Brown rice is simply white rice that has not had the bran covering the rice grains removed. Removing the bran is done so that the rice is fluffier and cooks faster. Since brown rice still has the bran intact, it is a much better source of fiber. In fact, a cup of brown rice has 3.5 grams of fiber while white rice has less than one gram of fiber. We all need from 15 to 25 grams of fiber in our diet every day.
Another benefit from eating brown rice is caused by the fiber slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates. This will help tame the blood-sugar roller coaster that can happen from a high sugar-low fiber meal. Fiber also has a healthy effect on our cholesterol levels and may help to reduce this risk of cardiovascular disease.
Besides the fiber found in the brown rice, the bran contains nutrients like magnesium, manganese, and zinc. White rice has reduced levels of these nutrients but is often fortified with iron, and some B vitamins.
Should I Eat Brown Rice instead of White Rice?
When the USDA changed the guidelines for a healthy diet, the suggested number of whole-grain servings needed per day officially became “at least 3.” Other nutrition information sources suggest all grain consumption be whole-grain.
While the occasional piece of white bread is OK, I think that we should eat almost exclusively whole grains, including brown rice instead of white rice.
Cooking Brown Rice?
White rice is still the usual rice found in restaurants, so for now you will probably have to get most of your brown rice at home. Brown rice takes longer than white rice to cook, so increase the amount of water slightly. Brown rice doesn’t have the fluffy texture of white rice, but the marvelous nutty flavor and chewy texture makes brown rice a tasty way to get fiber into your diet.
Rice and Diet
People who eat rice have healthier diets, eat more fruits and vegetables, consume less added sugar and fat and are likely to have a lower body mass index than non-rice eaters, according to a new study presented for the first time today at a meeting of two key member groups of the American Dietetic Association. The data suggest that including rice as part of a healthy, balanced diet can be linked to overall healthier eating patterns. The data also indicate that the rice eaters are more likely to eat a diet consistent with the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
Carbs in Rice
Rice is primarily composed of carbs.
Carbs in rice are mainly in the form of starch, accounting for up to 90% of the total dry weight and 87% of the total caloric content.
Starch is the most common form of carbohydrates in foods, made up of long chains of glucose known as amylose and amylopectin.
Amylose and amylopectin have different properties that may contribute to both the texture and digestibility of rice.
Rice that is high in amylose, such as basmati rice, does not stick together after cooking.
Amylose also slows down the digestion of starch and is often associated with so-called resistant starch, a type of healthy fiber.
On the other hand, rice that is low in amylose and high in amylopectin is sticky after cooking.
Perfect for risottos and rice puddings, sticky rice (glutinous rice) is also preferred in Asian cooking because it is easy to eat with chopsticks.
High digestibility is one of the downsides of the carbs in sticky rice. For a high-carb food, good digestibility is not always favorable because it may cause an unhealthy spike in blood sugar, especially among diabetics.
Bottom Line: Rice is mainly composed of carbohydrates. Some types may cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar, making them unsuitable for diabetics.
Fiber in Rice
Brown rice contains a fair amount of fiber (1.8%), while white rice is very low in fiber (0.3%) .
One cup of boiled brown rice (195 grams) contains approximately 3.5 grams of fiber.
Varying amounts of resistant starch are also found in both white and brown rice.
Resistant starch helps feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, stimulating their growth.
In the colon, resistant starch leads to the formation of short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, which may improve colon health and cut the risk of colon cancer.
Aside from resistant starch, the fiber is concentrated in the bran, which has been stripped from white rice.
The bran is mainly composed of insoluble fibers, such as hemicellulose, and contains virtually no soluble fiber.
Vitamins and Minerals in Rice
The nutrient value of rice depends on the variety and cooking method.
Many vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the bran and germ, which are components of brown rice, but not white.
Manganese: A trace mineral found in most foods, especially whole grains. It is essential for metabolism, growth, development, and the body’s antioxidant
Selenium: A mineral that is a component of selenoproteins, which have various important functions in the body.
Thiamin: Also known as vitamin B1, thiamin is essential for metabolism and the function of the heart, muscles, and nervous system.
Niacin: Also known as vitamin B3, niacin in rice is mostly in the form of nicotinic acid. Soaking rice in water before cooking may increase its absorption.
Magnesium: Found in brown rice, magnesium an important dietary mineral. It has been suggested that low magnesium levels may contribute to a number of chronic diseases.
Copper: Often found in whole grains, copper is low in the Western diet. Poor copper status may have adverse effects on heart health.
Bottom Line: Rice is generally a poor source of vitamins and minerals. However, considerable amounts may be concentrated in the bran of brown rice.
Other Plant Compounds in Rice
A number of plant compounds are found in rice, some of which are linked with potential health benefits.
Pigmented rice, such as red-grained varieties, have been found to be particularly rich in antioxidants.
Phytic acid: An antioxidant found in brown rice, phytic acid (phytate) impairs the absorption of dietary minerals, such as iron and zinc. It can be reduced by soaking, sprouting, and fermenting the rice before cooking.
Lignans: Found in rice bran, lignans are converted to enterolactone by gut bacteria. Enterolactone is an isoflavone (phytoestrogen) that may have several health benefits.
Ferulic acid: A strong antioxidant found in rice bran. May protect against various chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
2-acetyl 1-pyrroline (2AP): An aromatic substance, responsible for the taste and smell of scented rice, such as jasmine and basmati rice.
Bottom Line: White rice is a poor source of antioxidants and other plant compounds. However, the bran of brown rice may be a good source of ferulic acid, lignans, and phytic acid.
White vs. Brown Rice
White rice is highly refined, polished, and stripped of its bran (seed coat) and germ (embryo).
This is done to increase its cooking quality, shelf life, and tastiness, but unfortunately, it comes at the cost of reduced nutritional value.
Brown rice is an intact whole grain, containing both the bran and the germ. For this reason, brown rice contains substantially more fiber than white rice.
Being the most nutritious parts of the grain, the bran and germ are rich in fiber and several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
However, the bran is also a source of antinutrients, such as phytic acid, and may contain high levels of heavy metals if grown in polluted areas.
Eating white rice may have an adverse effect on blood sugar balance, and should be avoided by people with diabetes.
On the other hand, brown rice is generally regarded as a low-glycemic food, with beneficial effects on blood sugar control.
Brown rice is clearly a winner when it comes to nutritional quality and health benefits.
Bottom Line: Brown rice is generally considered much healthier than white.
Health Benefits of Brown Rice
Heart disease includes heart attacks and strokes, and is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
Observational studies have linked the consumption of whole grains with reduced risk of death from heart disease.
One study followed 86,190 men for 5.5 years. Those who consumed one serving or more of whole-grain breakfast cereals every day had 20% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who never or rarely consumed whole grains.
Another study followed 75,521 women for 10 years. High whole grain intake was found to be linked with a 30% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk compared to low intake.
Whole grains may also have beneficial effects on body weight and diabetes, effects that are closely associated with cardiovascular disease .
Keep in mind that all of these studies are observational. They show an association between whole grains and health, but cannot prove causation.
One thing is clear, whole grain brown rice contains a number of heart healthy components, such as minerals, antioxidants, lignans, and dietary fiber.
A randomized controlled trial in 21 Korean men and women, half of which were obese, studied the effect of high-fiber rice on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Eating high-fiber rice as a substitute for white rice led to weight loss, accompanied with a decrease in cholesterol in the obese subjects.
Taken together, eating brown rice and other whole grain cereals may have beneficial effects on heart health.
Bottom Line: Brown rice contains several heart-healthy nutrients, so it may help prevent heart disease.
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