Rice is an integral part of every meal in many countries, but there’s still a lot of ambiguity concerning its health effects. White rice has for long been thought to lead to weight gain, but countries that live off it don’t seem to have major weight issues. So is white rice the culprit it’s been made out to be?
Brown Rice Vs. White Rice
To understand how brown rice differs from white rice, it’s important to first understand the structure of a whole grain. A grain that is fully intact contains three major components: the outer bran, a germ core and the endosperm. The bran layer is a hard covering that is full of insoluble fibers and antioxidants. The germ is the nutritional core of a grain. It contains healthy vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The endosperm is nutritionally empty, composed of mainly starch. Brown rice is a whole grain and therefore has all three components fully intact. White rice on the other hand has been stripped of the bran and germ, leaving just the starchy endosperm.
White rice is more heavily consumed than brown rice all over the world. This is because stripping the grain of the first two components makes it easier to cook, gives it a longer shelf life and improves the taste. But while brown rice is indisputably more nutrient-rich than white rice, it’s not as clear if white rice is more fattening.
White Rice’s Effects On Weight
While there have been numerous studies on how brown rice leads to weight loss, there haven’t been as many on the exact effects of white rice. One study compared two groups of Korean women. One group ate brown and black rice three times a day, while the other group ate white rice instead. At the end of the study, they noted that both groups of women had lost weight. There were in fact no significant differences between the group that ate white rice and the group that ate mixed rice.
Another empirical comparison found that countries where white rice was a staple food didn’t have a long history of obesity, heart disease or diabetes. Countries like India, China, Japan and Korea have only recently been witnessing a rise in diet-related health problems. While it was always assumed that their heavy consumption of white rice was responsible for this, it might not actually be the case. Globalization has brought these countries into contact with unhealthy foods from other countries. The hybrid diet that resulted (a mix of traditional foods and unhealthy international foods) is largely to blame for increasing health problems and not the actual white rice itself.
The Importance Of Proper Portion Control
Anything in excess is a bad thing and white rice is no exception. Without proper portion control, white rice can lead to weight gain. If you’re eating white rice in small servings, it’s unlikely you’ll face weight problems because of it. However, if you eat large portions of white rice indiscriminately, then you end up eating more than you actually need. Therefore, white rice in isolation does not wreck a diet as long as you eat specific portions of it with each meal.
However, while white rice isn’t any more fattening than brown rice, it still isn’t as nutritious. While eating white rice won’t make you put on weight, you’d still be missing out on many important antioxidants and fibers. In fact. One study found that one bowl of brown rice has as many antioxidants as one bowl of blueberries. So despite being vindicated of its ‘fattening’ label, white rice remains nutritionally inferior to its brown counterpart.