If increasing your fiber and protein intake is not a top priority, you may as well just stick to white rice

By Catherine Orda | Photo by Aaron Burden /Unsplash

Much has been said about the nutritional superiority of whole grain over its refined counterpart. And there’s probably good reason for how these two are treated. When it comes to rice, the brown variety is heralded as the healthier option since it contains more fiber. White rice on the other hand requires enrichment to make it nutritious, but is preferred by most people because of its taste and texture. However, new research is suggesting that the case for brown rice (and against white rice) isn’t as simple as it seems. Here’s what you need to know:

Brown Rice Versus White Rice

Brown rice and white rice are really just the same grain. The differences between the two are rooted in how much they’ve been milled. White rice is milled longer so that the bran and germ are removed and only the white endosperm portion of the grain is left. The milling process of brown rice leaves it with the bran and the germ, which is what makes it richer in fiber and protein relative to white rice.

A study found that there is no “evidence suggesting that the brown rice diet is better than the diet based on white rice.”

The removal of the outer layer also makes white rice have a higher glycemic index, which means that your body breaks it down more quickly and creates higher levels of blood sugar. It’s also worth taking note of the numbers, which prove to be very promising: Brown rice contains 43 percent more protein, 105 percent more fiber, and 425 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than white rice.

So Is Brown Rice Really a Healthier Choice?

In certain specific cases, yes. But if you were less meticulous about the whole thing—that is, if you’re not necessarily on the lookout for getting a certain amount of fiber or protein, or your blood sugar levels are not a concern—there really isn’t much of a difference between the two. A study found that there is no “evidence suggesting that the brown rice diet is better than the diet based on white rice.” Research has also found that brown rice contains some substances such as phytic acid, which can slightly undermine its nutritional advantage.

So while there appears to be a significant nutritional content gap between these two versions of the same grain, opting to eat white rice isn’t necessarily an unhealthy choice. It also doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on nutrition. As long as your diet is widely varied and you meet your daily quota of fruits and vegetables (which are the best sources of nutrients), you’ll be getting most of the nutrients you need.