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Should I Eat Brown Rice Instead of White Rice?

Nutrition Q&A


Updated August 07, 2014

Rice Varieties on Burlap
Lilli Day/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Mark asks, "I know I'm supposed to eat more whole grains. Does that include rice? If so, should I eat brown rice instead of white rice?"

According to the United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans, half of all grains consumed should be whole grains. These include foods made from whole wheat, oats, barley, cornmeal and brown rice. White rice -- like foods made with white flour -- is considered a refined grain.

That means that swapping out your white rice for brown rice is an excellent way to up your whole grain consumption.

What's the Difference?

White rice is simply brown rice that's had it's covering, called the hull, removed. White rice cooks faster and has a fluffier texture than brown rice, so it tends to be more popular.

But when the full is removed, a lot of the fiber goes with it. A cup of brown rice has 3 1/2 grams of fiber while white rice has less than one gram of fiber.

We all need from 28 to 35 grams of fiber in our diet every day, so those extra grams can make quite a difference.

Health Benefits of Brown Rice

Brown rice fiber is good for your digestive system, and it helps slow down the absorption of the starchy white part. Research studies have shown that eating a high-fiber diet is also good for managing cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. That's not specific to brown rice fiber -- it also includes all sources of whole grain fiber.

Brown rice maintains magnesium, manganese, and zinc, which are all lost when the rice is refined. But while white rice has lost those minerals, but it's often fortified with iron, and some B vitamins. That's a good thing, but the white rice is still missing the fiber.

Cooking and Serving Brown Rice

Some people love the chewier texture and stronger flavor of brown rice. That makes it easy -- just buy brown rice instead of white. But for some, it takes a little while to get used to the difference. In that case, experiment with different side dishes and pilafs -- brown rice can be blended with other cereal grains like wild rice or quinoa.

Brown rice takes longer than white rice to cook, and you'll need to increase the amount of water just a little bit. Follow the directions on the packaging for the best results.

Recipes Using Brown Rice


Cho SS, Qi L, Fahey GC Jr, Klurfeld DM. "Consumption of cereal fiber, mixtures of whole grains and bran, and whole grains and risk reduction in type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease." Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;98(2):594-619.

DietaryGuidelines.gov. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010." Accessed July 7, 2014. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/.

Agricultural Research Service United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 26. "Basic Report: 20037, Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked." Accessed July 7, 2014. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6385.

Agricultural Research Service United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 26. "Basic Report: 20045, Rice, white, long-grain, regular, cooked, enriched." Accessed July 7, 2014. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6390.


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