Why do people think brown rice is healthier?

by (5624) Updated June 19, 2013 at 3:53 PM Created November 05, 2011 at 5:26 PM

I was at Chipotle the other day and the girl in front of me said "look...they have brown rice now. It's better for you." She proceeded to order her bowl with DOUBLE brown rice. Obviously there is another issue in that story where Americans think just because something is "healthy" you can eat as much as you want, but I'll only stick to one topic.

This story got me thinking though...why do most people think brown rice is healthier? If you look at the nutritional content of brown and white rice they are identical. Same macronutrients and fiber content. I know when I was into bodybuilding it was believed that the brown rice digested slower and was lower on the GLycemic Index, but since getting into paleo I learned about all of the anti-nutrients brown rice has over white. I don't eat a ton of rice now but when I do I clearly choose the white over brown.

So what's the deal....why do most Americans think brown rice is better that white rice and how did this myth start?

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25 Replies

2902 · November 05, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Most americans are idiots. That being said

1) Brown rice does have more fiber and a lower glycemic index last time I checked. But, on both counts it's pretty negligible, especially in the context of a mixed meal with protein and fat (both will lower GI). I eat brown rice because I prefer the taste, but I will also eat white rice if it's placed in front of me.

I'm only eating a small amount (~100-200kcal at a time) of rice, so I don't really worry about antinutrients. If I was eating half my calories from brown rice, then it might be something worth worrying about, but such a diet is unhealthy for a whole host of reasons.

2) Most people have a tendency to think 'Hey, I ate something healthy, now I can do something unhealthy because I earned it.' There was a study where participants were given yogurt and told it was either low or full fat. Those told it was low fat ended up eating MORE calories through the rest of the day, even though the yogurt given to both groups was the same. This is another reason cardio fails for many people. They think running for 20 minutes means they earned a milkshake, but a 200kcal run << 1000kcal milkshake.

So, in the context of a balanced diet and assuming mild amounts of rice, brown rice or white rice don't really matter. Just pick the one you prefer and can handle well. If brown rice upsets your stomach, go white. Just keep in context the big picture. Having 1 vs. 2 bowls of rice is MUCH more important to weight loss than brown vs. white.

3500 · November 05, 2011 at 5:34 PM

Because they've been constantly misled into believing that whole grains are healthy, that because refining some foods removes essential nutrients, it must follow that refining ALL foods removes essential nutrients. Keep in mind, most people don't know what an antinutrient is; they've never heard of phytic acid and believe that gluten is a vital protein.

15070 · November 05, 2011 at 5:44 PM

I also eat white over brown, but brown rice does have far more nutrients.

People are afraid of phytic acid but that can be reduced (and the good stuff increased) by proper germination.


also, phytic acid is an antioxidant and binds iron, which many of us have far too much of. Lucas Tafer wrote a great blog recently, maybe he'll chime in here.


edit: With all of this being said, I'm sure chiptole is not germinating their rice

1716 · November 05, 2011 at 8:24 PM

Back in my Body-for-Life days, I believed that brown rice was healthy simply BECAUSE I WAS TOLD SO. Never bothered to look it up or questioned it ;P

77338 · November 05, 2011 at 6:44 PM

Rice bran is AFAIK richest source of magnesium in the world. Also, if you rely heavily on rice, its better to eat it whole grain. Beriberi (B1 deficiency) was discovered by relying too much on white rice.

I don't know much about toxins in whole rice tbh.

7153 · November 05, 2011 at 6:18 PM

Well, it's not really a myth. Brown rice does have more fiber and other nutrients than white rice. The advantage of white rice is that it is easier to digest and it doesn't have phytates (or it has fewer, not really sure on that). Generally speaking, if you are going to eat grains the less processed they are the better. However, of the processed grains, white rice is one of the best choices.

4337 · November 05, 2011 at 8:53 PM

Brown rice has more nutrients than white rice. It also has more phytic acid, and that's probably good for those with a nutrient rich diet, like... us. That said, if you are a poverty-stricken Thai rice farmer eating a zinc deficient rice-based diet, stick with white rice. (That example, discussed by the WAPF, is where I believe the white rice is better than brown rice MYTH crept into the paleo world).

785 · January 02, 2012 at 12:07 PM

There is probably a case to be made that "brown rice" has been deliberately associated with the organic-whole-healthy image, too. With food, like every other consumer good, it is mostly about proper marketing. And, of course, it has got novelty character.

20 · June 19, 2013 at 3:53 PM

It seems some people here are afraid on consuming foods with phytic acid. Our bodies have the enzyme phytase which breaks down phytic acid and releases the bound minerals so they can be absorbed.

10 · June 04, 2013 at 5:10 AM

Taste better to me, brown rice that is I like the texture.

