The differences between brown rice and white rice are more complicated than you might think. Nutrition Diva explains.
Q. For years I've diligently chosen brown rice over white, believing it to better because of its higher fiber and nutrient content. But lately, I've been hearing a lot about the "anti-nutrient" qualities of brown rice...something about the phytic acid in it interfering with nutrient uptake. What’s your take?
A. First, I think we need a quick reality check on the nutritional value of brown rice. It’s true that brown rice is higher in fiber and certain nutrients, including selenium and manganese. White rice, on the other hand, is higher in folate and thiamine. But as I talked about in my episode “The Truth About Whole Grains” neither white nor brown rice can be considered a nutrient-dense food. And although the added fiber means that the starches in brown rice are more slowly converted to blood sugar, both white and brown rice have a moderate glycemic impact. In terms of the effect on your blood sugar, the portion size plays a far bigger role than whether you choose white or brown rice.
Secondly, it is true that brown rice contains phytic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of certain minerals. As I talked about in my episode on phytic acid in grains, this is unlikely to lead to nutrient deficiencies unless you are eating large amounts of brown rice at every meal. Seeing as grains are fairly calorie-dense but not all that nutrient dense, I recommend consuming grains (even whole grains) in moderation. That should also keep you out of trouble in terms of phytic acid.
You can also take steps to reduce the phytic acid in whole grains, if you’re so inclined. See my episode “Should You Soak Your Grains?” for tips.
Brown Rice image from Shutterstock