When it comes to bread, pasta, potatoes and rice, the mantra ‘brown is best’ reigns supreme.
The brown versions of all these foods tend to be less processed so they contain more nutrients, fibre and have a lower GI. But when it comes to rice, it’s not as simple as all that. Not only do Japanese people, whose diets are full of white rice, live longer, healthier lives than us, a handful news stories have flagged up the fact that brown rice contains compounds that prevent our bodies from absorbing nutrients and it even contains arsenic, a naturally occurring mineral which can be poisonous in large doses. So, what’s the deal? Is brown rice *really* healthier? Here’s what you need to know:
White rice does contain fewer nutrients. White rice is created by a refining process that removes the bran and germ portions of brown rice. Through this process most of the fibre is lost (brown rice contains more than 4x the fibre of white rice) as well as many of other important vitamins and minerals (brown rice contains almost 4x more magnesium and 2x more manganese than white).
But brown rice contains ‘anti-nutrients. The bran part of brown rice that is removed to produce white rice contains compounds called phytates. Phytates are sometimes labelled ‘anti-nutrients’ because they can bind to minerals like zinc, magnesium and calcium, and prevent them from being absorbed by the body.
So, what’s the verdict? The real lesson here is that it’s never as simple as labelling foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Neither white nor brown rice are intrinsically ‘bad’, and both can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. It is recommended opting for a wholegrain option as a general rule, however, just be aware of the fact that whole grains do contain phytates, and ensure your diet is rich in plenty of other food sources of vitamins and minerals, particularly a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. If you’re having white rice, always combine with a good source of protein and some fat (salmon and avocado sushi perhaps!), the combination of which will help slow the rate at which it raises blood sugar levels.
Article credit: Prima
Photo credit: FoodHappy