10 · April 29, 2013 at 8:21 AM

Rice is healthier than other grains because you eat it with chop sticks so you have to eat it slowly, and not as much gets in your mouth. Pasta on the other hand is easy to shovel in. This is why all Italians are fat, and all vietnamese are thin. The question of brown or white is moot. Please don't accuse me of rasism. I have a fat Italian mother and a skinny Vietnamese dad. Namaste!

10 · April 25, 2013 at 9:08 PM

kinda missing the points here.brown/whole grains are not subject to ecologically negative processing.Its a costly messy process compared to just having whole grains.If all you can think of is whats good, or not, for you personally it may not be the best basis for finding a truly healthy sustainable diet.And if you don't care you can happily ignore the implications of this.

10 · April 25, 2013 at 3:48 PM

Why are you putting so much stock into the "anti-nutrient" factor? If your diet is so mineral and nutrient poor that a little bit of phytic acid is going to cause a defficiency, you are either in a third world country, or your diet program sucks.

Focusing on the fact that brown rice has antinutrients is closing your mind to the rest of the picture. Consider improved bowel function, slightly leveled off glycemic load, and the extra nutrients you are getting from the whole grain. If its really a huge concern consume citrus before or after or anything with vitamin c.

I have serious doubts that your diet program is so "dialed in" that you even need to consider anti nutrients in whole grains.

868 · September 20, 2012 at 8:27 PM

I ate brown rice because it tasted worse than white rice. The general scheme I followed was if a food tasted good it meant it was not healthy, and if it tasted bad it meant it was healthy. Such is the messed up world we live in.

10 · September 20, 2012 at 3:22 PM

The glycemic index on certain types of rice (non-instant brown rice) vs. glutinous rice or instant white rice is much lower. For us hypoglycemics, that's a big difference.

3127 · January 02, 2012 at 12:45 AM

i dont eat rice, if i ate rice i six months i would weigh exactly 275 have and diabetes, and heart disease. i dont think man can eat raw rice without dying, because man didnt cook food i dont think its fit to eat now.

15261 · November 05, 2011 at 8:12 PM

Because it is? Almost all of the nutrients in any grain are in the bran (outside of the grain), and brown rice is brown because it still has this bran. It has a pretty good nutritional profile for a grain. This doesn't mean that you should have double servings of it, but for those that eat some grains, brown rice (especially prepared fermented) is not a bad option.

I find that among all grains, I tolerate rice the best. Kurt Harris (from the Archevore) seems to agree.

875 · April 26, 2013 at 7:17 AM

Brown rice is much more nutritious. White rice is very nutrient poor, the vitamins and minerals you see listed are fortified into white rice. Brown rice is a pretty decent source of Thiamine which is easy to pull up short on on this way of eating. That's how beriberi (b1 deficiency) was discovered. It also has a decent magnesium and zinc content. The reason white rice is used much more widely, besides the taste, is that it can be stored for much longer.

11251 · April 25, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Even back in the sixties and seventies, folks knew something was wrong with the world. The initial health impulse was somewhat similar to the paleo view, but unfortunately, as we have seen, we can imagine the past wrongly, and do silly things like not eat enough salt.

So, folks looked at grain processing and threw it out, assuming it was a bad idea, but what they didn't see was that the rich processed their grains, to get as close to pure starch as possible, and then got their nutrition from animal products. The poor pretty much had to scrape by with whatever the could get. Sure, sometimes the rich got stupid and wouldn't eat their liver, but in general, their nutritional picture was far better than the poor folk who had to eat brown rice.

744 · April 25, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Same reason why people think chocolate milk is better than white... -_-'

It's likely an association between brown and white bread... Brown = rustic, untouched, and whole. White = bleached, nutritionally poor, and manufactured.

At the end it's all a load of bullshit

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8187 · November 06, 2011 at 3:24 AM

Yes. Blame the hippies for hippie-thinking. What else about rolling around in mud at Woodstock seems to you to have evolutionary merit?

If you depend on brown rice for "nutrients," you are a silly vegan, in denial.


5848 · November 05, 2011 at 9:11 PM

Why do people assume that "heart healthy" whole grains are healthy? Because they are programmed to think that.

2923 · November 05, 2011 at 8:31 PM

Isn't basmati an exception? Doesn't it have all the benefits of brown despite being white?

I loved it. Wish I could indulge again.

107 · November 05, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Blame the Hippies. 1960's the whole "solidarity with brown people via brown food" thing. So silly. "Brown" people eat white rice....lol

3127 · January 02, 2012 at 12:39 AM

its the non stop brainwashing of TV land. its like whole wheat is some how good because it causes but delays the onset diabetes by six years. im serious. its like saying you can eat low lead paint chips because they delay death by six years.

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