How Is White Rice Healthy for Our Body?

Close-up of a bowl of rice
Small bowl of white rice beside a set of chopsticks. (Image: View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images)

White rice is a staple food for many Asian countries, serving as a main food source for over half the world’s population, according to Utah State University Extension Agent Jana Darrington. White rice, which has been refined, has the husk, bran and germ layers removed, so just the white inner kernel remains. Removing the outer layers removes much of the nutritional value; enriched rice products have nutrients added back in an attempt to equal the original nutritional value. White rice, particularly instant white rice, has less nutritional value than brown rice.

Nutrition

White rice is a good calorie source; 1 cup of cooked white instant rice contains around 165 calories, while unenriched parboiled white rice contains 205 calories in 1 cup and brown rice contains 216 calories in 1 cup. Most of the calories in rice come from carbohydrate; brown rice and most non-instant white rice have around 44 g of carbohydrate per serving while instant white rice has 35 g. Broen rice offers more fiber than white rice, at 3 grams per serving versus 0.6 grams in white rice. Rice also contains protein -- 5 g per serving for brown rice, 3.3 g for instant white rice and 4 g for non-instant white rice.

Vitamins and Minerals

Even enriched instant or parboiled white rice has fewer vitamins and minerals than brown rice, with the exception of iron. Brown rice has much higher levels of phosphorus and magnesium -- two nutrients that nourish your skeleton -- as well as selenium and manganese, two antioxidants. Enriched rice has iron, niacin, thiamin, and folic acid added. Iron and folic acid promote healthy red blood cell function, while niacin and thiamin support your metabolism.

Health Risks

Refined white rice has a higher glycemic index than brown rice, meaning it breaks down into glucose much more quickly after being eaten than brown rice. Foods with a high glycemic index can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Brown rice takes longer to break down because it contains more fiber. A Harvard study showed that eating five or more helpings of white rice per week increased the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 17 percent, while those who ate two servings of brown rice per week reduced their risk by 11 percent.

Considerations

White rice is more easily stored and keeps longer than brown rice. Rice in general is a low-allergy food. When buying white rice, choose parboiled versions which take longer to cook but retain more nutrients.

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