I recently had a friend ask me what the difference is between brown and white rice, and which she should be eating. I think a common perception is that white rice is bad for you. Then again, some people are now saying that brown rice is bad for you. First, let me just stress the importance of bio-individuality. The concept of bio-individuality is that each and every one of us is made differently. Our bodies are all different and react differently. The foods that nourish your body could harm someone else’s body. Take dairy, for example. You might drink a glass of milk every day and feel great, but to someone who is lactose-intolerant, they will become very ill from drinking that same glass of milk. Keep this concept in mind as we look at the pros and cons of both white and brown rice.
White and brown rice both start out as the exact same grain. When only the husk is removed from the rice, you have brown rice. If you take it a step further, the brown rice goes through a milling process to strip all of the bran and germ from the rice, leaving mostly starch. Now you have white rice. As a consequence of removing the bran and germ, the rice loses a lot of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals naturally found in the grain. Beyond that, the milling process of stripping bran and germ from the grain causes white rice to have a higher glycemic index than brown rice. A higher glycemic index means that it raises your blood sugar more quickly – and constant spikes in blood sugar are not good for you.
On the flip side, because of the fiber and germ naturally found in brown rice, it can be more difficult to digest for some people. Brown rice also naturally contains phytic acid. Phytic acid binds to minerals like zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium, which can prevent their absorption into the body. Phytic acid is found in many foods that we consume daily, so in small amounts it is not harmful, but in large quantities it may lead to mineral deficiencies in some people. That being said, rinsing and/or soaking brown rice prior to cooking will help reduce the amount of phytic acid.
To put it simply, brown rice has all of its bran layers intact, which means that it contains all of its natural nutrients. It contains B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, amino acids, and fiber. Brown rice can balance blood sugar and promote healthy digestion. On the other hand, white rice has been stripped of its natural fiber and nutrients, which makes it easier to digest and perhaps a better choice for those with poor digestion (or an upset tummy). So in my opinion, white rice is fine in moderation, but brown rice is more nutritious for you. If I have the choice between brown and white rice, I generally opt for brown rice because of its wholesome nutrients. However, if my only option is white rice, I’m not afraid of eating it. Or, if I have an upset stomach, I do opt for white rice.
So in conclusion, try them both out and see how your body reacts to each. Pay attention to how you feel. You may find that one is better than the other for you. Or you may find that you want to rotate both into your diet. As always, listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.