Rice is the seed of the grass species Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima. As a cereal grain, it is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in Asia.
When people think about unhealthy, refined foods they often think of one color: white. And oftentimes this unhealthy, white food has a healthy brown counterpart. White sugar and brown sugar, white flour and whole flour etc.
Although it may be true for most foods that white version is unhealthier than the brown version, rice seems to be one of the only exceptions.
White Rice vs Brown Rice
The common conception about rice is that white rice is bad for you and brown rice is good for you. So, in order to even the playing field, I’m going to discuss the common misconceptions that people have about both. Let’s start off by talking about why people think white rice is so bad.
White Rice and Blood Sugar
The main reason why people trying to be healthy avoid white rice is because they assume that it will spike your blood sugar if you eat it. This misconception is mainly due to the fact that other white carbohydrate foods, such as white bread, have such as high glycemic index.
However, in rice’s case, it is not the color of the rice that determines its blood sugar-raising properties, but the type of rice that it is. For example, basmati rice has an incredibly low glycemic index regardless of whether it is brown or white.
In fact, one study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that brown basmati rice actually raised blood glucose levels more than white basmati rice.
During the study, researchers fed 14 healthy participants 11 different types of rice, among them were white basmati rice and brown basmati rice. The researchers then measured each participant’s blood glucose levels to determine which type of rice belonged in the low glycemic index category (meaning they didn’t raise blood sugar) or the medium-high glycemic index category (meaning they did raise blood sugar).
By the end of the study, researchers had determined that white basmati rice belonged in the low glycemic index category while brown basmati rice belonged in the medium-high glycemic index category. This proves that the color of rice alone does not determine whether or not it will spike your blood sugar.
Brown Rice and Phytates
Although brown rice isn’t bad for you, per se, there are a lot of reason for you to choose white rice over it (aside from the fact that it tastes better). For one, brown rice contains more phytates than white rice.
Phytates, otherwise known as phytic acid, is often referred to as an “anti-nutrient” due to the fact that it blocks the absorption of several health-beneficial minerals, many of which are found in rice. These include iron, zinc and calcium.
Although most of the time this blockage of minerals does not pose a serious threat to your health, it has been reported that eating high-phytate foods throughout the day can lead to a mineral deficiency and many of the unpleasant symptoms that accompany it.
Many people claim brown rice is healthier than white because it contains more vitamins and nutrients, however the fact that it also blocks your body from absorbing this nutrients pretty much makes that point obsolete.
In conclusion, don’t get caught up in all of the labels that people place on “good” or “bad” food. In most cases, there are benefits and disadvantages to both. However, in this case, I think white rice takes the cake in terms of taste, nutrition and overall health.