Side-by-Side: Rice

Conventional wisdom says that brown rice is better than white rice. Is it true?

Eat rice! And if you have diabetes make that brown rice.”

Frank De Lima, Commencement Address to Hawaii’s 2010 Graduates

cc IRRI Images

I admit I’m not a big fan of white rice.

I grew up eating Spanish rice. Long grain rice toasted with onion and garlic, then boiled in broth with whole canned tomatoes—NOT tomato sauce…yum! A bowl of plain, steamed white rice seems bland and uninteresting by comparison.

Here in Hawaii steamed white rice is the starch of choice. It’s everywhere. Automatically you get at least two scoops with every breakfast, lunch and dinner you order in a restaurant or as carryout. And they aren’t petite little ladylike scoops, but big Samoan-sized scoops.

Conventional wisdom says that brown rice is better than white rice. Is it true?

 Let’s look at their nutrition labels side-by-side.

Source: US Rice Federation

There’s actually very little difference in carbs and fiber between white rice and brown rice. For someone with diabetes this means that just because it’s brown doesn’t mean you can have more. The amount of protein is also about the same.

What makes brown rice better nutritionally is that it still has its bran and germ attached. So brown rice is a whole grain, which can help keep your heart and digestion healthy. Being a whole grain and having more fiber also means that brown rice is digested more slowly than white rice.

The US Rice Federation also lists the following fun facts on its website:

  • Rice is the primary dietary staple for more than half of the world’s population. That means it’s cheap, easy to grow and provides a fair amount of calories.
  • Rice is nutrient-dense and contributes over 15 vitamins and minerals, including folic acid and other B-vitamins, iron and zinc. Rice helps nourish more than half of the world’s population.
  • Rice triggers the production of serotonin in the brain, a chemical that helps regulate and improve mood. Rice makes more than half the world’s population happy.

So the question really is how much brown rice to have.

The nutrition facts listed above are for 1/2-cup of cooked rice.

How many servings in a cup of cooked rice?
Source: Hinode

It’s easy to get confused about serving sizes, especially when faced with two giant scoops on your plate lunch or serving suggestions like this one.

If you follow this chart, the 1/2-cup of uncooked rice makes 1-1/2 cups of cooked rice, or three times the amount listed on the nutrition label above.

So Remember: Eat brown rice! Just not too much!

4 thoughts on “Side-by-Side: Rice”

  1. WOW – you have done amazing research. I am looking forward to learning more from your blog and the reference materials you provided. Many thanks!!!

    1. @MEgusa – Thanks for the compliment and encouragement. We’ll do our best to keep it interesting and informative.

  2. Brown rice by itself is thoroughly boring. Few people would be tempted to overeat brown rice by itself. It is best served as a pilaf. In other words with sauted onion, garlic, mushrooms or the like. The flavor would come from broth (veg or meat-based) plus herb or spices. Lots of steamed green vegies can round the plate out to be more filling.

    1. I find most people don’t eat rice (white or brown) by itself. It’s usually smothered in something. While brown rice is better than white rice, it’s still a simple carbohydrate that can drive up blood sugars.

      Of course, brown rice would be better still as a pilaf like you described. Thanks for the suggestion!


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