Brown Rice vs White Rice

So, brown rice vs white rice, how do they differ?

Here’s the short answer:

White rice is white because the outer portion of the grain, the bran, is removed. In the processing of white rice the nutrient-rich core of the grain, the germ, is also removed.

Brown rice is brown because it keeps the light brown bran portion of the grain. In brown rice, the nutrient-rich germ is also not removed.

Which is better for you?

Brown rice is healthier in almost every way.

And here’s the long answer…

Rice is one of the most commonly consumed grains in the world and one of the most ancient, with a storied presence in the histories of Eastern cultures.

The United Nations indicates that rice accounts for 19% of all food calories available in the world. Because rice is so prevalent in diets around the world, it is natural that many consumers have questions about the relative nutritional value of brown rice vs white rice and which is a sound choice in regards to calories and vitamin content.

Brown Rice vs White Rice Appearance

The first difference you will notice about brown and white rice? They have distinctly different colors that give them their respective names.

Brown rice is a tan color and has a more textured, grainy appearance.

White rice is generally pure white with small, but minor, color deviations throughout.

Brown and white rice are similar in size, generally a centimeter or less in length.

Brown Rice vs White Rice Nutrition

Brown and white rice are derived from the same grain. This grain consists of a fiber-rich bran and germ and a carbohydrate-rich endosperm. Though their origin may be the same, it is the manufacturing process that ultimately differentiates brown rice and white rice.

Brown rice = whole grain

White rice = refined grain

By refined grain, we mean the fiber and nutrient-rich bran and germ have been removed leaving the carb-rich endosperm.

And by whole grain we mean the bran, germ, and endosperm have not been removed.

Because brown rice is a whole grain, it is considered a complex carbohydrate. The integrity of the entire grain has been maintained throughout the harvesting and manufacturing process. During the milling process, brown rice undergoes a less intensive process than white rice does. The inedible hull is removed, but the rest of the grain is kept intact.

brown rice vs white rice side by side

White rice is not a whole grain because it undergoes an intensive and invasive manufacturing process. The fibrous bran and germ have been removed from the grain, leaving the carbohydrate-heavy endosperm portion of the grain.

The bran and germ are the most nutritious portions of the grain. Although many types of white rice are enriched with nutrients that were initially removed in the extraction process, they are still a highly refined grain product.


Brown rice is higher in fiber than white rice because it contains the fibrous bran and germ portions of the grain.

Fiber is an essential nutrient that leads to feelings of fullness. Fiber is vital for efficient digestion and bodily functions.

Cooked brown rice (100g) = 1.8 grams of fiber

Cooked white rice (100g) = 0.4 grams of fiber

Brown rice is a wonderful choice for those on a diet because it’s nutrient dense and leads to feelings of fullness.

Calories, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals

Both brown and white rice contain similar amounts of calories, fat, and carbohydrates per serving.

A cup of white rice contains:

  • 205 calories
  • 25 grams of protein
  • 5 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 9 grams of fat

A cup of brown rice contains:

  • 248 calories
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 51 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 96 grams of fat

Brown rice has roughly 40 more calories per cup and 7 more grams of carbohydrates per cup than white rice does.

100g of brown rice is:

  • 6% of your daily intake of thiamine
  • 11% of your daily intake of magnesium
  • 45% of your daily intake of manganese
  • 8% of your daily intake of phosphorus
  • 8% of your daily intake of niacin
  • 7% of your daily intake of Vitamin B6

100g of white rice is:

  • 1% of your daily intake of thiamine
  • 5% of your daily intake of magnesium
  • 24% of your daily intake of manganese
  • 4% of your daily intake of phosphorus
  • 2% of your daily intake of niacin
  • 5% of your daily intake of Vitamin B6

Brown rice is high in magnesium which helps control blood sugar levels. This is beneficial in preventing diabetes and high blood pressure.

Brown rice also contains higher levels of the nutrients phosphorus and potassium.

Brown rice also contains 425% more omega-3 fatty acids per serving than white rice does, boosting its positive impact on brain and heart health!

Keep in mind that while brown rice is naturally higher in mineral density than white rice, many popular brands of white rice have been enriched with the many minerals stripped during the manufacturing process.

For instance, many brands of white rice are fortified with folic acid which is a crucial nutrient, particularly for pregnant women. Many popular brands of white rice are also enriched with iron, niacin, and thiamin.


