Why is Brown Rice considered to be Healthy?

Organic Food

Rice is the second most consumed staple food in the world. And it has been an important food grain for centuries in many Asian countries. The largest producers of rice are Asian countries such as India, China and Indonesia (1). Rice is eaten as staple mostly because it is a highly palatable cereal grain.

What is brown rice?

Brown rice is unpolished rice which still has the outer bran layer. It is obtained by threshing and separating husk from rice.

Brown rice components are (1)

  • bran layers (6–7%)
  • embryo (2–3%)
  • endosperm (about 90%)

Compared to white or polished rice brown rice contains more fiber and micronutrients that is vitamins and minerals. Brown rice also contains many phytochemicals.

When brown rice is milled or polished, we get white rice which is mostly made up of starchy endosperm. While polishing a lot of nutrients are lost along with the phytochemicals. As the degree of milling increases the loss of nutrients and phytochemicals increases.

Milling of brown rice to white rice leads to loss of about (1)

  • 85%of fat
  • 15 % of protein
  • 75% of phosphorus
  • 90% of calcium
  • and 70% of B vitamins (which include B1, B2and B3)

Along with the nutrients polishing also results in the loss of several phytochemicals which are present in brown rice. These phytochemicals have various health promoting properties.

Why is brown rice healthy? 

Brown rice still has the germ, bran layers which contained several micronutrients and phytochemicals. Several of these phytochemicals exhibit antioxidant activity. The phytochemicals present in brown rice are

  • Phenolic acids
  • Flavonoids
  • Anthocyanins and proanthocyanins
  • Vitamins – tocopherols, tocotrienols, B vitamins (B1, B3, B6)
  • Amino acids
  • Phytosterols
  • Gamma-oryzanol
  • Dietary fiber
  • Phytic acid
  • Minerals

Brown rice has been thought to have several therapeutic properties such as (1)

  • anti-diabetic
  • anti-cholesterol
  • cardioprotective
  • antioxidant

Brown rice has lower glycaemic index compared to white rice therefore beneficial for diabetic people (3). It was observed that brown rice has a slower gastric emptying rate because of the bran component and it may be the reason for lower glycaemic index than white rice (4). The alarming rate at which people with diabetes are increasing globally and especially in countries like India where rice is eaten daily brown rice would be a healthier option.

Why is brown rice not popular?

Even though brown rice is nutritionally much better than white rice it is not consumed as much as white rice. That may be because it is less appealing than white rice in appearance and because of the chewy texture even after cooking. Other factors contributing to brown rice not being as popular as white rice are the longer time taken to cook, costlier and also less awareness about its health benefits.

Some of the components of brown rice such as phytic acid may also make some of the micronutrients less bioavailable. But cooking or sprouting increases the bioavailability of the micronutrients. Sprouting or germination of brown rice also improves the texture and palatability of brown rice (2). Sprouting results in neutralizing phytic acid, release of enzymes, proteins and vitamins which makes it easier to digest and absorb the nutrients.

To conclude we can say that brown rice is healthier and has more nutritive value compared to white rice.


    1. Ravichanthiran, K., Ma, Z. F., Zhang, H., Cao, Y., Wang, C. W., Muhammad, S., and Pan, B. (2018). Phytochemical Profile of Brown Rice and Its Nutrigenomic Implications. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 7(6).
  1. Patil, S. B., & Khan, M. K. (2011). Germinated brown rice as a value added rice product: A review. Journal of food science and technology, 48(6).
  1. Upadhyay, A. and Karn, S.K. (2018). Brown Rice: Nutritional Composition and Health Benefits. J. Food Sci. Technol. Nepal, Vol. 10 (48-54)
4.      Pletsch, E.A. and Hamaker, B. R. (2018). Brown rice compared to white rice slows gastric emptying in humans, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.72.

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