As a certified Healthy Coach, I spend much time informing people about healthy foods. Brown rice and white rice are two which I’m often asked about. Let’s answer the most common question asked, is brown rice better than white rice?
Brown rice is better than white rice due to its higher percentage of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Brown rice is better for weight loss due to its fewer calories and carbohydrates. Brown rice has a better glycemic index than white rice and is less processed.
This article will include a side-by-side nutrient comparison and determine which rice may be better based on the most common goals people have. In addition, I’ll examine their glycemic index, satiety index, tastes, prices, health benefits and if one can substitute for the other.
The Differences Between Brown Rice and White Rice
Many people are familiar with both rices but they may not know much about their differences other than the color. Therefore, let’s examine what the difference is between brown rice and white rice.
Brown rice is a whole grain containing all three parts including the bran, germ and endosperm. White rice is a grain only containing the endosperm after its bran and germ have been removed. Brown rice is less processed and contains more nutrients. White rice cooks faster and is softer than the chewier brown rice.
More differences between brown rice and white rice:
- Brown rice has a better glycemic index than white rice.
- White rice costs 6% less than brown rice.
- White rice has a better satiety index than brown rice.
- Brown rice has more vitamins and minerals than white rice.
- Brown rice has more fiber.
- Brown rice has fewer calories.
- Brown rice tastes earthier and has a harder texture than the softer white rice.
- Brown rice is a light brown color. White rice is a white color.
The following table is a side-by-side comparison of the nutrients contained in 100-grams of cooked medium grain brown rice and cooked medium grain white rice.
|Brown Rice – Cooked (100 g)||White Rice – Cooked (100 g)|
|Protein||2.32 g||2.38 g|
|Carbohydrates||23.5 g||28.6 g|
|Fiber||1.8 g||0.4 g|
|Fat||0.83 g||0.21 g|
|Sugar||0.40 g||0.05 g|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0 IU|
|Beta-carotene||0 mcg||0 mcg|
|Vitamin C||0 mg||0 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.15 mg||0.05 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||4 mcg||2 mcg|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.10 mg||0.02 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.01 mg||0.02mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||1.33 mg||0.40 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.39 mg||0.41 mg|
|Magnesium||44 mg||13 mg|
|Phosphorous||77 mg||37 mg|
|Potassium||79 mg||29 mg|
|Iron||0.53 mg||0.20 mg|
|Copper||0.08 mg||0.04 mg|
|Calcium||10 mg||3 mg|
|Zinc||0.62 mg||0.42 mg|
100 grams is 3.5 ounces and slightly more than 1/2 cup.
The table above shows both are dense with similar nutrients. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which provides more. Let’s examine which one is healthier.
Brown rice is healthier than white rice due to its higher percentage of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Brown rice provides more B6, folate, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, calcium and zinc than white rice. Brown rice has fewer calories, carbs and a better glycemic index than white rice.
White rice contains more riboflavin, B5 and fewer total fat and sugar.
Brown rice contains more nutrients than white rice because it still has the bran, germ and endosperm. White rice is stripped of the bran and germ which contains a good number of the fiber and nutrients.
White rice is left with the endosperm only which is more carbohydrate rich. Let’s take a closer look at each nutrient and determine how much more each rice contains.
- White rice contains 16% more calories than brown rice per 100 grams.
- White rice contains 2.5% more protein than brown rice per 100 grams.
- White rice contains 21.7% more carbohydrates than brown rice per 100 grams.
- Brown rice contains 350% more fiber than white rice per 100 grams.
- Brown rice provides a higher percentage of B1, B3, B6 and B9 than white rice.
- White rice provides a higher percentage of B2 and B5 than brown rice.
The B vitamins provided include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B9 (folate)
- Brown rice contains 238% more magnesium than white rice per 100 grams.
- Brown rice contains 108% more phosphorus than white rice per 100 grams.
- Brown rice contains 173% more potassium than white rice per 100 grams.
- Brown rice contains 165% more iron than white rice per 100 grams.