Brown rice contains antioxidants, which are beneficial in preventing diabetes and cancer. Antioxidants act defensively in the body against free radicals.

On the other hand, white rice may be linked to a decrease in antioxidant levels in the blood, enabling a more amenable growth environment for harmful cells.


Arsenic is a heavy metal that is naturally occurring. However, it has become more ubiquitous due to industrial pollution and aggressive agricultural practices. Frequent consumption of arsenic has adverse effects on the liver, kidneys and has been linked to cancer and heart disease.

Brown rice contains more arsenic than white rice because the highest concentrations of arsenic are found in the bran, the portion of the grain that is removed in the milling process that results in white rice. You can reduce the quantity of arsenic in your brown rice by soaking it and draining it thoroughly before preparing it.


Brown rice contains an antinutrient known as phytate. The quantity of phytates in brown rice varies from 0.06 to 1.08 grams per 100 grams. Phytates impede your body’s ability to absorb zinc and iron and can be detrimental in large quantities.

Phytic acid in small quantities will generally not have significant adverse effects when incorporated into a varied and plant dense diet, but individuals who eat higher amounts of rice should be mindful of its existence. However, recent research has demonstrated that fermented foods like miso can inhibit the adverse effects of phytate consumption.

Phytates are not present in white rice because they are removed during the refinement process. This ensures that there are no inhibiting acids in white rice that affect the absorption of the low quantities of iron and zinc in the rice. This is arguably one of the benefits that white rice has over brown rice. An enriched white rice could theoretically contain similar quantities of nutrients without the presence of phytates.

Brown Rice vs White Rice – Impacts on Health

All in all, brown rice is a much healthier choice than white rice. Here are some more health-related reasons to choose brown rice over white rice.

Heart disease

Brown rice has been linked to a reduction in heart disease.

The link between a diet high in whole grains and a lowered risk of heart disease is well supported in the scientific literature. Eating a few servings of whole grains, like brown rice, every day could result in a risk reduction of nearly 25%.

Brown rice in a heart bowl

Why are whole grains beneficial in avoiding heart disease?

Well, whole grains lower bad cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol, which is one of the leading contributors to artery clog and heart disease.

It’s also possible that whole grains raise levels of good cholesterol, otherwise known as HDL cholesterol, which has positive effects on the body.

Brown rice also has a plant compound called a lignan. Lignans have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

These effects have the combinative result of lowering risk factors for heart disease and heart failure.


White rice may be a contributor to diabetes.

The glycemic index is a scale that measures how rapidly a food increases blood sugar. Foods higher on the glycemic index are linked to adverse health effects.

Glycemic index of brown rice vs white rice:

White rice – 89

Brown rice – 50

A high intake of white rice has been linked to higher likelihood of developing a blood sugar imbalance and eventually diabetes.

A study published on June 14, 2010, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that individuals who had higher intakes of white rice in their diet, defined as 5 or more servings per week, had a 17% higher risk of diabetes. Alternately, eating two or more servings of brown rice per week led to an 11% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

Many other studies have found a similar connection between an increase in whole grains consumption and a decrease in diabetes risk.

Body mass index

High intake of whole grains like brown rice has been linked to a lower body mass index.

This is probably due to the high fiber content and the complex carbohydrates which lead to feeling fuller for longer. In effect, you get more bang for your caloric buck!

White rice contains more empty calories in the form of simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates do not create the sensations of satiety that complex carbohydrates do and overconsumption can lead to blood sugar crashes and cravings.

White rice is absorbed quickly into the body (remember its placement on the glycemic index) and will leave you feeling hungry again much sooner than brown rice will. Minimizing the amount of simple carbohydrates in your diet is an easy and healthful way to keep weight down without being restrictive.

For weight reduction, brown rice would be a better choice, but it is important to remember that moderation is vital. An excess of carbohydrates can become detrimental and elevate the risk of diabetes if consumed in excess.


While white rice in moderation will not have adverse effects on an individual’s health, we advocate eating brown rice instead of white rice whenever possible due to the benefits that can be accrued from consuming more brown rice. At the end of the day, it is essential to be informed of the differences between white rice and brown rice, but you can certainly incorporate both into a sound, well-balanced diet.

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