White Rice: Beneficial or Bad for Your Health

A lot of health organisations perceive white rice as an unhealthy option. It’s extremely refined and loses its hard protective layer hull), it’s outer coating (bran) and its nutrient-rich centre (germ). On the other hand, brown rice only losses its shell.

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Hence the white rice lacks a lot of nutrients that the brown rice possesses. However, there are some cases where white rice is a better option than brown rice. This article will help you ascertain if white rice is beneficial or dangerous for your health.

Stripped of its Nutritive Content

The most popular types of rice today are white rice and brown rice, and they both share a similar origin. Brown rice is the full whole rice grain. It consists of the bran which is rich in fibre, the nutritious germ and the carbohydrate-rich endosperm, whereas white rice is without the germ and the bran leaving just the endosperm. Its then refined to enhance taste, prolong shelf life and improve cooking properties.

White rice is referred to as empty carbs as it lacks its primary source of nutrients. However, in some countries including the US nutrients such as iron and B vitamins like thiamine, niacin folic acid and more are added to white rice to enrich its nutritional value. This table compares the nutritional value of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of the different types of rice.

NutrientsWhite rice, unenrichedWhite rice, enrichedBrown rice, unenriched
Calories123123111
Protein2.9 grams2.9 grams2.6 grams
Carbs30 grams26 grams23 grams
Fat0.4 grams0.4 grams0.9 grams
Fibre0.9 grams0.9 grams1.8 grams
Folate1% of the RDI20% of the RDI1% of the RDI
Manganese18% of the RDI18% of the RDI45% of the RDI
Thiamine5% of the RDI14% of the RDI6% of the RDI
Selenium13% of the RDI13% of the RDI14% of the RDI
Niacin12% of the RDI12% of the RDI8% of the RDI
Iron1% of the RDI10% of the RDI2% of the RDI
Vitamin B68% of the RDI8% of the RDI7% of the RDI
Phosphorus6% of the RDI6% of the RDI8% of the RDI
Copper4% of the RDI4% of the RDI5% of the RDI
Magnesium2% of the RDI2% of the RDI11% of the RDI
Zinc2% of the RDI2% of the RDI4% of the RDI

A 100 grams (3.5 ounces) portion of white rice contains more carbs and calories with twice as less fibre than brown rice. Altogether the amount of vitamins and minerals in brown rice is higher than white rice, though huge amounts of Folate and iron is contained in enriched white rice. Furthermore, brown rice has a higher amount of antioxidants and essential amino acids.

Its also worthy to note that both brown and white rice are naturally gluten-free hence adding them in the list of good carbs option for people who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Summary

The nutritional value of brown rice is higher than white rice. However, most countries including the US enrich their white rice to boost its nutritional value.

Increased risk of Diabetes linked to higher Glycemic index rating

Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly your body transforms carbs into sugars that can be absorbed into your bloodstream. It is measured on a scale of 0 – 100 and is tagged as follows;

  • Low GI: 55 or less
  • Medium GI: 56 – 69
  • High GI: 70 – 100

Foods that fall in the low GI category seem to be a better option for people with type 2 diabetes as they produce a slow but gradual increase in blood while foods with higher GIs may cause rapid spikes.

Brown rice has a GI of 55 while white rice has a GI of 64. Hence, carbs contained in white rice is transformed into blood sugars faster than that of brown rice.

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As a result of this white rice has been linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. A study carried out on over 350,000 people found that those with consumption of white rice were more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes than those who ate less.

Furthermore, every potion of white rice consumed per day increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 11%. Similarly, a study carried out in the US recorded that higher consumption of white rice was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, but higher consumption of brown rice was linked with a significantly low threat.

Summary

Higher consumption of white rice is linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes as it possesses a higher Glycemic index rating than brown rice.

May increase your vulnerability to metabolic syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome is best explained as a group of risk factors that may increase your susceptibility to health issues like stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

These risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of triglyceride
  • A large waistline
  • Low “good” HDL cholesterol levels
  • High fasting blood sugars

Studies have indicated that people who eat large portions of white rice on a regular basis, especially Asian adults are highly vulnerable to metabolic syndrome. But while researches are pointing out a relationship between diabetes and the consumption of white rice, the connection between white rice and heart disease is still indecisive.

Meanwhile, the consumption of brown rice has been connected to a lower threat of heart disease. For example, adults with the highest consumption of whole grains may have an up to 21% lower danger of heart disease compared to adults with a smaller amount of consumption. Brown rice also contains a plant compound called lignans which have proven to be effective in the reduction of blood fat, lowering of blood pressure and arterial stiffness reduction.

Summary

Higher consumption of white rice may increase your risk of metabolic syndrome. But its relationship with heart disease is debatable.

Impact on weight loss is debatable

White rice is referred to as refined rice because it has its germ and bran peeled off. While series of researches have associated weight gain and obesity to diets high in refined grains, the studies are contradictory when it comes to white rice. For example, researches have linked obesity, belly fat and weight gain to diets centred around refined grains, but other studies have found no possible connection.

Furthermore, diets high in refined rice have been discovered to encourage weight loss especially in countries where white rice is consumed on a daily basis. In conclusion, white rice is neither favourable nor harmful for weight loss.

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However, the consumption of whole grains such as brown rice has proven to be very useful in weight loss and also helps to keep a healthy body weight. Therefore, brown rice is a better option for weight loss as it contains more nutrients and fibre and also provides a healthy amount of disease-combating antioxidants

Summary

White rice does not have any direct effect on weight loss. However, studies have found a connection between brown rice and weight loss and maintenance.

Easy to digest

Doctors may recommend a diet low in fibre for those having issues with digestion as it helps to reduce the workload of the digestive tract and enabling it to rest. The diet is short-term and may help reduce uncomfortable symptoms peculiar with inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn disease and other digestive disorders.

Adults suffering from nausea, vomiting and heartburn or those recuperating from medical procedures involving the digestive system may also find a low fibre diet favourable, and since white rice is low in fibre and easy to digest, it’s often the first choice in those situations.

Summary

White rice is recommended for people with digestive disorders, heartburn and nausea as it is easy to digest, bland and low in fibre.

Should you eat white rice?

White rice is often unfairly mistreated and can be a better alternative to brown rice in some cases. For example, pregnant women may gain from the extra folate contained in enriched white rice. Additionally, white rice may be of great benefit to people experiencing nausea or heartburn and those on a low fibre diet as it does not ignite uncomfortable symptoms and is easier to digest.

However, brown rice is more preferred for most as it possesses a broader variety of essential amino acids, plant-based compounds, vitamins and minerals. It also has a low glycemic index rating of 55 which means that the rate at which its carbs are converted into blood sugar is slow making it a better option for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. That said, it’s okay to consume white rice in moderation without any feeling of guilt.

Summary

Brown rice is a better alternative, but it doesn’t stop you from enjoying white rice occasionally.

The bottom line

Though white rice is highly processed, it’s not necessarily unhealthy. Most white rice in the US is fortified with vitamins like folate to enrich its nutritional value. Additionally, its low in fibre making it easy to digest.

However, brown rice is a healthier option and contains more nutrients. Not to mention, researches have noted that brown rice is preferable for those with heart disease, diabetes and useful for weight loss and maintenance.

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