- Brown rice contains 100% more copper than white rice per 100 grams.
- Brown rice contains 233% more calcium than white rice per 100 grams.
- Brown rice contains 48% more zinc than white rice per 100 grams.
The bran of brown rice contains the flavonoid antioxidants luteolin, quercetin and apigenin. The bran and the germ of white rice has been stripped away taking many of the antioxidants and nutrients away.
For this reason, brown rice contains more antioxidants than white rice.
Which to Choose
Some people may alternate between the two or choose one due to their particular goals. Let’s take a look at some of the popular goals.
Low Carb or Keto Diets
The goal for most low-carb diets is consuming few carbohydrates while adding more healthy fat and protein. With such a restrictive carbohydrate intake, every gram of carbs may make a difference.
Therefore, let’s examine which one has fewer carbohydrates or more healthy fats and protein.
- Brown rice is better for low-carb diets than white rice due to its fewer carbohydrates. White rice contains 27.3% more carbohydrates per 100 gram serving.
- Brown rice provides 5.1 fewer grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams.
- Brown rice contains more fat, and both contain a similar amount of protein.
Weight loss may be the most popular goal. If you’re trying to lose extra pounds from the midsection area, the number of calories may matter to you.
Therefore, let’s examine which is better for weight loss.
- Brown rice is better for weight loss than white rice due to its fewer calories and more fiber per serving. White rice contains 18 more calories per 100 grams than brown rice.
- Brown rice provides 350% more fiber which has been associated with weight loss. Fiber makes a body feel fuller and as a result less food is consumed later.
Avoiding any gluten is the main goal for people who wish to follow a gluten free diet or have Celiac disease. Therefore, let’s answer which one is gluten free?
- Brown rice and white rice are both gluten free and good for gluten free diets.
Vegan or Vegetarian
If you’re thinking about following a vegan or vegetarian diet consuming dairy products or animal-derived products is important. Knowing which one is vegan or vegetarian friendly may help you choose between the two.
- Brown rice and white rice do not contain animal products making them both beneficial for vegans and vegetarians.
- White rice is better than brown rice for bodybuilding due to its great number of proteins, carbohydrates and calories.
Regardless of whether a bodybuilder is in a cutting, bulking or maintenance phase, they need much protein to repair their muscles and elicit a hypertrophy effect. Approximately one-half of a cup of brown rice has 2.5% more grams of protein compared to white rice.
Bodybuilders need a good amount of carbohydrates as well. The majority of their macronutrient balance should be made up of healthy carbohydrates. Carbohydrates help to fuel energy and increase performance during exercise.
White rice contains 21.7% more grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams than white rice.
White rice contains more calories which is important for a bodybuilder when trying to gain lean muscle mass. The extra calories may prove beneficial during a bulking phase.
Avoiding blood sugar spikes is an important part of consuming healthy food. This is true for diabetics or anyone worrying about their health 3. For this reason, the glycemic index of food is important.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 4. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes.
Foods on the GI scale are categorized as:
- Low-GI foods: 55 or under
- Medium-GI foods: 56-69
- High-GI foods: 70 or over
How blood sugars levels are affected:
- Foods with a glycemic index 70 or more cause a quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 56 to 69 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 55 or less cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.
Knowing more about the glycemic index of food and how it raises blood sugar, many people ask, which rice has a better glycemic index?
Brown rice has a better glycemic index than white rice. Brown rice is a medium GI food and white rice is a medium to high GI food.
- Brown rice boiled for 15 minutes has a glycemic index of 52.
- Brown rice boiled for 25 minutes has a glycemic index of 72.
- White rice boiled in water has a glycemic index of 73.
Brown rice has a glycemic load of 30 to 32. White rice has a glycemic load of 33.
The glycemic index alone shouldn’t be a reason to pick one food over the other. It’s one piece of the puzzle which may be considered. Always check with a physician as many people may require different nutritional needs.
There are different varieties which may have different GI scores.
Satiety is a term used to explain the feeling of being full and the loss of appetite which occurs after eating food. The satiety index is a scale showing how full a person feels after eating a certain food.
