When I meet with clients we discuss carbohydrates and this question always comes up. Is white rice better for you or brown? We have been taught to avoid all “white” foods” like sugar, white bread and white flour for optimal health and body composition. A blanket statement like this is an attempt to keep guidelines simple for people. Labeling food as good or bad is not the most sustainable approach to nutrition. However understanding the impact food has on our body and how it makes us feel and perform might be the better approach. At least that is what I have found in my journey of health and wellness. So let’s explore the topic of which rice is better for you.
First, rice belongs to the grass family and is actually a seed. It comes in several different varieties like brown, white, wild etc. One cup on average contains roughly 45 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of protein and 200 or so calories. White rice has had the germ and bran removed from the outside unlike brown rice. Now that we understand some basics, lets look deeper at the nutrition side to rice.
Neither type of rice is a nutrient dense food. Nutrient dense foods give us the most nutrients for the least amount of calories. In other words, rice isn’t high in nutrient value for the 200 calories it contains. That’s an important piece of information to remember especially if you have the goal of weight loss. On the other hand, rice is a good source of glucose (sugar) and is a great post workout meal to help replace your glycogen stores. If you have weight loss goals, this would be a food that you need to definitely portion control and place in a post workout meal. If you want to gain weight, rice is a great option for added calories, however look elsewhere for your vitamins and minerals.
Now let’s talk about phytates or phytic acid. This is an area of debate in field of nutrition. Phytates are a compound found in the seeds of plants. It is the storage form of energy for the young plant. Since rice is a seed it contains phytic acid. Phytates bind with minerals found in the food we eat. They also inhibit enzymes we need to digest proteins and starches. Many believe phytates also carry some antioxidant benefits. Cooking, fermenting or sprouting help to lower phytic acid levels in grains, beans and seeds. If you have gut issues already or a vitamin deficiency then you might want to think about the amount of rice you are eating in your diet.
All disease begins in the gut-a quote credited to Hippocrates. Gut health is importance for all of us as it plays a major role in overall health. A healthy gut is important for digestion and absorption of our food, immune system response and mental health. Brown rice can be irritating to the gut lining and difficult to digest contributing to something known as leaky gut syndrome. That’s a topic for a future article, just know it’s linked to illness and the development of chronic disease. We all need to take better care of our gut and especially those with autoimmune disease.
So in conclusion, if you have been eating brown rice because that’s what you have been lead to believe is healthier, you might want to think again. Food is more than just what we eat when we are hungry. We need to think a little deeper about what food does for and to our body so we can feel better, perform better and live a better life.