Although a high-carbohydrate food, rice offers a natural source of nutrition and forms a dietary staple in many parts of the world. It can be treated in different ways after harvesting and appears on our store shelves in several forms. All types of rice contain a variety of nutrients; protein, carbohydrate, B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium and iron.
As with all grains, rice is harvested from the plant in a hull which must be removed. Brown rice retains the inner seed coating called rice bran, giving the rice a nuttier flavor and chewier texture. The bran layer provides additional dietary fiber, slows digestion and makes you feel fuller. Exchanging white rice for brown is one way to switch to whole grains in your diet.
Parboiled rice, also known as converted rice, is treated at the harvesting stage while still in the hulls. It is soaked and steamed, before being dried. This process alters the nature of the starch, resulting in transparent grains that will be less sticky and more separate when cooked. It also allows some nutrients to transfer from the hull into the grain, giving a more nutritious product than untreated rice.
Carbohydrates, or starchy foods, can be rated according to the glycemic index or GI. This scale compares how quickly your body turns different foods into sugar, an important issue in some diets. All forms of rice are rated as high GI foods; however, the American Diabetes Association notes that brown and converted rice feature a lower GI than untreated white rice. Either form of rice makes a good choice for a sugar-control diet.
Rice contains the B vitamins niacin, thiamine and riboflavin. These vitamins convert carbohydrates to energy -- a vital process for several body functions. Since these vitamins are water-soluble, the parboiling process allows them to transfer from the hulls to the grains of rice. As a result, parboiled rice becomes a richer source of vitamins than unconverted rice, white or brown.
Both brown and parboiled rice offer higher nutrition than untreated white rice. If you are looking for additional fiber in your diet, brown rice is the best choice. If your concerns are to increase vitamin intake, or if you find brown rice indigestible, parboiled rice is a nutritious option. If you are able to locate it, parboiled brown rice offers the highest nutrition of all.