The satiety index was developed in 1995 from a study which tested 38 foods. The foods were ranked how they satisfied a person’s hunger. Foods scoring under 100 are considered less filling and foods scoring above 100 are considered more filling 5.
The table below shows the satiety scores of brown rice, white rice and a few other filling foods.
|Food||Satiety Index Score|
In the satiety study, white rice had a slightly better satiety index than brown rice making people feel fuller after eating. High satiety foods are likely to have a high satiety score for the following reasons:
- High in protein.
- High in fiber.
- High in volume (foods containing a lot of water or air).
- Low in energy density (foods low in calories for their weight).
Find out how brown rice compared to quinoa in my article, Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
Taste and Texture
Let’s face it, if you’re like me I won’t eat a food considered healthy unless I can tolerate the taste. I think if someone doesn’t like the flavor of a food, they won’t purchase it. Therefore, let’s examine how the taste compares.
Brown rice has an earthy, nutty taste compared to the starchier, more mild white rice. Brown rice has a medium to firm texture which is chewier than the softer white rice. White rice is fluffier than the denser brown rice.
I wanted to get the opinion of real people like you by conducting some original research. Therefore, I reached out to some clients, members of food groups and readers. I asked, what tastes better, brown rice or white rice?
- 49% said they preferred the taste of brown rice.
- 39% said they preferred the taste of white rice.
- 12% said they had no preference.
In the taste poll, brown rice was found to taste better than white rice and was the winner.
I think it’s happened to all of us, at the last minute you find out you’re out of the food needed in a recipe. Unable to go out to the store or just don’t want to, you’ve probably wondered if you can use another one in its place.
Reasons why people will want to substitute one food for the other in a recipe:
- Nutrient differences
This makes people wonder is it okay to use brown rice for white rice.
White rice and brown rice can substitute for each other in recipes, side dishes or salads. Although expect a change in taste and texture due to the more substantial brown rice. Since both are gluten free, they can substitute for each other in gluten free recipes. When substituting use equal amounts called for in the recipe.
Brown takes longer to cook than white which may change the cooking time of the recipe. Brown rice requires more water.
Substitutes for brown rice are:
- White rice
- Bulgur wheat
- Whole-wheat couscous
- Riced cauliflower
Substitutes for white rice are:
- Brown rice
- Riced broccoli
- Bulgur wheat
- Riced cauliflower
How to Cook Brown Rice
- Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil.
- Add olive oil or salt if desired.
- Stire in one cup of brown rice.
- Reduce heat to low-medium and cover.
- Simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
- Fluff with a fork and serve.
How to Cook White Rice
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
- Add olive oil or salt.
- Stir in one cup of white rice.
- Reduce heat to low-medium and cover.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
- Fluff with a fork and serve.
It seems every trip to the supermarket results with more money spent at the checkout. For this reason and others, I’m sure the prices of food matters to most people.
I checked the price of a common brand for all the comparisons to keep things on an even playing field. I divided the price by the number of pounds. Therefore, let’s examine the prices.
Brown rice costs 6% more than white rice per pound. Brown rice average cost per pound is $1.45 and the average price for white rice is $1.37 per pound.
To conduct my own research, I checked three different supermarkets located in my area. Both supermarkets are on different levels of pricing. Walmart is the most economical and Stop and Shop being more expensive.
Here are my findings:
- Brown rice (Carolina brand) – 2 lb. bag $2.83 ($1.41 per pound)
- White rice (Carolina brand) – 2 lb. bag $2.83 ($1.41 per pound)
- Brown rice (Carolina brand) – 5 lb. bag $5.99 ($1.20 per pound)
- White rice (Carolina brand) – 5 lb. bag $5.99 ($1.20 per pound)
Stop and Shop:
- Brown rice (Carolina brand) – 2 lb. bag $3.49 ($1.74 per pound)
- White rice (Carolina brand) – 2 lb. bag $2.99 ($1.49 per pound)
Storing food properly often gets overlooked. The shelf life you get out of food is important, especially with the prices of good quality food. In addition, improper storage may lessen the taste and quality.
