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Is Brown Rice Good for Weight Loss?

author image Sylvie Tremblay, MSc
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.
Is Brown Rice Good for Weight Loss?
Brown rice is lower in calories, but higher in fiber, than white rice. Photo Credit: Niteenrk/iStock/Getty Images

Brown rice is a diet staple for a reason -- it's healthy, easy to prepare and endlessly versatile in the kitchen. Simply eating brown rice without making other changes to your diet might not help you lose a lot of weight, but it does have some demonstrated weight loss benefits. Serve brown rice as part of healthy, diet-friendly meals in a calorie-controlled diet, and follow a regular exercise routine for long-term weight loss success.

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Calories in Brown Rice

When you're trying to lose weight, the results you get are determined by calories in vs. calories out, and you'll get the best results by making sure they're quality calories. When you eat fewer calories than you burn, you start burning fat to make up the difference, so you'll lose weight. Brown rice isn't exactly low in calories, but it can still add nutritional value to a calorie-controlled diet. A cup of cooked brown rice has 216 calories -- about the same as a cup of cooked quinoa -- which is about 14 percent of your calorie "budget" on a 1,500-calorie weight loss diet. It's slightly lower in calories than white rice, which has 242 calories per cup. If you substituted a cup of white rice for brown rice every day for a year, you'd save almost 9,500 calories, or about 3 pounds of fat. Of course, that doesn't count weight you'd lose from making other lifestyle changes.

Weight Loss Benefits From Fiber

Brown rice also offers weight loss benefits thanks to its fiber content. While making multiple lifestyle changes is best for weight loss, just eating more fiber will help you reach your goals, reported a 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The authors compared the weight-loss benefits of the DASH diet -- a healthy diet aimed at promoting cardiovascular health -- to the weight-loss benefits of just eating more fiber, without any other diet changes. While the study subjects who followed the DASH diet lost the most weight, the ones who simply ate more fiber still lost a significant amount of weight. You'll need to eat 30 grams of fiber daily to see health benefits. Eat a cup of brown rice, and you'll get 3.5 grams of fiber, or more than 10 percent of your goal. White rice, on the other hand, has just 0.6 gram of fiber.

Evidence for Brown Rice and Weight

There's also some evidence directing linking brown rice to weight control. One study, published in Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology in 2014, found that when women with type 2 diabetes switched out white rice for brown rice, they lost weight and improved their blood pressure. Another study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2014, looked at the effect of brown rice on visceral fat -- the metabolically active belly fat that surrounds your organs and poses a serious health risk. The study found that swapping out white rice for brown rice helped improve visceral fat loss, but that switching back to white rice returned the subjects to their original weight. Finally, a preliminary test tube study, published in Lipids in Health and Disease in 2014, found that brown rice extract can interact with fat cells, preventing new fat cell growth and triggering fat burning. While this test tube study doesn't explain exactly how brown rice helps promote fat loss in people, it offers one explanation of what might be happening.

Brown Rice Serving Tips

Brown rice is often served plain, as a healthy-but-boring side dish -- but you don't always need to serve it that way. Mix your brown rice with lemon juice and basil and mint chiffonade for a more flavorful side, or make a mini grain salad by mixing in a spoonful of cranberries and chopped walnuts, then topping your rice with an orange and balsamic vinaigrette. Use brown rice as a base for grain bowls, and top it with black beans, toasted corn, red peppers, tomatoes and avocado for a healthy, Tex-Mex-inspired dinner. Add a handful of cooked brown rice to your favorite vegetable soups to infuse them with more complex carbohydrates for long-lasting energy.

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