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White rice vs Brown rice - Health benefits and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Zvart Movsisyan by Zvart Movsisyan | Last updated on November 29, 2020
Education: Medical biochemistry MD
Brown rice
vs
Rice

Summary

Brown rice is richer in fiber and choline in nutritional comparison to white rice. Brown rice is again the titleholder in vitamin content, especially with vitamins B2 and B3. However, white rice is higher in vitamin B9.

In terms of mineral content, brown rice is richer again, particularly in magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Brown rice is higher in phytic acid and arsenic content compared to white rice due to the former's preserved outer layers. Small amounts of phytate can reduce the risk of some diseases associated with hyperabsorption of minerals, whereas significant amounts can lead to mineral deficiency and associated diseases.

White rice is higher in carbohydrates, including net carbs, while brown rice is richer in dietary fiber.

White rice has a longer shelf life, and it takes shorter to cook.

Enjoy and share the comparison infographic below.

Introduction

Rice is a commonly consumed grain eaten by more than half of the world's population. There are more than thousands of rice varieties, and it is considered the second highest-produced crop, just after corn.

The origins of rice have caused a long debate (1). Many archaeologists believe that rice originated from India, while others argue that, based on some evidence, rice owes its origin to South Central China. Both of the theories may be dated back to about 5000 B.C.

Nowadays, rice has a special dedicated day among the New Year festivals in China. The most widely used types of rice today are brown and white.

Brown rice is a whole grain, consisting of carb-rich endosperm, nutritious germ, and fibrous bran, with only the outer husk removed, whereas white rice is a refined, polished grain, with the bran and germ removed, losing by this way most of the vitamins and minerals. It is believed by a number of people that brown rice is better with its nutritional germ and bran, but then again, white rice is mainly artificially enriched by vitamins and minerals to make up for the lack of them.

So which one is better and healthier? In order to find out the answer, let's have a little comparison to reveal the pros and cons of each one.

Nutritional Content

Before passing to the next question, we would like to emphasize that all the comparative information in the charts below is outlined for cooked brown rice and cooked white rice since we consume both of them in this state.

As you can see in the data below, white rice wins with lower sugar, sodium, saturated fat content, and price. On the other hand, brown rice is richer in choline and fiber and contains fewer net carbs and calories.

Vitamins

In terms of vitamins, brown rice is the winner with notably higher levels of vitamin B3 and vitamin B2 and slightly higher vitamin E, vitamin B6, and vitamin K content. By contrast, white rice is higher in folate (vitamin B9).

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
2
Rice
Contains more Vitamin E +325%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +430.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +73.5%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +32.3%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Folate +544.4%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.163
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.39
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 4% 0% 0% 45% 16% 49% 23% 29% 7% 0% 1%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 1% 0% 0% 41% 3% 28% 24% 22% 44% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin E +325%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +430.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +73.5%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +32.3%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Folate +544.4%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.163
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.39

Minerals

In the matter of minerals, brown rice wins hands down again. As you can easily notice from the charts below, brown rice is much higher in magnesium, phosphorus and slightly higher in potassium, copper, and zinc. White rice, on the other hand, is higher in iron and calcium, lower in sodium.

It is deducible that brown rice is a medal-holder in nutritional content comparison. So there isn't any misconception about the nutritional value of brown rice.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains more Magnesium +225%
Contains more Phosphorus +139.5%
Contains more Potassium +145.7%
Contains more Zinc +44.9%
Contains more Copper +53.6%
Contains more Calcium +233.3%
Contains more Iron +114.3%
Contains less Sodium -75%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 1% 22% 28% 45% 8% 1% 20% 36%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 3% 45% 9% 19% 4% 1% 14% 24%
Contains more Magnesium +225%
Contains more Phosphorus +139.5%
Contains more Potassium +145.7%
Contains more Zinc +44.9%
Contains more Copper +53.6%
Contains more Calcium +233.3%
Contains more Iron +114.3%
Contains less Sodium -75%

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Brown rice is higher in choline and fiber. Choline is an essential nutrient, neither a vitamin nor a mineral. It is important for liver function, lipid transport and metabolism, muscle movement, cell membrane signaling as a part of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Choline is crucial for brain and memory development in the fetus. It decreases the risk of neural tube defect development (2). Fiber contributes to the proper functions of the gastrointestinal tract and the cardiovascular system, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Brown rice is higher in vitamins B2, B3, B6, which all together, as a part of the "B vitamin complex," convert carbohydrates into glucose. In this way, these vitamins ensure adequate energy levels, reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels, prevent and treat some types of anemia, protect our eyesight, hair and skin, and, as an antioxidant, prevent neurological diseases and different types of cancer. On the other hand, white rice is rich in folate (vitamin B9), which is crucial for the proper formation of future parents' germ cells and the development of the fetus' brain, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. It reduces blood homocysteine levels, preventing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques and damage of blood vessels.

