We have a face-off today. An old staple, White Rice, champion of our plates for thousands of years, is up against a new threat, Brown Rice in a battle of nutrition. For those of you who don’t know, brown rice basically contains an outer layer of bran which makes it different from white rice in terms of both nutrition and flavor. The battle commences in following 5 rounds:
- Fiber: One of the prime reasons why brown rice is being marketed as an healthier choice is because of its higher fiber content. Since the bran is not removed from the white seed, brown rice certainly contains slightly more fiber (1.4gm more per 100 gm) than its white counterpart.
- Macronutrients: Rice, whether brown or white contains mostly starchy carbohydrates (the good guys in the world of carbs) and some protein. Although the profile is similar for the two, brown rice contains slightly lesser calories than white rice because of its fiber content which is indigestible.
- Micronutrients: The outer layer of brown rice contains more micronutrients (2-3 times more than white rice for some nutrients) especially minerals like Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese and Phosphorus. This match is going one-sided in favor of brown rice till now.
- Phytates: Unfortunately, the same outer layer of brown rice also contains phytates which bind to minerals and our human body cannot break them down. Hence, its absorption of minerals, if taken in high doses, often leads to mineral deficiencies especially in grain consuming cultures like that of India where there are other phytate containing dietary sources too like pulses (This is the reason why grandmas used to soak pulses a day before, the phytates in pulses break down to lower levels if soaked and then steamed at high pressure). White rice, on the other hand, does not deter mineral absorption.
- Price: While brown rice costs around 90-150 INR/Kg, white rice is much cheaper even if you eat good quality long grain Basmati varieties. In fact, white rice is the cheapest grain group produced in the world. From a per capita consumption point of view, there is no other grain, not even wheat, that can match its price.
Like “The Red Viper” with his one weakness of letting his emotions come into way, brown rice certainly had it won in its favor till you count the phytate factor in. Not only does it nullifies the higher mineral content since humans can’t absorb them when binded with phytates, it may absorb minerals from other foods of that meal.
Also, the Price factor is the brute “skull-crusher”. The bottomline is, like “The Mountain” who fights for money, white rice is neutral. White and brown rice both contain starchy carbs which are a good source for energy, taste good and provide satiety. But brown rice is costly and has proven anti-nutrients like phytates and some controversial ones like lectin and trypsin inhibitors and hence cause more damage than good.
If you’re still pondering over brown rice’s higher fiber content, all we have to say is if you depend on rice for getting your daily fiber intake instead of vegetables, fruits and pulses, you’re going to have a hard time while pooping, literally.
Verdict: White Rice wins
In Lucem Scientiam