Brown Rice Versus White Rice: Which is Best?

Replacing white rice with brown rice can help reduce risk of diabetes. Consuming more brown rice and other whole grains can have positive health benefits.

Rice is the most eaten grain in the world. In the United States, rice is well known as a staple food in some far away exotic countries. However, rice’s popularity is seeing a surge among American consumers; white rice particularly.

But as Americans are trying to eat more healthfully, some have become conflicted between the perceived ease and better taste of white rice and the superior nutrition profile of brown rice, particularly in view of the push to eat more whole grains. Which should you pick?

Brown Rice and Diabetes

Brown rice, as with any other whole grain, still owns all three of its parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. White rice (or white wheat flour), has lost the germ and the bran.

This is significant because both of these parts contain most of the nutritional value. Indeed, the bran is full of fiber and the germ provides antioxidants, healthy fatty acids, and other vitamins and minerals. What’s left when the grain has been processed, the endosperm, contains little more than carbohydrates and some protein.

When it comes to brown rice, research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that a high brown rice intake (two or more servings per week versus less than one per month) was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Conversely, a high intake of white rice (five or more servings per week versus less than one serving per month) tended to promote type 2 diabetes. Researchers estimated that replacing the equivalent of one-third serving of white rice per day with the same amount of brown rice was linked to a 16 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. However, the same replacement with other whole grains triggered and average of 36 percent lower diabetes risk.

Brown Rice and Other Whole Grains Intake When Diabetes is Present

The benefits of brown rice and whole grains in general don’t stop if one has diabetes already. Indeed, a research published in Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association, demonstrated that whole grains (including brown rice) and bran intakes were associated with a reduced mortality from all causes as well as mortality related to cardio-vascular disease in women with diabetes.

Tips to Increase Intake of Whole Grains

Whole grains may help reduce risk of diabetes but they also help improve digestive health, manage hunger, and reduce blood cholesterol among other benefits. Choosing brown rice over white rice whenever rice is on the menu is an easy substitution.

Here are other tips:

  • Have oatmeal at breakfast, or make sure your breakfast cereal is made from whole grains.
  • Use whole wheat or other whole grain pasta.
  • Popcorn is a great whole grain. Air popped without excessive amounts of salt and butter is best.
  • Choose crackers made with whole wheat, but be careful. Just because the label says “wheat” does not mean it contain whole wheat. Look for the word “whole” in the ingredient list. It should be the first ingredient.
  • For more suggestions, visit the Whole Grains Council site.

References:

  • He, Mein et al. “Whole-Grain, Cereal Fiber, Bran, and Germ Intake and the Risks of All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease-Specific Mortality Among Women With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Circulation. 2010; 121:2162-2168.
  • Sun, Qi et al. “White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women.” Arch Intern Med. 2010; 170(11): 961-969.

Leave a Comment