According to a study published in 2011, (3) consumption of brown rice in place of white rice may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. The authors estimated that replacing 50 grams/day intake of white rice with the same amount of brown rice had been associated with a 16% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Downsides and Risks

Have you already made your choice? Slow down; be careful about overeating brown rice because it contains antinutrients and arsenic. The main antinutrient of brown rice is phytic acid or phytate. Phytate binds metal ions, especially zinc, calcium, and iron, making insoluble salts, which reduces their absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. That is why excessive consumption of brown rice may lead to a mineral deficiency. Alternatively, the ability of phytate to bind minerals has some protective effects, such as decreasing iron-mediated colon cancer risk, minimizing calcification and kidney stone formation, lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels ( 4, 5).

According to research published in 2008 (6) that utilized synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence to locate arsenic in white and brown rice grains, brown rice had a higher proportion of inorganic arsenic than white rice. High concentrations of arsenic increase the risks of cancer and coronary heart disease.

Storing and Preparation Time

White rice may have indefinite shelf life due to its specific processing, when it loses bran, containing a huge amount of oils. Brown rice, by contrast, has a shorter shelf life. Due to the higher oil content contained in bran, brown rice quickly goes rancid after about 6 months. But don't be upset, there are some options that will help you store brown rice for a longer period.

From the very start, it is necessary to point out that both brown and white rice should be stored in clean, dry, airtight containers. These points are critical because rice quickly absorbs dirt, humidity, and oxygen, which spoil rice. In these containers, you can store white rice for up to 30 years in a cool, dry place with oxygen absorbers in the container. To prolong the shelf life of brown rice, you may store it in the refrigerator for up to 6-12 months and up to 12-18 months in the freezer.

Preparation times of white and brown rice are different again. The cooking time of white rice is about 20 minutes, whereas brown rice's cooking time is about 40 minutes. In this part, white rice is evidently the winner with longer shelf life and shorter preparation time.

White rice vs Brown rice

  1. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/rice/history-rice/debating-origins-rice
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15234930
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3024208/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8777015
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19774556
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18351071
Article author photo Zvart Movsisyan
Education: Medical biochemistry MD
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Brown rice vs Rice infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Brown rice Rice
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Brown rice Rice Opinion
Net carbs 23.98g 27.77g Rice
Protein 2.74g 2.69g Brown rice
Fats 0.97g 0.28g Brown rice
Carbs 25.58g 28.17g Rice
Calories 123kcal 130kcal Rice
Starch 24.79g g Brown rice
Fructose 0g g Brown rice
Sugar 0.24g 0.05g Rice
Fiber 1.6g 0.4g Brown rice
Calcium 3mg 10mg Rice
Iron 0.56mg 1.2mg Rice
Magnesium 39mg 12mg Brown rice
Phosphorus 103mg 43mg Brown rice
Potassium 86mg 35mg Brown rice
Sodium 4mg 1mg Rice
Zinc 0.71mg 0.49mg Brown rice
Copper 0.106mg 0.069mg Brown rice
Vitamin A 0IU 0IU
Vitamin E 0.17mg 0.04mg Brown rice
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B1 0.178mg 0.163mg Brown rice
Vitamin B2 0.069mg 0.013mg Brown rice
Vitamin B3 2.561mg 1.476mg Brown rice
Vitamin B5 0.38mg 0.39mg Rice
Vitamin B6 0.123mg 0.093mg Brown rice
Folate 9µg 58µg Rice
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 0.2µg 0µg Brown rice
Tryptophan 0.033mg 0.031mg Brown rice
Threonine 0.095mg 0.096mg Rice
Isoleucine 0.109mg 0.116mg Rice
Leucine 0.214mg 0.222mg Rice
Lysine 0.099mg 0.097mg Brown rice
Methionine 0.058mg 0.063mg Rice
Phenylalanine 0.133mg 0.144mg Rice
Valine 0.151mg 0.164mg Rice
Histidine 0.066mg 0.063mg Brown rice
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat 0g g Rice
Saturated Fat 0.26g 0.077g Rice
Monounsaturated Fat 0.369g 0.088g Brown rice
Polyunsaturated fat 0.366g 0.076g Brown rice

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Brown rice Rice
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
14
Brown rice
13
Rice
Mineral Summary Score
20
Brown rice
14
Rice

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
16%
Brown rice
16%
Rice
Carbohydrates
26%
Brown rice
28%
Rice
Fats
4%
Brown rice
1%
Rice

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Rice
Rice is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.19g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Rice
Rice contains less Sodium (difference - 3mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Rice
Rice is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.183g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Rice
Rice is lower in glycemic index (difference - 6)
Which food is cheaper?
Rice
Rice is cheaper (difference - $1)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Brown rice
Brown rice is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Brown rice
Brown rice is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Brown rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169704/nutrients
  2. Rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168878/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.