You’ve probably heard nutritionists talk about the benefits of whole grains as opposed to simple, refined grains, but what’s the hype really about, and does it apply to brown versus white rice?

Whole-wheat flour is generally considered healthier than white flour, and you may have even heard raw unrefined sugar referred to as healthier than white refined sugar. While these statements generally ring true (the more processing and refinement a food undergoes, the more nutritionally depleted it’s likely to be), new studies and health claims emerging every day make deciphering what’s best all the more difficult.

When it comes to white rice versus brown rice, how do we know what’s best to choose for our bodies individually?

While Asian cultures have eaten white rice for thousands of years, modern health claims seem to support the notion that whole-grain, brown rice is a much better option because it is unrefined. To help sort out the details, let’s consider a brief overview of some of the pros and cons of each. 

First, white rice contains some notable attributes while brown contains some drawbacks. White rice is a good source of easily accessible carbohydrates. Because it’s refined, it lacks the phytates and lectins found in brown rice. These phytates and lectins attach to the nutrients in brown rice and inhibit them from being easily accessed by our bodies. More specifically, components of the rice grain called the bran and germ are intact within grown rice, and these parts of the grain can be difficult for our bodies to digest. Repeated consumption along with other grains, according to Ancestral Nutrition (, can even lead to leaky gut syndrome. White rice, on the other hand, is easily broken down by our digestive tracts and its nutrients are easily absorbed.

However, some drawbacks to white rice include the fact that it is artificially fortified with nutrients and is less nutritionally dense than its brown rice counterpart. Numerous studies have suggested unrefined whole grains may possibly reduce cholesterol levels as well as risk of heart disease and diabetes. According to the Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, a comparison of long grain brown rice to white rice reveals brown rice to contain about 20 more calories per 1/3 cup serving than white rice, .3g more protein, a gram more fiber and noticeably more fat. Overall, a comparison reveals brown rice to have a considerably higher vitamin and nutrient content than white rice.

A brief nutritional comparison reveals benefits to both. However, as with any food, ensuring it is organic and produced via a non-GMO source is perhaps most crucial in order to avoid ingesting harmful toxins. White rice may be easier to digest, but it certainly lacks the nutritional wholeness and complexity of brown rice. That is not to say that white rice is out of the question. You can still enjoy an evening of delectable sushi made with white rice, especially if you have a sensitive digestive tract; just be sure you’re getting adequate nutrients and fiber from other sources as well. Lastly, if you choose brown rice and find it difficult to digest, try soaking it for a couple hours before cooking it. According to Dr. Weston Price, this will help to break down its phytates and lectins so that your body can more easily absorb its nutrients.

Whatever your choice, remember to consider your diet in entirety, and be sure that the sources of your grains are trusted, chemical free and non-GMO.

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