What are the differences between brown rice vs white rice? Which is healthier? Here’s what you need to know before planning your meals.
Brown rice vs white rice: which is better? Have you ever wondered which of the two to incorporate in your meal? Both types of rice are considered part of a healthy diet, but is there one that’s a better choice? Here’s a breakdown. And spoiler alert: there’s a clear winner!
Brown rice vs white rice: overview
First, let’s define each type of rice. Are brown rice and white rice different varieties, or the same food?
Rice is a seed of grass species. It’s the most widely consumed staple food in the world, a staple for more than 3.5 billion people worldwide. There are many varieties of rice: white rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice, and more.
What is white rice? White rice is rice that is processed to remove its hull, bran and germ.
What is brown rice? Brown rice is the entire whole rice grain. It keeps the nutrient-packed bran and germ and only has the hull removed.
Bottom line: Brown rice and white rice are the same ingredient processed differently!
Brown rice vs white rice: cook times!
The main difference in cooking with brown rice and white rice is the cook time. Here’s what to know:
How long does it take to cook white rice? About 15 minutes to cook and 5 minutes to stand. This includes the time to boil the water and then steam the rice at the end.
How long does it take to cook brown rice? About 45 to 50 minutes to cook and 10 minutes to stand. It takes longer than white rice because it is less processed. Short cut: Use our fast brown rice method, which is just 35 minutes total.
So if it takes so much longer to cook brown rice…is it worth it? Let’s review the basic nutritional differences between brown rice and white rice. Here’s the basic nutrition facts for 1 cup of cooked rice:
As you can see, brown rice has three times the fiber of white rice, which has essentially 0 grams. To understand the full picture of brown rice vs white rice, you also have to look at nutrients! Here’s the breakdown on nutrients:
Brown rice has lots of nutrients. It’s a good source of folate, riboflavin, potassium, calcium, and manganese.
White rice has none of the beneficial nutrients that are contained in brown rice. Again, this is because it’s more processed and it doesn’t contain the nutrient-packed bran and germ.
Another measure to look at is glycemic index. The glycemic index score (GI) shows how a food affects a person’s blood sugar levels. A low score indicates that the food has less impact on your blood sugar, so low levels are good here. This is specifically relevant for people with diabetes. Scores range from Low GI: 1 to 55, Medium GI: 56 to 69, and High GI: 70 and higher. (Read more at Mayo Clinic.)
Brown rice has a glycemic index of 68, a medium level. (source)
White rice has a glycemic index of 73, a high level. (source)
So brown rice vs white rice: which is healthier?
Reference the table above and you can see the following differences between quinoa vs brown rice:
Calories, carbs and protein: Brown rice and white rice are essentially the same.
Fiber: Brown rice has 3 times more fiber than white rice, which has virtually no fiber.
Fat: Brown rice has slightly more fat than white rice, but it’s still a very low fat food.
Nutrients: Brown rice is loaded with beneficial nutrients; white rice has none.
Glycemic index: Brown rice is medium on the GI scale and white rice is high.
Bottom line: Brown rice is packed with more nutrients and fiber than white rice, making it the more nutritious option. It’s the more wholesome of the two grains and is worth spending the extra time to cook it. But white rice is still a healthy option if you are getting fiber and nutrients from other parts of your meal: like a stir fry with lots of veggies and white rice.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.