Rice has always been the staple for Asians and the most popular one is still the white rice. Thanks to NTUC giving away the Good Start Bundle for new parents, I got a free 5kg bag of brown rice. Having grown up eating white rice, I was initially kind of skeptical of trying out brown rice. After all, my parents kept saying that it is hard, coarse, unflavourful and altogether, unappetising.
That's a very drastic comment and as always being the rebellious kid, I have to taste it for myself. The free bag was the Brown Unpolished rice and I am not kidding when I say they taste quite good! That's when I started digging around, trying to understand why brown rice is healthier and let's try to find out more:
4 different types of rice
1) White rice
What is it: White rice is rice outer husk layer removed. Due to the removal of it, white rice has lesser nutrients, more specifically iron and fiber content, than the other varieties.
Nutritional content: 100g of cooked white rice has 2.7g of protein, 0.4g of dietary fiber, 130kCal. Due to high demand and supply, price is the cheapest for white rice, which is why it is the most commonly eaten.
2) Brown rice
What is it: Brown rice is considered a whole grain rice as it has only the outer husk removed. The outer layer actually makes it chewy and gives a nutty flavour.
Nutritional content: 100g of brown rice has 2.6g of protein, 1.8g of dietary fiber, 111 kCal. There is high level of magnesium, some amount of thiamine, iron and also zinc. In terms of glycemic index (GI), brown rice is absorbed at a lower rate than white rice, meaning it will keep you satisfied and fuller for a longer period of time compared to white rice.
3) Black rice
What is it: Black rice is a completely different species of rice compared to brown and white. It has a distinct nutty, earthy flavour and takes much longer to cook than white rice. During the olden days of Ming dynasty, black rice was only eaten by emperors to ensure longevity and good health.
Nutritional content: 100g of white rice has 9.1g of protein, 4.7g of dietary fiber, 111 kCal. Black rice has a lower GI so it is actually suitable for diabetics and people who are going on diet. Black rice is black in colour due to the high level of anthocyanin present in the husk and it amazingly provides the extra dose of antioxidants Vitamin E.
4) Red rice
What is it: Red rice has its unique colour due to the extra content of anthocyanin which has antioxidants. It has lower levels of anthocyanin which makes it red instead of black.
Nutritional content: 100g of white rice has 7g of protein, 2g of dietary fiber, 80 kCal. Both red and black varieties contain higher amounts of nutrients compared to white rice, but as they are more expensive and there is lower supply, people usually replace white rice with brown rice.
Short grain vs medium grain vs long grain rice
We have commonly been eating long grain, Jasmine rice from Thailand but there are other different types of rice! Rice varieties are differentiated by the length to width ratio when cooked. Long grain rice is thin and long while short grain rice is short and wide.
Long grain includes Basmati and Jasmine rice. They give firm, distinct grains that are great for Asian dishes and fried rice.
Medium grain includes Arborio and Valencia, usually used in paella and risotto. They tend towards a more chewy yet still firm texture.
Short grain includes sushi, glutinuous and pearl rice. They are softer, and will result in a sticky texture.
Our body does digest long grains slower than short grains. So in general, the longer the grain, the lower its GI which would be better to lose weight.
Conclusion: Which is the healthiest?
Brown and black rice is the best as they give the most dietary fiber, keeping us fuller and satisfied for a longer time, and helping our digesting systems. However, if you are looking for antioxidants, black and red rice will be better.
We are commonly eating long grain rice and that is better than eating sushi rice for meals. So, a long grain brown rice would be the most ideal to reduce risk of diabetes.
You will not be the only one if you are not a fan of brown rice, and the best way is to mix white rice to go along. However, they cook in different timings so you may want to cook the brown or black rice first. For rice replacement, you can look to quinoa to be your daily starch content.
Quinoa vs rice
What is it: Quinoa is eaten like grains but they actually seeds. As they are seeds, they are loaded with proteins, and dietary fiber higher than brown rice. It is also gluten free.
Nutritional content: 100g of quinoa has 4.4g of protein, 2.8g of dietary fiber, 120 kCal. It also has 4 times the iron content compared to brown rice and many other nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, zinc and folates.
What does it mean for me
Needless to say, I have become a convert to brown rice as in my opinion, they taste the same and is much more healthier! My family agrees with me but I am still trying to persuade my parents to try them. Having only had white rice all their lives, it will be an uphill task but for the sake of their good health, I will not give up!
Thanks to the daily stocks of quinoa, we have also started to eat them regularly to replace rice. They taste quite special and definitely not so hard to accept compared to brown rice. Try some today and remember, you are what you eat!