The Surprising Truth About Brown Rice

Is brown rice really a superfood?  Nutrition Diva spills the beans (er, rice).

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read

Q. "Brown rice is always portrayed as being better for you than white rice. However, when I looked up the nutrition facts for both of them, the differences were not huge.  Has brown rice's reputation as a superfood been exaggerated? What am I missing?

A. Whole grains like brown rice are generally higher in fiber and certain other nutrients than their refined  counterparts. But you're absolutely right: The nutritional differences between brown rice and white rice are not as dramatic as many people think. 

See also: The Truth About Whole Grains


Both have about the same number of calories - around 200 calories for a 1 cup of cooked rice. (Translation: You still need to control portion sizes!)  Both brown and white rice are a decent source of thiamin and niacin.  White rice is often enriched with iron and folate, although brown rice rarely is. Brown rice on the other hand, has more magnesium and selenium.

But perhaps the biggest difference is that brown rice has more fiber - 4 grams per cup vs. just 1 gram for white rice. That makes it a bit more filling and keeps blood sugar levels a bit steadier. 

See also: 3 Tips on How to Eat Less Without Feeling Hungry


But here's another comparison that may suprise you. A medium baked potato with the skin has just as much fiber; more vitamin C,  B6, folate, and iron as a cup of brown rice. It also has fewer calories and carbohydrates, and a significantly lower glycemic impact. Make it a sweet potato and now you're really talking superfood: loaded with Vitamin A and C, plus fiber, minerals, and just half the calories and carbohydrates of brown rice!

Should you stop eating rice?  Not necessarily.  It's awfully hard to make a sushi roll with a baked potato! And if you eat a lot of rice, you'll do yourself a favor by choosing brown rice over white rice most of the time.  Either way, however, watch the portion sizes and leave plenty of room on the plate for other nutritious foods, like vegetables!

See also: What Type of Rice is Healthiest?

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.