The brown rice debate rages on. There are just so many questions and so little evidence to back up the claims for either side. The question of whether or not white rice is healthier than brown rice, for example, can be answered with a simple Google search, but the answer that comes up isn’t always the right one.
First, it’s important to distinguish between “brown rice” and “white rice.” Technically, white rice is actually a variety of brown rice, but since the two are commonly confused, we’ll refer to them as white and brown rice interchangeably. What makes them different? According to the USDA, “Brown rice has a higher proportion of amylopectin, which is a type of starch that provides longer-lasting energy, while white rice contains less amylopectin.” Amylopectin is also referred to as “rapidly digestible starch,” which explains why brown rice has a more quickly-digested effect on the body than white rice.
There’s a lot of talk on the internet about the health benefits of brown rice over white rice. Most of these claims are false, and the truth is that neither rice is inherently healthy. However, brown rice may be healthier than white rice. The reason for this is that brown rice has more nutrients than white rice.
Let’s start with the first three things that make brown rice a healthier choice. First, brown rice is high in antioxidants. The USDA notes that brown rice contains twice the antioxidants as white rice. This includes phenolic acids and tocopherols. These antioxidants are “powerful agents that protect against oxidation,” according to the USDA, and they also have anti-inflammatory properties. The USDA goes on to say that these antioxidants “prevent damage to DNA and cell membranes, which could lead to cancer.”
Second, brown rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice. A glycemic index measures how fast the carbohydrates in a food are digested, which in turn determines how quickly they affect blood sugar levels. According to the Glycemic Index Foundation, the glycemic index of brown rice is 40, while the index of white rice is 61. That means that brown rice digests at a slower rate than white rice, so the former will keep blood sugar levels more stable and won’t cause the type of rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels that white rice causes. Of course, cooking brown rice properly is essential to help preserve all of its nutrient value. So, I recommend that you check out this post on how to cook brown rice in a rice cooker over at ricecookerjunkie.com
Third, brown rice has more fiber than white rice. The USDA states that a serving of brown rice contains 2.4 grams of fiber, while a serving of white rice contains only 1.7 grams. Fiber is important because it lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, “fiber helps promote healthy digestion and regularity.” The organization also notes that a lack of fiber can cause constipation, which is associated with heart disease.
The next two things that make brown rice a healthier choice are vitamins and minerals. Brown rice is a good source of B vitamins, especially niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin. These vitamins help the body metabolize carbs and fats, which in turn helps the body burn calories. In addition, the USDA states that brown rice is a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. The minerals in brown rice help the body develop bones and teeth, regulate the nervous system, and strengthen the immune system.
Brown rice also contains a compound called lysine, which helps the body produce amino acids like histidine and tryptophan. Amino acids are important because they help the body build proteins like muscle, collagen, and hemoglobin.
The final thing that makes brown rice a healthier option than white rice is that it’s a whole grain. Whole grains are a good source of complex carbohydrates, which provide energy for the body. Complex carbohydrates include carbohydrates like amylopectin and glucose that are more difficult to digest than simple carbohydrates like sucrose. The USDA says that “whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains, and are more filling than refined grains.”
While there are some health benefits to brown rice, there are also downsides to eating it. Brown rice tends to have more calories than white rice. The USDA notes that a half cup of cooked brown rice contains 100 calories, while a half cup of cooked white rice contains 70 calories. The reason for this is that brown rice contains more fiber and fewer calories than white rice. In addition, brown rice tends to be higher in calories than white rice. The USDA reports that a half cup of cooked brown rice contains 185 calories, while a half cup of cooked white rice contains 115 calories.
There are also some drawbacks to eating brown rice over white rice. One downside is that brown rice has a slightly higher glycemic index than white rice. Another downside is that it’s more expensive than white rice. The USDA says that a half cup of brown rice costs $1.89, while a half cup of white rice costs only $0.62. However, the USDA notes that the cost of brown rice may decrease as it becomes more widely available.