Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Which is better for the body, Brown Rice or White rice ?

Rice (Oryza sativa) is one of the most important foods in the world, supplying as much as half of the daily calories for half of the world's population.

Oftentimes, rice is categorized by its size as being short grain, medium grain or long grain. Another way that rice is classified is according to the degree of milling that it undergoes. This is what makes a brown rice different than white rice.

Although brown rice and white rice have similar amounts of calories, carbohydrates and protein, the main differences between the two forms of rice lies in the essential nutrients which are lost during the processing of white rice.

Today brown rice is a staple for health conscious eaters who believe food should be consumed in its most natural state.

Before discussing anything about the brown rice or white rice, let us first understand the different parts of the rice grain.

Structure of a Rice Grain:

  1. Husk or hull is the outermost protective layer of a grain of rice present outside the grain.
  2. Bran is the outermost part or layer of a grain of rice present just below the husk. It consists of combined aleurone (protein rich outer most layer of seed coat) and pericarp (outer most layer of fruit). Bran is particularly rich in dietary fiber and Omegas and contains significant quantities of starch, protein, vitamins and dietary minerals.
  3. Germ in a cereal grain is the reproductive part that germinates to grow into a plant. It is the embryo of the seed. Germ is a concentrated source of several essential nutrients including Vitamin E, folate (folic acid), phosphorus, thiamine, zinc and magnesium, as well as essential fatty acids and fatty alcohol. It is a good source of fiber.
  4. Endosperm is the tissue produced in the seeds of most flowering plants around the time of fertilization. It surrounds the embryo and provides nutrition in the form of starch, though it can also contain oils and protein. This makes endosperm an important source of nutrition in human diet

What are Brown Rice and White Rice?

Brown Rice (hulled rice) is produced when only the outermost layer the husk or hull is removed.

White rice is produced when husk, bran and germ layers are removed during milling and polishing of rice.

Milling removes the bran and most of the germ layer. Polishing removes the aleurone layer of the grain-a layer filled with health-supportive, essential fats. Because these fats, once exposed to air by the refining process, are highly susceptible to oxidation, this layer is removed to extend the shelf life of the product. The resulting white rice is bright, white and shiny; but simply a refined starch (made up of endosperm only) which is largely deficient in its original nutrients.

Brown rice becomes rancid more quickly than white rice. At many places it is more expensive than common white rice, partly due to difficulty of its storage and transport.

Nutrients Contents of Brown Rice and White Rice:

The process of removing husk from the rice grain is the least damaging to the nutritional value of the rice but milling and polishing of white rice cause loss of several vitamins and dietary minerals. These processes destroy 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids.

By law in the United States, fully milled and polished white rice must be "enriched" with vitamins B1, B3, and iron. But the form of these nutrients when added back into the processed rice is not the same as in the original unprocessed version, and at least 11 lost nutrients are not replaced in any form even with rice "enrichment."

  • Brown rice is a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in the body's use of glucose and insulin secretion. They help out by keeping blood sugar levels under control, so brown rice is an excellent grain choice for people with diabetes.
  • Brown rice is an excellent source of manganese. This trace mineral helps produce energy from protein and carbohydrates and is involved in the synthesis of fatty acids, which are important for a healthy nervous system, and in the production of cholesterol, which is used by the body to produce sex hormones. Manganese is also a critical component of a very important antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is found inside the body's mitochondria (the oxygen-based energy factories inside most of our cells) where it provides protection against damage from the free radicals produced during energy production.
  • Brown rice is rich in Selenium. Selenium is an essential component of several major metabolic pathways, including thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function. Selenium has been shown to induce DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells, to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, and to induce their apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to eliminate worn out or abnormal cells.
  • Small amount of fatty acids and fibers are also lost during the formation of white rice. Fibers provide bulk to the food in the intestine thus help in reducing constipation. The oil present in rice bran may help in lowering LDL cholesterol.
  • Deficiency of Vitamin B1 (thiamine) causes neurological disease called Beriberi in the people who are largely dependent on unenriched white rice.

Even though I strongly prefer the taste of brown rice, I wanted to know just how much better that brown rice is for you when compared to white rice. After comparing the nutrition that both brown rice and white rice have to offer, you may change your mind on which you choose to get.

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