Rice is a staple ingredient in many of our favorite recipes and meals, and while there are many varieties of rice out there, white and brown rice are the most popular in the U.S.
Whether you know it or not, you probably have a favorite, or one that you always choose when going through the Chipotle line.
The choice of whether to have brown or white rice in your dish may seem simple, but white and brown rice have very different manufacturing processes, making their nutrient compositions very different.
Food Processing Differences:
In order to understand some of the key nutritional differences between brown and white rice, it is important to know that white rice actually starts out as brown rice but is processed to become “white” rice.
A single piece of rice contains three parts: the germ, bran, and endosperm. In the process of making white rice, the germ and the bran are removed, leaving the endosperm, or “starchy” portion of the rice. The removed sections, the germ and the bran, contain many vitamins and minerals and by removing these sections to make white rice, you are also removing vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some of these lost nutrients are then added back into the rice through the process of fortification, making white rice a refined grain.
However, brown rice is minimally processed and maintains the germ, bran, and endosperm. As a result, brown rice is considered a “whole grain” and a complex carbohydrate because all of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber are maintained.
Take a look at the different nutrient values of white and brown rice:
1 cup of cooked long-grain enriched white rice, according to EatingWell:
1 cup of cooked long-grain brown rice contains:
At first glance, it may seem like white rice and brown rice are similar in regards to macronutrients, with brown rice having slightly more carbohydrates and calories, as well as more protein and fiber. The importance of more fiber in brown rice is that it is associated with maintaining gut health, helps you feel fuller longer, and may even reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
However, the difference between these two varieties primarily lies within the vitamins and minerals of each. Differences in vitamin and mineral composition of brown rice versus white rice can be seen here:
Brown Rice naturally contains more:
From the fortification process, white rice contains more:
While neither white rice nor brown rice is necessarily “healthier” than the other, brown rice is generally considered to be the most nutrient dense of the two. With that being said, there are many more rice options on the market that are considered whole grain and packed with nutrients – like black or wild rice.
Additionally, while most people choose a rice variety based solely on taste or texture, some may require foods that are easily digested or that are low fiber. In this case white rice may be recommended even though it is not as nutrient dense as brown rice. It is also important to note that because there can be taste and texture differences, a certain rice variety may be preferred for specific dishes. For example, an Asian inspired meal may include white rice because the flavors and textures traditionally pair better with those ingredients, while a dish containing roasted vegetables and chicken may pair better with the flavors and textures associated with brown rice.
Making a small change in your diet, like switching from white to brown rice, can help your overall health by increasing your dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals intake. Everyone has a rice preference, and while brown rice is more nutrient dense, I am not saying that you should necessarily eat white rice. White rice contains calcium and folate, which are very important minerals not found in brown rice. However, by knowing the differences between these two types of rice, you can make an educated decision about what fuels your body!
So next time you go through the line at Chipotle, and you are asked if you want brown or white rice – you may just think twice!
Written by: Jessica Beavers, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern