Rice conjures up different images for different people. Some may think of a nice white rice ball steaming next to a set of chopsticks. Others might picture the long black and brown grains of wild rice, and the infuriating amount time it takes to cook them. Still yet, others might think of the short brown grains of unpolished white rice.
There are many, many kinds of rice available for purchase all around the world. Since rice can be cultivated in a huge amount of places, it is available year round and you don’t have to worry about purchasing seasonally. However, you might want to worry about what kind of rice you choose to purchase. In this article, we’ll be discussing rice varieties based off the grain typically purchased in western grocery stores.
White rice is the most commonly seen variety. It has been stripped of most of its nutrients. During the processing of white rice, the whole grain of rice has several layers stripped.
The bran, which is the outermost layer on a grain of whole rice. The bran is mostly inedible, and its removal is the least damaging to the nutritional content of rice.
The germ, a layer that is very dense in nutrients.
The bran, another layer that is removed, often at the same time as the germ.
The aleurone layer, which is the final layer removed before you see the finished product of white rice that is so commonly consumed. This layer contains many healthy fats and is one of the most beneficial parts of a grain of rice.
Rice that has been stripped of all these layers is simply a shadow of its prior nutritional value, losing much of the vitamins and minerals present in whole grain and brown rice. Ironically, white rice is typically sold as ‘enriched’ rice, because the end product is so nutritionally devoid that manufacturers have to add vitamins and minerals to it so it maintains at least some of its original nutrition.
Brown rice is what we will be referring to as the nutritional source for most of this article. Brown rice is sometimes referred to as whole grain rice, which isn’t entirely true. Typically, brown rice only has the hull removed, leaving quite a few nutrients left for us to absorb. There is another variety of further refined rice that has the germ and the bran removed, without removal of the aleurone. There is sometimes confusion as to whether this type of rice should be called white or brown. For this article, brown rice will refer to rice with only the hull removed.
Red, gold, black, and purple rices are all other varieties of ‘whole grain’ rice that notably have a different pigment colour than our standard brown rice. All have different flavours and slightly different nutritional profiles. These types of rice are in the same state of production as our brown rice would be.
Health Benefits of Brown Rice
Now that we’ve established the different kinds of rice, we can begin to delve into the potential benefits of eating such a food. Rice is well-known for being a good source of energy - since it’s high in carbs - but typically, these are eaten as ‘empty carbs’ in the form of white rice. An empty carb or empty calorie is a food that offers high carbohydrate or calorie content with minimal nutrition.
Often available right next to white rice is the super-nutritional, extra-tasty brown rice. Many people are unaware of the tremendous benefits that unprocessed rice can have for your health. Don’t let that hinder you, though - brown rice has been studied for dozens of health-promoting things, from curing heart disease to helping you think better. We will explain the most prominent benefits of brown rice.
1. Brown rice has lots of vitamins and minerals
Brown rice is naturally packed full of nutrients - more so, in fact, than white rice after it’s been ‘enriched.’ It’s a great source for a varied number of minerals, which can be difficult to obtain in a diet that doesn’t include whole grains. Here are some of the more prominent vitamins and minerals you can obtain from a cup of brown rice.
Vitamin B1 - 16 percent of your daily recommended intake (D.R.I.)Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, helps your body metabolize carbs into energy. It also helps your brain function more efficiently.
Vitamin B3 - 19 percent of your D.R.I.Like other B vitamins, vitamin B3 helps your body produce energy. It’s also an antioxidant that works to fight free radicals.
Vitamin B6 - 16 percent of your D.R.I.Along with aiding energy production, vitamin B6 helps your body produce red blood cells which are crucial for fighting infections.
Pantothenic Acid - 11 percent of your D.R.I.Pantothenic acid helps your body produce Coenzyme A, which is one of the most important molecules in the development of organic life. It’s central for many of your bodily functions, like metabolising fats, carbs and proteins.
Copper - 21 percent of your D.R.I.Copper is a mineral that helps your boy’s bones and tissues develop properly. It’s also a vital unit that ensures your body can produce and use antioxidants effectively.
Manganese - 88 percent of your D.R.I.Manganese is a nutrient that’s very important for the production of strong, healthy bones. It’s also utilized by the body to maintain your skin’s integrity, adding to a clear complexion and strong, elastic skin.
Magnesium - 21 percent of your D.R.I.Magnesium is fairly well-known for helping the body’s bones gain strength and structure. On top of that, it also helps your body produce effective energy.
Phosphorous - 23 percent of your D.R.I.Phosphorous is key for ensuring that the cells in your body can effectively communicate with each other, preventing degenerative diseases of tissues and organs. It’s also used with manganese and magnesium to ensure healthy bones.
Selenium - 35 percent of your D.R.I.Selenium helps your body produce glutathione. Glutathione is often reputed to be one of the most important antioxidants for the survival of the human being. It’s produced naturally by our body, and selenium is one of the nutrients that makes sure we can reliably produce it.
