What is the Difference Between White Rice and Brown Rice?

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What is the Difference Between White Rice and Brown Rice?
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What is the Difference Between White Rice and Brown Rice?

In order to fully understand which rice may be better for you, it's important to know what each is, along with benefits and risks it may bring to the table.

What is Brown Rice?

Brown rice is a whole grain. Unrefined, its germ and bran layer are left intact, and are not removed (like white rice) during the milling process. The hull, otherwise known as the outermost layer of the grain, is the only layer removed.

Brown rice is reported to protect the body against heart disease, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, reduce risk of developing metabolic syndrome and childhood asthma, prevent the formation of gallstones, lower cholesterol and help control weight gain.

Health Benefits of Brown Rice

Brown rice is packed full of vitamins and minerals. One cup offers 86 mg of magnesium, 4.5 g protein, 3.5 g of fiber and 1.2 mg of zinc.

What is White Rice?

Consider white rice to be exactly what it is: stripped brown rice. White rice is refined and processed to create a fluffier, less gritty product. The hull, bran and germ layers are all removed, so that only the inner white kernel remains. The grain is then enriched and fortified with vitamins (primarily vitamin B) and minerals (primarily iron), much of what was lost during processing.

White rice has a longer shelf life, and usually serves as a low-allergy food.

Health Facts for White Rice

White rice contains minimal traces of protein and dietary fiber. It offers vitamins thiamin, folate and niacin, and minerals magnesium, calcium, iron and maganese. Though, during milling, according to Whole Foods, 67 percent of vitamin B3, 80 percent of vitamin B1, 90 percent of vitamin B6, half of maganese, half of phosphorus and 60 percent of iron are removed.

As the battle between white and brown rice presses on, recent studies have revealed more facts causing concern for our overall health. Not only are there significant nutritional differences between white and brown rice, but there may be an additional reason to be more concerned about overall consumption.

The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study following over 352,000 subjects and their diets for the span of 22 years. Three studies in Asia, three studies in the US and one in Australia revealed that those who ate the most white rice had a 55 percent increase in risk for type 2 diabetes. Refined products, such as white rice, have a higher glycemic index (GI), causing rapid spikes in blood sugar, thus increasing your risk for diabetes.

Foods with a lower GI, such as brown rice, take longer to digest causing a much more gentle and slower change in blood sugar levels.

According to an analysis conducted by Consumer Reports, varying levels of arsenic were discovered within essentially all rice products tested. While it has not yet been confirmed, research has proved to show that arsenic consumption can potentially cause bladder and lung cancer.

The kicker? While brown rice offers more nutritional benefit, among most brands tested, it tested higher in arsenic levels than white rice. During the milling process, three layers are removed from white rice--the hull, bran and germ--consequently removing much of the arsenic, while only the hull is removed from brown rice.


When it comes to food, we feel Mother Nature usually knows best. This may be particularly true in the ever-popular debate concerning white vs. brown rice. Is white rice bad for your health? Should we make the switch to brown rice? What about dropping rice from our diets all together?

We thought we had the nutritional differences nailed down to a science and our minds all made up, when we uncovered a few additional surprises that raised cause for concern. To learn more about rice and your health, Check out the slideshow above.

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