Rice serves as a staple food in many cultures around the globe. It comes in several shapes, colors and sizes, the most popular of which are white and brown rice. And while white rice is more commonly consumed than brown rice, the latter has the reputation of the healthier variant.
Every health-obsessed housewife or diet-conscious gym rat will tell you that brown rice offers huge advantages over white rice in terms of nutritional content. Brown rice supposedly has more fiber, protein and important vitamins and minerals, while a plate of white rice is essentially a handful of empty calories with poor nutritional value. But is this really true or is it just another fallacy based on anecdotal evidence in the health community which seems possessed by the word ‘whole grain’? Read further to find out.
Brown rice is full of protein, fiber and keeps blood sugar levels stable?
Based on a vast pool of existing and ongoing scientific research, it’s just a well-designed myth, no matter how much those hemp-wearing, sun-gazing types convince you otherwise. First of all, rice in general is not a very good source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals – it’s merely an easily absorbable form of glucose, which makes it a good food choice for replenishing your muscles after a strenuous workout. It’s true that it contains protein, but this amount is insignificant and you shouldn’t rely on it to meet your daily requirements – you’d be much better off with a modestly sized portion of animal protein. When it comes to fiber, brown rice indeed has certain amounts of it – but nowhere near as much as fruits and vegetables have, and the fiber they provide is of better quality at that. Finally, it’s also true that brown rice doesn’t raise blood sugar as much as white rice does, but since no one eats a plate of plain rice by itself, that doesn’t make any difference in the real world. When consumed with other food (especially fats), the rate of digestion and absorption of starches slows down and you don’t experience blood sugar spikes, so it doesn’t really matter if the rice you ate was white or brown.
Now that we’ve made it clear that brown rice doesn’t provide any superior benefits compared to white rice, let’s move on to the bigger issue. Brown rice contains phytic acid – a compound located in the rice bran, the part that gives brown rice its color. Phytic acid, which is basically an anti-nutrient found in many grains and legumes, binds to minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium, niacin and calcium, preventing them from being absorbed. Furthermore, it also inhibits pepsin, the enzyme responsible for breaking down protein, and amylase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down sugar. This means that not only phytic acid prevents certain nutrients from being absorbed, it also impairs digestion. So even if its nutritional profile was substantially denser than the one of white rice, that wouldn’t matter at all because the phytic acid would make those nutrients be largely unavailable for digestion. And needless to say, research has also confirmed that milled white rice has a higher mineral absorption rate than brown rice. All in all, it’s pretty safe to conclude that white rice is still a superior food and it’s highly advisable for athletes to stick to it, regardless of all the brown rice propaganda.
So before buying into something just because the top online health gurus say it’s amazing for you, educate yourself on the matter and search for reliable evidence because that’s the sure-fire way to stay fit and healthy.