Zinc - 11 percent of your D.R.I.Zinc functions similarly to copper, aiding in the production of healthy bones. Since zinc and copper are so similar, it’s a good idea to maintain a healthy balance of both of these minerals.
Conclusion: It’s clear that brown rice has a huge assortment of important minerals and vitamins that your body can use. Adding this staple to your diet plan could clear up a number of potential vitamin deficiencies!
2. Brown rice contains oil that lowers cholesterol
Lightly processed brown rice – the variety that still has its aleurone layer intact – contains some healthy fats. These particular fatty oils are known to reduce LDL cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol – LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is known as the 'bad' type of cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein.
LDL cholesterol is highly reactive and oxidizes easily. It can clump up in the endothelium (the inner walls of your arteries) leading to hardened arteries, or can cause free radicals to develop which can lead to cancer.
HDL cholesterol is the good type. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. This cholesterol, being denser, can effectively 'sweep' LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream.
Louisiana State University studied rice oils and their effects on cholesterol. 26 volunteers ate a diet with a monitored level of fiber. After a few weeks, half of the subjects switched their diet and added rice bran, effectively doubling their fiber intake. Fourteen subjects ate a diet with regular consumption of rice bran oil.
The group consuming rice bran oil lowered LDL cholesterol by up to 7%. Brown rice also contains healthy amounts of fiber, magnesium, and several B vitamins – all of which are known to help improve cardiovascular health and could contribute to lowered cholesterol.
Conclusion: Those looking to limit the amounts of cholesterol in their bodies might want to use brown rice as a staple. It contains some healthy oils that, when eaten regularly, can reduce cholesterol. It also has a number of other heart-healthy minerals and vitamins.
3. Brown rice can improve your cardiovascular health
Brown rice has been studied for its effects on improving cardiovascular health. This means that the bloodstream and all related organs and systems - so, basically, everything in your body - will grow stronger.
Its effects are particularly noted in women. A study done on around 200 postmenopausal women proved that regular consumption of whole grains, including brown rice, made notable improvements in several areas.
Atherosclerosis - the hardening of arteries, caused by buildup of plaque that can be left by cholesterol - is less likely to develop. Atherosclerosis can prove to be fatal, since it obstructs the flow of blood and oxygen to and from the heart.
Stenosis - narrow arteries that hinder blood flow and transport of nutrients - progresses much slower in those who consume whole grains on the regular.
Conclusion: There are a number of cardiovascular related illnesses that brown rice and whole grains can work to prevent. Adding them to their diet will strengthen the health of your heart and bloodstream.
4. Brown rice is jam-packed full of phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are plant-based nutrients, and brown rice is full of them. Their importance has only been recently realized, since the more commonly studied vitamins and nutrients overshadowed their benefits.
Phenolics are strong antioxidants that fight disease in different ways. This includes compounds like quercetin and curcumin, which have grown wildly popular for their health promoting activities. Catechins are also considered to be phenolics, and comprise an entire category of nutrients on their own.
Lignans are nutrients present in many plants. Lignans are consumed by the bacteria in our intestines. Here, they are converted into mammalian lignans, which fight against cancer and heart disease.
Conclusion: Brown rice has many phytonutrients that work to fight off different diseases. Phytonutrients are plant-based nutrients that can only be obtained through plant material, so brown rice is a good option for those seeking particular benefits.
5. Brown rice lowers the chance of getting type 2 diabetes
Brown rice fights against the development of type 2 diabetes. A large portion of its defensive capabilities come from magnesium.
Magnesium is artly responsible for your body’s production of hundreds of enzymes. Some of these are responsible for the human’s ability to process sugar and produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for metabolizing and regulating blood sugar, and deficiency or desensitization to insulin is what causes blood sugar spikes and diabetes.
A huge study done over 8 years, with tens of thousands of participants, found proof that magnesium and calcium prevent type 2 diabetes from developing. There was up to a 31% decrease in the chance of developing type II in some populations.
Conclusion: Brown rice can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, largely because of its magnesium content. Those who already have diabetes should consider adding it to their diet.
6. Brown rice contains enough magnesium to fight off disease
In addition to preventing type 2 diabetes, brown rice contains enough magnesium to be effective at modulating many of your body’s functions.
Magnesium has been shown to reduce asthma symptoms
Magnesium reliably lowers high blood pressure
Magnesium has been shown to prevent migraines
Magnesium is a good preventative agent for fighting heart disease
Magnesium’s power comes in its ability to balance the action of calcium in the body. This helps your nerves and muscles maintain structure and functionality. If calcium isn’t prevented from flooding nerve cells, they won’t be able to relax. They become overstimulated, contracting too often. This creates issues like high blood pressure, spasms of muscles and important organs like the heart or bronchioles, and painful headaches.
