Brown Rice vs. White Rice
To Americans, rice is the most familiar food eaten in grain form. It is
commonly served as a side dish in American households, but elsewhere it forms
the basis for most meals. In fact, half the world's peoples eat rice as their
stable food. In some languages, the word for "eat" means, "eat rice."
In general, rice is a good source of B vitamins, such as thiamin and niacin,
and also provides iron, phosphorus, and magnesium. Although rice is lower in
protein than other cereal grains, its protein quality is good because it
contains relatively high levels of the amino acid lysine.
Unfortunately, this important food source is usually eaten in most parts of
the world in its least nourishing form – that is, milled and polished to remove
the bran and germ, which contain valuable nutrients. In the United States, white
rice – as this refined form is called – is enriched with two B vitamins –
thiamin and niacin – and iron. But in many countries where it constitutes the
bulk of the diet, enrichment is not a common practice.
When rice is milled and polished the bran portion of the grain is removed.
Like oat bran, rice bran is enjoying a reputation as a cholesterol fighter.
Researchers at the USDA have found that rice bran lowers blood cholesterol in
animals just as much as oat bran. But nutritionists are interested in more than
the fiber content of rice.
Because of the composition of the rice kernel and the way it is milled, the
processed bran ends up containing rice germ, which is rich in oil. Scientists in
Japan and India have found that this highly unsaturated oil also has a
substantial cholesterol-lowering effect. Although brown rice is exceedingly
nutritious, it is not a concentrated source of oil.
Brown rice has had only its husk removed during milling. With the bran
intact, it retains more fiber, folacin, iron, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorus,
zinc, and trace minerals such as copper and manganese, than other types of rice.
Moreover, brown rice is the only form of the grain that contains vitamin E.
Although it is known that brown rice has a higher nutritional value when
compared to the milled and polished rice (white rice) before consumption,
researchers still investigate the nutritional value to humans after consumption
of these two forms of rice. Scientific research has taken its investigation into
many different areas of the nutritional value of brown compared to "white" rice.
These include, 1) Glycemic index, 2) nutrient value, 3) disease prevention, 4)
Vitamin B12 levels, 5) digestibility of proteins, and 6) effect of rice fiber in
the intestinal tract. The reader is invited to review each of the following
areas of research and references to further understand the impact and
nutritional value that the natural unprocessed rice compared to processed rice
has on the human body.
The relative rate at which glucose appears in the blood after the ingestion
of various sources of carbohydrate is measured by the glycemic index of a food
compared with white bread with a glycemic index of 100. This value is especially
important to persons with diabetes.
Rice has given a wide range of results in glycemic index (GI) studies around
the world. The GI of white rice has ranged from as low as 54 to as high as 121.
In a study by Miller JB, et. al., the glycemic index and the insulin response of
various foods were tested and compared. While the GI of the white and brown rice
were similar the insulin response for brown rice was significantly lower than
for white rice. These findings in this study also raise questions about the
value of the GI alone without knowledge of the insulin response to foods. (1)
Cereals are considered an important source of nutrients both in human and
animal nourishment. Because of the concern that nutrients are removed in the
processing of rice, various studies have been conducted to determine the actual
bioavailability of the nutrients after consumption. In a study by Calegare M da
D and Tirapequi J, experimental data did not provide evidence that the brown
rice diet was better than the diet based on white rice in relation to nutrients.
However, in a study by Rensburg SJ, et. al., the effects of various dietary
staples on esophageal carcinogenesis was investigated. (2, 3)
Rensburg noted that epidemiological studies associated large differences of
esophageal cancer risk with the nature of the staple diet. It was apparent that
a greater geographic variation for the incidence of esophageal carcinoma than
for any other cancers would provide clues to causation.
The conclusion from this study suggested that when a diet low in
micronutrients is used habitually, whether in Africa, China, the Middle East, or
in the United States, the risk for esophageal cancer is generally at least 20 to
25 male cases per 100,000 per year, as opposed to a risk some 50 times lower in
equally deprived people not using primarily modern types of corn, wheat, or
Some studies have compared the digestibility of proteins with the consumption
of white rice and brown rice. In a study by Miyoshi H, et. al., where there was
a low protein intake, the brown rice did affect protein metabolism (4). However,
in a study by Bradbury HJ, et al. it was concluded that the protein
digestibility of cooked brown rice was approximately the same as that of cooked
milled rice, hence it is advantageous for those for whom rice is a staple food
to consume brown rather than milled rice. (5)
Recently, there has been a great interest in dietary fiber as a possible
protection against several colonic disorders including diverticular disease,
cancer, and constipation. The fermentation of dietary fiber in human intestines
is well established. Since brown rice contains higher contents of dietary fiber
than the polished rice, it is of interest to determine what effects, if any,
rice fiber exerts on the human fecal microflora.
The effects of brown rice, containing fourfold as much dietary fiber as
polished rice, were determined in a study by Benno Y, et. al. It was determined
that there was significantly increased numbers of beneficial bacteria (probiotics)
during the brown rice intake, whereas the total counts of harmful bacteria
during the intake of brown rice were lower than those before and after the
Dr. Khem Shahani, who has written over 200 papers on the beneficial bacteria,
has repeatedly emphasized the importance of maintaining a balance of the
beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. There are significant studies that
should alert us to the dangers to our health of these harmful bacteria, when
through our diet, drugs, and other means, these beneficial bacteria are depleted
from our intestinal tract.
When you weigh the differences of White rice to Brown rice the health
benefits are extremely in the favor of brown rice for these reasons. When rice
is milled and polished the bran portion of the grain is removed.
Researchers at the USDA have found that rice bran lowers blood cholesterol in
animals just as much as oat bran. Moreover, brown rice is the only form of the
grain that contains vitamin E.
Cancer risk is some 50 times lower in equally deprived people not using
primarily modern types of corn, wheat, or polished rice.
Brown rice has a higher nutritional value when compared to the milled and
polished rice (white rice). While the GI of the white and brown rice were
similar the insulin response for brown rice was significantly lower than for
It was determined that there was significantly increased numbers of
beneficial bacteria (probiotics) during the brown rice intake, whereas the total
counts of harmful bacteria during the intake of brown rice were lower than those
before and after the intake.
The bottom line is this: Whenever you take a natural food from nature and
change its composition or strip nutrients from it, you will always have less
human nutritional benefits. Just another lesson that Mother Nature knows best.
1. Miller JB, et. al. Rice: a high or low glycemic food? Am J Clin Nutr
2. Callegaro M da D, et. al. Comparison of the nutritional value between
brown rice and white rice. Arq Castroenterol. 1996;33(4):225-31.
3. Schalk J van R, et. al. Effects of various dietary staples on esophageal
carcinogenesis induced in rats by subcutaneously administered N-nitrosomethylbenzylamine.
J. of National Cancer Inst. 1985;75:561-566.
4. Miyoshi H, et. al. Effects of brown rice on apparent digestibility and
balance of nutrients in young men on low protein diets. J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol.
5. Bradbury HJ, et. al. Digestibility of proteins of the histological
components of cooked and raw rice. British J. of Nutr. 1984;52:507-513.
6. Benno Y, et. al. Effect of rice fiber on human fecal microflora. Microbiol.