/the-difference-between-brown-rice-and-white-rice.html, last accessed March 1, 2016.

“Brown Rice versus White Rice: Which Is Better?” Web MD web site; http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20100614/brown-rice-vs-white-rice-which-is-betterl, last accessed March 1, 2016.
“Brown Rice or White Rice: Which Is Healthier?” Butter Believer web site; http://butterbeliever.com/brown-rice-vs-white-rice-which-is-healthy/, last accessed March 1, 2016.
“Brown Rice versus White Rice for Weight Loss,” Livestrong web site; http://www.livestrong.com/article/269218-brown-rice-vs-white-rice-for-weight-loss/, last accessed March 1, 2016.