Two colors of rice on a wooden background

Which is Better–Brown or White Rice?

It’s a question that deserves some thought. Is brown or white rice better? Among my friends, there are definite opinions about whether you should be eating brown rice or white rice. I even have a few friends who have given up all grains, so they don’t eat rice at all, unless it’s cauliflower rice. Of course, cauliflower rice isn’t really rice. Since we are in the midst of a 30 days of rice challenge, we decided to complete some research regarding brown and white rice to help determine which of them is better, and our final decision may surprise you.

What’s the difference between brown and white rice?

Brown rice is a whole grain. The entire grain is left intact with the hull and the germ still attached. White rice has been milled to remove the hull and the germ, or embryo. Removing these parts of the rice removes most of the B vitamins as well as the minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber that were naturally occurring in the rice. White rice is then “enriched” by adding back a lot of these vitamins and minerals, but only at a fraction of their original content.

What are the nutritional differences between brown and white rice?

As you might expect, there’s more fat, fiber, calcium, and potassium in brown rice compared to white rice. In the US, where we live, white rice sold in the stores has been enriched, but since white rice has been enriched, coated with nutrients, such as iron, niacin, thiamin, and folic acid, which were lost when the rice was initially processed. Of course, many of these nutrients are lost when white rice is washed before cooking.

Nutritional Information for 1 cup of cooked , enriched white rice that was prepared in water:

Close up photo of white rice grains.

Disclaimer:  Nutritional information is calculated using online tools such as those available at cronometer.com or verywellfit.com.  We make every attempt to ensure that the information is calculated correctly, but this information should be considered estimates.   Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe.  In addition, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition-fact sources, databases, and the algorithms used.   You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.  Under no circumstances will PattyCakesPantry.com be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information provided. 

Nutritional information for 1 cup of cooked, brown rice that was prepared in water:

Close up photo of the grains of brown rice.

Disclaimer:  Nutritional information is calculated using online tools such as those available at cronometer.com or verywellfit.com.  We make every attempt to ensure that the information is calculated correctly, but this information should be considered estimates.   Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe.  In addition, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition-fact sources, databases, and the algorithms used.   You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.  Under no circumstances will PattyCakesPantry.com be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information provided. 

My nutrition label calculator has some limitations because it doesn’t account for many of the B vitamins that would be present in brown rice, so these labels may not be the most accurate representation of the nutritional differences.

A bowl full of uncooked brown rice.

Looking strictly at nutrient density, brown rice is the winner.

It’s definitely true that if you are looking only at nutrient density, brown rice is definitely the rice of choice. Brown rice is a good source of fiber, antioxidants, several vitamins, and minerals. It’s a whole grain that’s high in flavinoids, and eating flavinoid-rich foods has a strong antioxidant effect which is associated with a reduced risk for chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Brown rice is a high fiber food which is beneficial for digestive health which my boost feelings of fullness and help with weight loss.

There’s a lot to like about brown rice, but there are also some concerns about brown rice, too. Recent studies have detected high levels of arsenic in rice. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element, but its presence is becoming stronger due to pollution. Rice accumulates more arsenic than other crops. Since rice is a dietary staple for people in many parts of the world, this is particularly concerning.

A hand full of brown rice above a larger bin of brown rice. Is brown or white rice better?

Brown rice contains significantly more arsenic than white rice.

On average, brown rice contains 80% more arsenic than white rice of the same type. This is because arsenic accumulates in the outer layers of the rice which are removed when it’s transformed into white rice. The bad news is that even rice that’s grown organically absorbs arsenic the say way as it’s non organic counterpart. You can’t count on organic rice to decrease your exposure to arsenic. If you’re interested in learning more about arsenic in rice, check out this article from consumer reports.

Which type of rice is better?

In our opinion, it’s not a simple matter of white versus brown rice. We eat both kinds of rice. We eat Jasmine brown rice as a base for our egg roll in a bowl or other Asian style bowls. We love it for it’s added nutritional benefits. Food Critic, our youngest, refers to brown rice as “Dirty Rice” because of its darker color. We regularly use two types of white rice–jasmine, and long grain white rice. Having brown rice in your pantry is a good idea, but it’s not the only rice you should have on hand. Brown rice, because of the higher oil and fat content, is only good to store for approximately three to six months before that oil begins to become rancid.

Since brown rice doesn’t have a long shelf life, if you’re developing a “Prepper Pantry,” you’ll want to store white rice because it has a much longer shelf life. White rice lasts for up to two years in the pantry. If you want to increase the shelf life of your white rice to ten years, you can do so by storing it at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit in an airtight container such a Mylar bag or number 10 can with oxygen absorbers. In our house, we store two types of white rice–Jasmine rice and regular long grain white rice. We have Jasmine rice with Asian Style dishes and use the regular long grain white rice for Latin style or “standard American” style dishes or casseroles.

White and parboiled rice spilled on a table.

What do you plan to do with the rice?.

If you’re building a prepper pantry, you’ll want to store white rice because of its shelf life, but if you want more nutrient density, you should add brown rice to your pantry, just keep in mind that it won’t last as long. Our solution is to keep a pound, or two, of brown rice in the pantry to work into our regular meals, and we keep around 10 pounds of white rice in the pantry, too, for later use. We rotate through this rice, replacing it as we use it when we find sales.

A zip lock bag filled with rice

Do you know which rice is right for your family?

The bottom line is that you need to buy what your family will eat. A few years ago, I tried to transition my family to brown rice for its added nutritional benefits, but they didn’t like it. They completely refused to eat it, except when it was hidden in fried rice. I was determined to get them to eat it, so I used a strategy of mixing the two types of rice together. I began with 1/4 cup of brown rice to each cup of white rice and increased the amount of brown rice gradually over several months. Now, my family willingly eats brown rice. That strategy might not work for everyone.

There are lots of different types of rice–short grain, sushi rice, medium grain, long grain rice, jasmine rice, Basmati rice, Arborio rice, wild rice, red rice, and black rice. Each of these has a different place in your kitchen and on your meal plan. We’ll discuss the one’s that I use regularly in future posts, but you may prefer different types of rice.

Do you have a favorite type of rice? Do you prefer white or brown rice? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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