In the fitness industry, there is the notion that consuming rice as a part of your meal, alongside of chicken breast and plain broccoli, is a healthy option and one that should be consumed daily. Having that rice as your "starch" for the meal, especially if it's brown rice, elevates the meal to a new level, right?
For those of you who have been reading my blog for any extended period of time, you know a couple of things:
1. I hate chicken breasts (get some fat on there!)
2. I hate plain, steamed veggies (add some salt and fat on there!)
3. I hate grains, even those that don't contain gluten (like rice)
However, I understand that not everyone is ready to jump full into a grain-free lifestyle like I have over the past five years. Thus today's topic: white vs brown rice. If you are going to eat the rice ,which one should you choose? Read on, because I think my answer will surprise you.
Rice is a gluten-free grain that is native to Asia. Brown rice is the whole grain form with only the outside layer removed. White rice, on the other hand, is processed a bit further to remove the bran and most of the germ. This also takes away some of the fiber and nutrients that brown rice can boast over white rice.
However, that being said, it should be noted that rice is NOT - in any way, shape, or form - a nutrient dense food. Not even close. Compare it to another starch like a sweet potato and rice will lose every single time.
When it comes to choosing white or brown rice, most of the time I will go against the nutritional grain (pun intended) and recommend white rice.
Not expecting that were you.
Both white and brown rice contain anti-nutrients which interfere with our body's ability to digest them properly. When we eat any grain or legume, we will struggle to digest them properly because of the anti-nutrients contained in them. These anti-nutrients can harm our gut lining, interfere with our immune system in certain individuals, and can cause us to not digest and assimilate nutrients from other foods as well because of the damage they can do to our gut.
That being said, because the white rice has been polished and more of the outer layers of the grain have been removed, it becomes easier to digest because the parts of the grain itself that are hardest to digest have been removed. But, this also means that white rice has a MUCH bigger impact on your blood sugar levels, as it converts to glucose rather quickly, This is why anyone who has a family history of diabetes, erratic blood sugar levels, energy dips and spikes throughout the day, a history of dieting, or craves sweets should avoid rice at all costs while they work to normalize their blood sugar levels. The only people in which this is a good problem would be high-level athletes who are in need of quick glucose after a tough workout or game.
In addition to the anti-nutrients found in rice, rice can also act as a gluten cross-reactant in the body. People who have an allergy to gluten have an immune response when they consume gluten. A gluten cross-reactive food means that when this same person eats rice, for example, their immune system will start to attack as if the person had just consumed gluten.
Rice also is a crop that is prone to arsenic contamination, which is linked to a host of health issues. If choosing to buy rice, finding a brand of white rice that boasts of low-arsenic levels on the label or brand itself is key.
On the whole, I would consider rice a middle-ground food that pushes toward to side of "avoid most of the time" because its potential to harm the body, blood sugar levels, and digestion more than help. If you feel the need to have a "starch" at a given meal, choosing potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, butternut squash, plantains, or any other root veggie would be a much better option.
If you do choose to consume rice, make it white and pair it with protein and a ton of healthy fat to cancel out the negative effects on your blood sugar. Cooking it in bone broth is another great way to sneak in some extra nutrition and gut help as well.