Let’s examine how each one should be stored.
Opened uncooked rice should be stored in a cool, dry place inside a tightly sealed container. White rice can last almost indefinitely while brown rice has a shelf life of six months due to the oil in the bran layer.
Cooked white or brown rice should be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days. For longer storage the cooked rice may be stored in the freezer up to six months.
Brown Rice Health Benefits
Brown rice provides more fiber than white rice. Fiber is helpful for many reasons 6.
Fiber is known for the following:
- Help digestion.
- Aids in controlling weight because it allows you to feel full faster resulting in consuming less food.
- Manage the blood glucose levels which helps decrease the risk of diabetes.
- Helps avoid constipation and have a more regular stool.
Brown rice provides more B vitamins. The B vitamins provided help support the following 7:
- Nerve function.
- Red blood cells.
- Brain function.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Energy levels.
Brown rice has more antioxidants because it retains the bran and germ. Why are antioxidants so important? They help fight disease by preventing and repairing stress from oxidation 8.
During oxidation, cells become damaged and turns into free radicals. Free radicals will cause more damage to cells. The more damage to your body’s tissue can lead to a number of diseases like the following:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
One of the ways to battle free radicals and oxidative stress is to increase the number of antioxidants which brown rice contains.
Brown rice has more potassium. According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 9. Potassium helps reduce the sodium in the body.
Some medical experts recommend the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. Consuming not enough potassium or too much sodium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 10.
Potassium helps the body reduce excess fluid therefore reducing blood pressure 11.
Brown rice provides 238% more magnesium. The magnesium provided helps the body control the following:
- Blood sugar
- High blood pressure
- Muscle function
- Nerve function
Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels stable and balanced. Recent scientific research examined previous studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure 12.
Many people supplement with magnesium in the evening because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.
Brown rice provides 233% more calcium. Calcium helps the following:
- Helps nerve function.
- Help the muscles to function properly.
- Build and maintain strong bones.
In addition, calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 13.
White Rice Benefits
White rice has been in people’s diets for many centuries providing many benefits of its own.
White rice provides a little more protein. Protein may help benefit the following:
- Reduce appetite.
- Build and repair muscle beneficial for bodybuilders.
- Boost metabolism.
- Weight loss.
White rice provides approximately 27% of the daily recommended value. Some research has shown selenium may help with the following:
- Thyroid disease
- Cardiovascular disease
Several studies have shown patients with Alzheimer’s disease have lower blood levels of selenium 14.
Unlike brown rice, white rice doesn’t have an anitnutrient called physic acid which causes digestive issues.
In addition, it also lessens the body’s ability to absorb zinc and iron from food. Longer-term, consuming too much physic acid may contribute to mineral deficiencies.
Brown rice tends to have more arsenic. Arsenic is a toxic heavy metal which has been increasing in some areas due to pollution 15.
A good amount of arsenic has been found in rice-based products. Long-term consumption of arsenic may increase the risk of the following:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
If rice is a huge part of your diet, look into taking steps with your physician to minimize arsenic content. Consuming it in moderation should be fine.
Read More Articles About Rice!
Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
- USDA: Rice, brown, medium-grain, cooked
- USDA: Rice, white, medium-grain, cooked, unenriched
- The University of Sydney: Your GI Shopping Guide
- Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic index for 60+ foods
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: A satiety index of common foods
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mechanisms linking dietary fiber, gut microbiota and colon cancer prevention
- Harvard T.H. Chan: B Vitamins
- FDA: Can Antioxidant Foods Forestall Aging?
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Homeostasis of metals in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Rice consumption and urinary concentrations of arsenic in US adults
- USDA: Brown Rice
- Cleveland Clinic: Brown Rice or White Rice: Which Is Your Healthier Option?
- Harvard T.H. Chan: Replacing white rice with brown rice or other whole grains may reduce diabetes risk
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Phytochemical Profile of Brown Rice and Its Nutrigenomic Implications