Difference between White and Brown Rice

By: | Updated: Dec-12, 2017

Many people say that brown rice is healthier than white rice. How true is this? And aside from being supposedly “healthier” than white rice, how else is brown rice different from white rice? This article will focus on the difference between white and brown rice.

Summary Table

White RiceBrown Rice
Produced by removing the hull, bran, and germ, leaving only the endosperm; also known as “refined” rice or “polished” riceProduced by removing only the inedible outer layers; considered “whole grain” rice
Grains are white, shiny, and bright (polished look)Grains retain the natural brown color
Requires less water and shorter cooking time; light and soft when cooked; stores longerRequires more water and a longer cooking time; has a chewy texture when cooked
Contains iron, vitamin B1, and vitamin B3, which are usually added back artificially, hence the term “enriched”Abundant in lignans, antioxidants, vitamin B6, manganese, fiber, magnesium, thiamin, niacin, and phosphorous.
Has a higher glycemic index; contains less arsenicHas a lower glycemic index; contains more arsenic


A bowl of white rice
A bowl of white rice

White rice is produced by refining rice grains. The hull, bran, and germ are removed (the layers underneath the husk), leaving only the endosperm (the starchy part of the grain).

White rice has a polished look; the grains are bright, white, and shiny. When cooked, it is soft and its flavor is very mild. Without the tough parts of the grain, white rice is light, requires less water, and cooks fast. It can store for up to a couple of years.

With the removal of some parts of the grain, essential dietary components such as fiber, fatty acids, and many vitamins and minerals are also removed. However, a few of these important nutrients (e.g. iron, vitamin B1, and vitamin B3) can be added back which is why some types of white rice are labeled “enriched.”

Additionally, white rice is believed to increase your risk of diabetes because of its high glycemic index. Glycemic index is a measurement that indicates how fast the food can increase the blood sugar.

A bowl of brown rice
A bowl of brown rice

Brown rice is produced by removing only the inedible outer layers of the grain. It still has the outer bran, germ, and endosperm, hence the label “whole grain.”

Brown rice retains the natural color of the rice grains. It has a mild but distinct nutty flavor and a chewy texture because of the tough outer layers. It also requires a lot of water and a longer time to be completely cooked. It stores for up to 6 months at room temperature.

Since brown rice still has the edible outer layers, it is abundant in antioxidants, vitamin B6, manganese, fiber, magnesium, thiamin, niacin, and phosphorous. It also contains lignans, a natural compound found in plants that are known to reduce the fat in the bloodstream and lower blood pressure. However, brown rice is also believed to have a high amount of arsenic, a natural element absorbed by the grains that may cause poisoning when taken in excessive amounts.

White vs Brown Rice

What, then, is the difference between white and brown rice?

White rice undergoes a refining process, which is why the rice grains are shiny and white. The outer layers of the grains are removed and discarded, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Brown rice, on the other hand, is “whole grain” rice. Only the inedible outer layer is removed so it retains its natural color. Brown rice has a shorter shelf life than white rice in general.

Because white rice does not contain the tough outer layers, it requires less water and cooks faster than brown rice. Once cooked, white rice is soft and tastes almost bland, whereas brown rice has a chewy texture and a distinct, mild, nutty flavor.

Brown rice is considered to be the healthier option between the two. This is because it has a lower glycemic index and it contains more dietary nutrients such as vitamin B6, manganese, fiber, magnesium, thiamin, niacin, and phosphorous than white rice. Brown rice, however, contains more arsenic than white rice.

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