Difference Between White and Brown Rice | Nutrition Profile of Brown Rice & White Rice | Benefits of Brown Rice vs White Rice | White & Brown Rice for Intermittent Fasting
Whether made at home or from your favorite take-out restaurant, rice is a staple food in many diets and cultures. Rice makes the perfect base or side dish for a variety of meals, as it is both filling and budget-friendly. This is why rice is a popular carbohydrate choice.
From wild rice to basmati rice, there are many different varieties of rice. Perhaps the most common options are white or brown rice. Some prefer the light and fluffy texture of white rice while others enjoy the rich and nutty flavor of brown rice. But, you may wonder, which one is healthier?
There has been a lot of debate and discussion in terms of brown rice vs. white rice nutrition. Each rice type has its own nutrition profile that includes which nutrients and benefits it offers. So, what exactly is the difference in regards to overall health and even weight loss? In this article, we will explore the difference between white and brown rice, analyze brown rice vs white rice nutrition and answer the question, “Is brown rice healthier than white rice?”
What is the Difference Between White and Brown Rice?
Originating in Asia, rice has been grown and eaten as a staple food for centuries. Rice makes the perfect pantry staple since it is both easy to make and inexpensive. There are over 40,000 varieties of rice, but the more common options include brown rice and white rice. Rice is primarily all carbohydrate and contains little to no fat or protein. It’s also gluten-free which makes it a great option for those with gluten sensitivities or gluten intolerance.
Let’s break down exactly what the difference is between brown rice and white rice. White rice goes through a process of refining and polishing the rice grain. During this process, the outer layers of the rice grain are removed. The bran layer and germ layer are removed and the rice product that is left only contains the endosperm. This endosperm contains a higher starch content than the other parts of the rice grain. With these parts removed, white rice does not have the darker color of brown rice.
White rice has become popular for its neutral flavor and fluffy texture. It’s extremely versatile and often used as a stand alone side dish, in a stir-fry, or used in fried rice. Additionally, white rice cooks quicker than brown rice which is why many choose white rice over brown rice.
Whole grain or Brown rice, on the other hand, contains the intact rice grain which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran and germ contain larger amounts of certain vitamins and minerals as well as more fiber than the endosperm alone. Brown rice is a darker color compared to white rice since it contains the bran and germ layers. It is considered a 100% whole grain.
With a nutty flavor and chewy texture, brown rice is often eaten in casseroles, salads, and bowls. It’s higher fiber content provides a fuller feeling than white rice. When you feel fuller after a high-fiber meal, less calories are consumed. Because of this, brown rice can support brown rice weight loss.
Nutrition Profile of Brown Rice vs White Rice
Now that we know the differences between brown and white rice, you may be thinking, “Is white rice or brown rice better?” To answer that question, we can look at the nutritional profile of each one.
In the US, white rice is fortified with certain nutrients such as folic acid, thiamin, niacin, and iron in order to compensate for nutrient deficiencies. These nutrients do not naturally appear in white rice as they do in brown rice. In the table below, we will compare the nutritional values of brown rice versus white rice.
|Brown Rice (1 cup)
|White Rice (1 cup)
From the table above, we see that although white rice and brown rice are similar in calories and carbohydrates, brown rice naturally contains more nutrients as well as fiber. Rice can be part of a healthy diet, but brown rice is healthier than white rice.
Benefits of Brown Rice versus White Rice
Even though brown rice is healthier than white rice, white rice can still offer benefits as part of a balanced diet. Below, we will compare exactly what benefits rice can provide.
Effects on blood sugar
Rice is considered high on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a certain food will raise your blood sugar. The higher a food ranks on the glycemic index, the faster it will raise your blood sugar. While there are several factors that contribute to a food’s ranking on the glycemic index, generally foods that have a higher fiber content have a lower glycemic index ranking.
Those who have insulin resistance or diabetes will want to choose foods that are lower on the glycemic index to avoid sharp spikes or dips in their blood sugar. White rice is high on the glycemic index as it has very little fiber content. Studies have shown that consumption of white rice was associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, brown rice was shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Other varieties of rice have even lower glycemic index loads including basmati rice, wild rice, and red rice. However, since all rice is primarily carbohydrates, it’s best to pair rice with a protein or healthy fat for even more blood sugar control. Read here for more ways to lower blood sugar naturally.
Even though white rice and brown rice have similar calorie amounts, brown rice is encouraged to aid in weight loss. This is because the higher fiber and nutrient content of brown rice will help to keep you fuller longer.
One study showed that a higher intake of whole grains was associated with a healthier body weight. It’s also been shown to reduce body weight and waist circumference when substituted for white rice. Since brown rice is a whole grain, it is a good option for those wanting to lose weight.
Heart disease risk
While there have been mixed results for brown rice alone, studies show that eating a diet full in whole grains reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease. One study showed that substituting brown rice can decrease inflammatory markers and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.
When it comes to white or brown rice, brown rice is definitely higher in antioxidants. This is because of the bran in brown rice, which is removed during the refining process of white rice. Antioxidants are important because they help your body fight free radicals, which can contribute to the development of certain cancers. Brown rice specifically contains phytochemicals which can also lower inflammation.
Is White or Brown Rice Better for Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an evidence based approach to not only lose weight, but also for your overall health. Contrary to a diet that lists what you can and cannot eat, intermittent fasting is simply a schedule of when you eat, called an eating window. During the remaining hours (or days) you don’t consume any calories which is called your fasting window. There are many different types of intermittent fasting schedules that can work for nearly all lifestyles or work schedules.
While there isn’t a specific list of what you can and cannot eat, a generally healthy diet is encouraged while intermittent fasting. This is because you are consuming all of your calories (along with your vitamins and minerals!) during a shortened period of time. You want to make those meals especially nutritious during this shortened window of time that you are eating.
For this reason, a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats is recommended. It’s important to eat a wide variety of each of these types of foods to ensure your body is getting the necessary nutrients. This is where brown rice becomes the better option instead of white rice.
Since brown rice is rich in antioxidants, minerals, and fiber, you are getting more bang for your buck so to speak when you choose brown rice. Plus, it makes the perfect base for things like salads and grain bowls. Just add your favorite protein (like chicken or beans), healthy fats (like avocado or sliced almonds), and a fruit or vegetable topping (like roasted sweet potatoes or dried cranberries) and you have yourself a healthy and balanced meal.
If you don’t know where to start in finding a balanced eating plan while intermittent fasting, check out one of our easy to follow intermittent fasting meal plans.
The bottom line is that brown rice is healthier than white rice. Even though white rice has some nutrients, many of the nutrients and fiber are removed during the refining process. Since brown rice contains more fiber, it will help to keep you fuller longer and with fewer calories.
This provides many benefits which includes aiding in weight loss, better blood sugar control, and more antioxidants. This is why brown rice is not only healthier than white rice, but it also makes for a better choice while practicing intermittent fasting.