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White Rice vs. Brown Rice: Does It Make a Difference?

For those of us who devour health and nutrition tips, news, and strategies, it seems to have become a hard (and generally accepted) rule that “brown foods” are preferable to their white counterparts. We’re talking, …

For those of us who devour health and nutrition tips, news, and strategies, it seems to have become a hard (and generally accepted) rule that “brown foods” are preferable to their white counterparts. We’re talking, of course, about common carb sources like whole wheat pasta, multigrain bread—and brown rice.

Paired with veggies, beans, and other nutrient-rich foods, brown rice is a staple of a healthy diet—and it’s pretty easy to prepare, too. But its lighter sibling, white rice, is often shunned, or consumed only as a guilty pleasure. Yet the contrast may not be as clear as it seems: in fact, there’s ample evidence that white rice may be just as healthful as brown rice—perhaps even healthier, by some definitions.

The Typical Argument

There are a few reasons that we typically aim to replace white rice with brown—but when held up to closer scrutiny, those reasons don’t look quite as compelling.

For one, we often hear that brown rice contains more dietary fiber and protein, which is true. But take a closer look at the nutritional values of each, and you’ll find that their protein content is almost identical. Brown rice has more fiber, but only a small amount—which could easily be made up by introducing some veggies into your dish.

What About Nutrients?

Brown rice has another thing going for it: it’s chock-full of important micronutrients, like potassium and magnesium, which the body needs. But once again, a closer look reveals some cracks in this argument: Unfortunately, brown rice also contains something called phytate—a villainous anti-nutrient that actually makes it more difficult for your body to make use of those increased micronutrients. Plus, white rice is commonly enriched with nutrients, which can make up a lot of the difference.

Other Important Considerations

Based only on the above categories, it might seem that brown rice has the edge nutritionally—if only slightly—but there’s even more to the picture. First, know that consumption of too much white rice has been shown to lead to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. (But keep in mind that consuming too much brown rice may not be a lot better, according to nutritionists.) However, there’s also the question of arsenic. Though the amounts contained in rice are probably fine for most people, arsenic can be harmful to the body, and there’s more of it in white rice than in brown.

Ultimately, it’s a tough call: some experts swing one way or the other, while others suggest that you simply eat what you prefer (we like that option the best). Either way, the story’s clearly not as “brown and white” as common knowledge suggests.

For further guidance on nutrition and diet, contact us at PMR today!

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