White rice vs Brown rice - Health benefits and Nutrition Comparison
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.
Table of contents
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in minerals|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|