Is brown rice healthy or is it just a fad? This is a question some of you may be asking. You may have noticed a rise in the popularity of brown rice as a health food, even though white rice still prevails as the first choice.
So, is brown rice healthy as an alternative? Or should we just remain loyal customers of regular, white rice? What does the brown option have to offer? Let’s look at the facts, as well as some of the drawbacks of the food.
What Is Brown Rice?
Brown rice is what most people call whole grain rice. After harvesting, only the inedible outer hull is removed. In contrast, white rice is produced by removing the hull as well as the bran and the cereal germ. The bran is the harder outer layer of the rice seed. Meanwhile, the cereal germ is the reproductive part of the seed from which a new rice plant would grow if the seed was planted.
Is brown rice healthy? Well, both the bran and the germ—not only of rice but also of any other grain—are highly nutritious. Rice bran is rich in necessary dietary fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. The germ is rich in healthy polyunsaturated fats. Since brown rice keeps the bran and germ intact, it is significantly more nutritious than processed white rice.
Items That Contain Brown Rice
Rice is eaten everywhere around the world. Anywhere that regular white rice is purchased, brown rice will also be, though with less popularity. So, food items that are most likely to feature brown rice include items from:
- East Asian cuisine;
- South Asian cuisine;
- Mediterranean and Levant cuisine;
- Latin American and Spanish cuisine;
- African cuisine;
- American traditional cuisines such as Cajun, Creole, and Southern cooking.
Brown rice is usually purchased uncooked, by itself. However, you may also find items that contain brown rice in prepared dishes such as salads, whether you purchase it in a restaurant or in the food section of a supermarket.
Dangers of Brown Rice
- Brown rice goes bad quicker: The germ of a brown rice kernel is rich in polyunsaturated fats. Though such fats are good for the human body, the presence of oils in brown rice means that it goes bad more quickly on the pantry shelf. A longer shelf life gives white rice a practical advantage.
- Brown rice takes longer to cook: Because the harder outer layers of the rice kernel are preserved, brown rice takes longer to fully cook. This can constitute a drain on time and resources, compared to white rice.
- Brown rice can contain higher levels of arsenic: Rice plants tend to accumulate arsenic, a poisonous chemical element. The bran has more arsenic than other parts of the plant, and brown rice has the bran intact. There is some concern that eating a lot of brown rice could put too much arsenic into the body.
- Brown rice contains phytic acid: Phytic acid reduces nutrient absorption in the digestive tract. It is not clear how much the phytic acid cancels out the nutritive advantages of brown rice over white rice. Certain soaking methods can take away most of the phytic acid in brown rice.
Are There Benefits to Brown Rice?
If you can deal with the drawbacks of brown rice, then you can enjoy big benefits. Is brown rice healthy? The answer is a resounding YES. Compared to white rice, one cup of brown rice contains 10% fewer calories, 25% more protein, and 7 times the fiber. As for vitamins and minerals, compared to white rice, brown rice has:
- 6.5 times more thiamine;
- 3 times more niacin and vitamin B6;
- Also, 3.5 times the magnesium;
- 3 times the iron and manganese;
- Twice as much calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper;
- 50% more zinc.
Brown rice has an obvious nutrition advantage over white rice. But, pointing out the vitamin and mineral content is not the only answer to the question, is brown rice healthy? The fiber content is also a huge factor in why brown rice is better for you. You may already know that eating plenty of fiber helps regulate your bowel movements and prevent constipation. A higher fiber content also means you stay full longer. This is crucial for those of us who want to watch our weight, as eating foods that keep you full for a long time help you eat less food overall.
One last advantage of brown rice is that it has only about 75% of the impact on your blood sugar of white rice. This information is of interest to people who have diabetes or other metabolic disorders, or who are at risk for them.
To the Rice
So, is brown rice healthy? It definitely is, even if it does have some minor disadvantages. The small inconveniences associated with brown rice are well worth the extra nutrition.
Share this article with someone you know who eats a lot of white rice to open their eyes.
The images are from pixabay.com.