brown rice vs white rice

We are pretty good at labeling and judging whether be it foods, clothes, brands, etc.

One such opinion that we have is that white rice is bad and brown rice is good. If you search “Brown rice vs white rice” on the internet you’ll find tons of articles stating how brown rice is superior as compared to white rice. Have you ever wondered how and why have they labeled white rice as bad and brown rice as good?

I’ve always been fascinated in knowing what legends such as Arnold, Dexter, Jay Cutler, and the likes of others train and eat. One common thing that I’ve noticed is that they all eat white rice. So the next thing that struck my mind is that, if white rice is bad then why are they consuming it?

In this article, I’ll try my best in comparing brown rice vs white rice in terms of nutrition, digestibility, and glycemic index. I’ll also try to remove the “BAD” tag that has been given to the white rice.

How are they made?

Brown rice is whole-grain rice with only the inedible husk removed. It is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, manganese and is high in fiber as compared to the white rice. Brown rice isn’t processed when threshed from the paddy.

To get the white rice, the next layers known as the bran layer and the germ underneath the husk of the brown rice is removed. Doing so, several vitamins and minerals are lost in the process. The oil that is present in the bran is also removed along with magnesium, vitamin B and iron.

Brown rice vs white rice – Nutritional Value

There’s no doubt that brown rice is superior to white rice in terms of nutritional value.

Brown rice has more fiber and antioxidants, as well as vitamins and minerals. Brown rice contains vitamin B1, B3, B6, B5, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and various other micronutrients which the white rice lacks in.

White rice is low in fiber (0.3%) since the bran is removed.

Apart from that, both brown and white rice contains a similar amount of calories and carbs.

Below is a comparison between the rice in terms of nutritional value.

brown rice vs white rice

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is an indicator of the ability of different types of foods that contain carbohydrate to raise blood glucose levels within 2 hours. Foods containing carbohydrates that break down most quickly during digestion have the highest glycemic index [1].

In simple words, foods labeled as high glycemic index breaks down fast and it spikes our insulin level.

White rice (73 ± 4) has a higher glycemic index as compared to brown rice (68 ± 4). It breaks down fast into glucose and gives us instant energy whereas brown rice takes a longer time to digest.

We’ve all read that foods that are high in GI should be avoided as it is easily converted into body fat. But let me remind you that it isn’t the case with white rice (can be with other foods high in GI). Now, why is that?

Positive Partitioning Agents (PPA)

Have you heard of the term “Positive Partitioning Agents”? If not, then I’ll quickly guide you on what the term means. PPA are foods that bring down your glycemic index when you consume them at a single go.

Do you only eat white rice? Don’t you need vegetables? Don’t you need something that would make it easy for you to swallow? Of course, you do.

This is where PPA comes into play. When you consume white rice mixed with vegetables that are high in fiber, such as broccoli or when you eat it with fish, the overall GI (Glycemic Index) of the white rice is lowered. For example, the GI of white rice is 73 ± 4. Now consuming a full meal with veggies would mean that the GI can be lowered down to 50 ± 4.

Also consuming white rice with fatty fish such as Salmon has shown a reduced rate of the breakdown of carbohydrates (Fats lower the absorption rate and the digestion rate).

Conclusion: The GI is irrelevant in the case of white rice.

Digestion

If you compare solely i.e. only brown rice and white rice, brown rice has a lower GI and hence it takes a longer time to digest. It does not spike your insulin level nor it gives you instant energy. The breakdown of brown rice takes a longer time as compared to white rice.

Although the brown rice contains several macro and micronutrients because of the presence of the bran, you cannot get all of them because the bran is so thick that it becomes impossible for your body to digest them all (because of the presence of phytic acids).

Due to the removal of bran in the making of white rice, phytic acid contents are lower as compared to brown rice and does not hamper the absorption rate of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Why I think that white rice is a better option

Now that we’ve seen all the facts, I’ll tell you why I prefer white rice over brown rice.

  • Research [2] clearly states that although brown rice contains higher nutrients as compared to white rice, experimental data does not provide evidence that the brown rice diet is better than the diet based on white rice.
  • Research [3] shows that although the brown rice contains three times as much dietary fiber as compared to white rice, the absorption rate and the digestibility of energy, protein and fat decreased, as did the absorption rates of Sodium (Na), Potassium (K) and Phosphorus (P). It also states that the nitrogen balance was more negative on the brown rice diet.
  • Brown rice contains anti-nutrients known as phytates. They are present on the bran which is removed in case of white rice. They are known to bind with certain minerals including iron, zinc, manganese and to lesser extent calcium, and slow down their absorption rate.

Does white rice cause diabetes?

I researched a lot on this topic and all that I could find was that white rice was associated with the “risk” of diabetes. Now, there’s a vast difference between the “risk” of getting diabetes and the “actual incidence” of getting diabetes.

Most of the studies found on the internet has been based on the “risk” of getting diabetes and not on the “actual incidence”. Nowhere has it been proven that white rice is the cause of diabetes.

You can read the article here (opens in a new tab) to get a detailed understanding of the effects of white rice on diabetes.

Conclusion: White rice isn’t as bad as it has been portrayed on the internet.

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