Rice makes up a significant part of the diet for many people around the world. With origins dating back thousands of years ago in southern Asia or Africa, rice now grows in more than 100 countries. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report that rice accounts for 19 percent of all calories available in the world. Read on to learn more about the nutritional differences between white and brown rice, which rice is better in certain situations, and possible risks and considerations.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of cooked, enriched, long-grain white rice provides:
- 205 kilocalories (kcal)
- 25 grams (g) of protein
- 44 g of fat
- 51 g of carbohydrates
- 6 g of fiber
Alternatively, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database lists that 1 cup of cooked, long-grain brown rice provides:
- 248 kcal
- 53 g of protein
- 96 g of fat
- 67 g of carbohydrates
- 2 g of fiber
See below for a table comparing the daily values of vitamins and minerals in 1 cup of cooked, long-grain white or brown rice, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) food labeling guide.
|Vitamin/mineral||Percent daily value
|Percent daily value
White rice is brown rice that has had the bran and germ removed. As a result, white rice lacks some antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, fats, fiber, and a small amount of protein. Many varieties of white rice are enriched to replace the nutrients lost during processing. In the U.S., manufacturers add B vitamins, such as thiamin, niacin, and folic acid, as well as iron. As shown in the table above, brown rice contains higher amounts of vitamins and minerals than white rice, except for iron, folate, and it contains the same amount of selenium. Rice is gentle on the digestive system and generally well-tolerated. Both white and brown rice are naturally gluten-free. Cooling rice after it is cooked results in higher levels of a fiber called resistant starch. This even applies if the cooked, cooled rice is later reheated. This form of fiber may help promote gut health. Both white and brown rice develop more resistant starch when cooled after cooking, but brown rice contains more fiber overall.
Which rice is better?
There may be certain situations in which one type of rice has advantages over the other.
Women who are pregnant, could become pregnant, or are breast-feeding need increased levels of folate. Getting enough folate can help decrease a baby's risk for certain birth abnormalities, especially neural tube defects. Aside from the folate that is naturally present in foods, it is recommended that women who could become pregnant also get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day. Since white rice is fortified with folic acid, it could be a better choice for people with increased folate needs or those at risk of not meeting their folate needs.
Brown rice contains more phosphorus and potassium than white rice, so people with kidney disease may need to limit both these nutrients in their diet.
A low-fiber diet is recommended for certain conditions involving the gut, such as diverticulitis, and diarrhea, and after surgeries that involve the stomach or intestines. White rice contains less fiber than brown rice so may be a better choice when a low-fiber diet is needed. However, brown rice is also relatively low in fiber, so both can work.
In contrast, even though brown rice is only slightly higher in fiber than white rice, it may be a better choice when a person needs to eat a high-fiber diet. Fiber can help promote healthier cholesterol levels, regularity, and weight management. It can also ease constipation.
Since brown rice has not been stripped of its bran and germ, it is significantly higher in many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. This makes it the ideal rice choice for those looking to improve their overall nutrition.
Recently, concerns have arisen over the amount of arsenic in rice. The amount of arsenic in rice varies based on the kind of rice, as well as the soil where it was farmed. Since the bran of rice contains more arsenic than other parts, brown rice may have higher levels than white rice. Concerns regarding cadmium, mercury, and lead in rice have also come up. However, according to an article in Rice Today, there is not enough research to definitely say that toxic elements from rice alone have caused harm in people. In contrast, a 2017 study found a possible relationship between people who eat rice and a higher occurrence of skin cancer. The FDA recommend that adults and children eat a healthful diet that includes a variety of grains. Eating different types of grains is one way to limit exposure to arsenic in rice.
Rice and diabetes
One review of studies looked at the association between white rice intake and risk for type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that eating more white rice was associated with a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, especially in Asian people. They also found that for each serving of white rice eaten per day, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increased by 11 percent. Another study also compared white rice with brown rice in regards to risk for type 2 diabetes. The study also found that eating white rice more frequently was linked to a higher risk for type 2 diabetes. The risk for type 2 diabetes was 17 percent greater in people who consumed 5 or more servings of white rice each week compared with people who ate the least amount of white rice. By contrast, eating brown rice more frequently was linked to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes. People who ate 2 or more servings of brown rice each week had an 11 percent lower risk for type 2 diabetes than people who ate the least amount of brown rice. Researchers concluded that replacing white rice with brown rice could help lower the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Some of the beneficial effects of brown rice may be due to the higher amounts of insoluble fiber and magnesium it contains.
Overall, brown rice seems to be a more healthful choice than white rice. However, there may be certain situations where white rice is a better choice. Both types of rice can fit in a healthful diet. While brown rice contains more fiber than white rice, it has less fiber than many other whole grains. This may make it a good option for people who want to add more whole grains to their diet, but do not currently consume much fiber. Fiber intake should be increased gradually and with adequate fluid intake. This can help prevent symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating.