Brown rice or white rice?

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Brown rice or white rice?  A more controversial question than might be thought since brown rice contains more nutrients and fibre than white rice, so why the argument? Well, brown rice also contains anti-nutrients called phytates that bind to nutrients such as calcium,iron, magnesium and zinc in the gut and remove them from the body.  Since phytates are in the bran of the rice, white rice does not contain phyates (or contains a lot less of them), but because of the lack of fibre, it can push up blood sugar, causing hunger pangs and fatness.1

Of all the grains, rice is the most body friendly, causing least problems with intolerance, which is different to the other popular grains, wheat, rye, barley and oats.  But, as with all foods, if eaten to excess, then intolerance problems will build.  As a matter of fact, in Asia, where rice forms a staple part of the diet, rice intolerance is a growing problem.2 To avoid intolerance developing, keep varying all foods each meal everyday.   As far as rice is concerned there are two methods that remove phytates from it, and one idea for overcoming the blood sugar surges associated with white rice. First, what to do with brown rice.

For nutrition, brown rice wins, but to overcome the anti-nutrients, we have to take care over the preparation.  Of the two methods, the first involves a long soak as in the above video with a pre-digesting enzyme – here they used Bulgarian Yoghurt.  Other enzymes that could be used are whey or buttermilk. For those of us with a dairy intolerance, we can use lemon juice or vinegar.  Just follow the instructions in the video, using enzyme of choice. The other way of removing the phytates, according to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, is to boil unsoaked brown rice  for about 10 minutes then leave it at a very low simmer for 1½ – 3 hours.  This long cooking time makes the rice much more digestible and phytate free.

If we don’t have time for all this, then we can revert to white rice – but to lessen the sugar impact we need to eat less rice with the meal and more protein, vegetables and fat.  This overall combination of foods do not impact blood sugar nearly so much as a meal with white rice as the principal constituent.  Also, by doing this we  increase the nutritional and fibrous content of the meal.  Although brown rice is more nutritious than white, grains generally do not have anything like the nutritional impact of high quality protein, fresh vegetables and a decent blob of good fat.

So there we have it.  Brown rice or white rice?  It all depends upon how much time we have for preparation and what proportion of the meal the rice forms.  If possible, use properly prepared brown rice, but not with every meal, and failing that, a small portion of white rice as part of a well balanced meal is no bad thing.

  1. High blood sugar leads to the pancreas releasing insulin, the hormone of storage – and unless we have just had a heavy workout or a hard physical day at work, storage means fat storage. []
  2. Survana B S.  Rice, the allergen.  Nepal Journ of Sci and Tech 9 (2008) 195-199 []

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