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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
Rice
vs
Brown 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
Rice
2
:
Contains more Folate +544.4%
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 +∞%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.178
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.38
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%
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%
Contains more Folate +544.4%
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 +∞%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.178
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.38

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 Calcium +233.3%
Contains more Iron +114.3%
Contains less Sodium -75%
Contains more Magnesium +225%
Contains more Phosphorus +139.5%
Contains more Potassium +145.7%
Contains more Zinc +44.9%
Contains more Copper +53.6%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 3% 45% 9% 19% 4% 1% 14% 24%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 1% 22% 28% 45% 8% 1% 20% 36%
Contains more Calcium +233.3%
Contains more Iron +114.3%
Contains less Sodium -75%
Contains more Magnesium +225%
Contains more Phosphorus +139.5%
Contains more Potassium +145.7%
Contains more Zinc +44.9%
Contains more Copper +53.6%

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

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

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Rice Brown 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
13
Rice
14
Brown rice
Mineral Summary Score
14
Rice
20
Brown 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%
Rice
16%
Brown rice
Carbohydrates
28%
Rice
26%
Brown rice
Fats
1%
Rice
4%
Brown 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. Rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168878/nutrients
  2. Brown rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169704/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.