Aside from modulating calcium,magnesium also helps your body produce healthy bones - most of our body’s magnesium is stored in our bones. It’s important to keep these reserves filled, lest your bones lose strength and structure.
Magnesium also helps to improve levels of nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide helps your blood flow smoothly, and can act as an antioxidant in the arteries and veins, preventing damage from cholesterol-induced free radicals.
Conclusion: Magnesium is a crucial nutrient for a lot of your body’s daily functions. Brown rice supplies enough of the nutrient to offset the effects of deficiency.
7. Brown rice contains enough fiber to improve bodily functions
Fiber is a hugely important nutrient in the human diet. Brown rice contains pretty significant amounts of both varieties of fiber, with just over 3 grams of insoluble fiber and just under half a gram of soluble fiber per serving.
Insoluble fiber will not dissolve. While both types of fiber are indigestible, insoluble fiber maintains a solid shape during its journey through your digestive tract. Insoluble fiber is used for a number of things, and is particularly useful in the excretion of bile. Bile’s produced by your liver in response to consumption of fats, or a response to toxins that need to be excreted. Bile picks up these toxins and is usually excreted via feces if the body has enough fiber. Insoluble fiber floats through the intestine and bile adheres to it, leaving with the fiber as it’s excreted.If your body doesn’t have enough insoluble fiber, the bile will be recycled by your liver instead of being excreted as waste. This cycle will continue, and with each cycle, the bile grows more and more toxic and destructive to your body. Ensuring that you have enough fiber prevents this toxic bile recycling and any ensuing health defects.
Soluble fiber turns into a thick, paste-like substance when it comes into contact with liquid. This means that, when it is consumed, it swells and turns into said paste in the stomach. This allows the consumer to feel full faster and generally consume less calories, since the soluble fiber has swelled their digestive tract. This is not as unhealthy as it sounds, and is the main reason that eating raw vegetables can fill you up so quickly.
There was a study done on over 35,000 UK residents. The study examined pre-menopausal women who consumed diets high in natural fibers. The study was to determine whether or not fiber was effective at reducing the risk of breast cancer, and it roved quite effective. Those eating more than 30 grams of fiber a day had more than 50% less of a chance of developing cancer.
It turns out that fiber from whole grains - like brown rice - is the best for protecting from cancer. Those women who had a higher intake of fiber from whole grains had significantly lower chances of developing cancer when compared to study groups whose fiber came from fruits or vegetables.
Healthy intake of dietary fiber from whole grains like rice, is also shown to help with the following issues:
Maintaining healthy bowels. Fiber increases the weight of your stools, making them easier to pass than loose, liquid-like stools. Fiber does this by absorbing water, which adds bulk to your waste. This also prevents the development of hemorrhoids and other bowel-related issues, such as constipation.
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber can slow down the speed with which sugar is absorbed in the body. This not only prevents diabetes, but can prevent the further development of type 2 diabetes from those who already are diabetic.
Maintaining a healthy weight. Since fibrous foods are so filling, people who eat high-fiber meals tend to consume less calories than those who are eating foods that are low in fiber,
Conclusion: Fiber is a very important part of the body’s digestive processes. It helps you burn calories, eliminate waste, clear cholesterol, and do many other important things. If your body is deficient in fiber, it will not be able to perform many of its regular duties.
8. Brown rice can prevent gallstones
Whole grains high in insoluble fiber are known to help prevent the development of gallstones.
A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology took a sample of almost 70,000 women. Over sixteen years, they were evaluated in regards to their fiber consumption. Those with the highest rates of fiber consumption were showed to have 13% less of a chance to develop gallstones when compared to study groups consuming minimal fiber.
Insoluble fiber was shown to be more effective than soluble fiber. The prior statistic was based on women’s overall fiber consumption (soluble and insoluble.) Those who consumed the highest amounts of insoluble fiber were 17% less likely to develop gallstones.
Fiber does this because of its importance in clearing bile out of the digestive system, and generally improving the transit time in which waste passes through your digestive system. Excessive bile can collect cholesterol, which can harden and turn into gallstones. Additionally, fiber helps clear blood fats from the body, making less cholesterol available to be turned into gallstones.
Conclusion: Gallstones - a very painful symptom caused by hardened cholesterol - can be prevented by consuming adequate fiber. Brown rice is a good source of fiber and cholesterol reducing vitamins.
9. Brown rice can prevent the development of asthma
The American Lung Association did a study regarding the efficacy of whole grains on asthma. Around 20 million Americans have asthma, which is the disease related to a huge amount of school-related absences in children.
The International Study on Allergy and Asthma in Childhood suggests that eating more whole grains can reduce the risk of children developing asthma by almost half!
There was a far more significant relationship between increased consumption of whole grains and reduced asthma than with any other sampled food group. The researchers tested fruits, vegetables, and dairy, and found that fish and whole grains were far superior in regards to preventing asthma.
The research indicates that magnesium, vitamin E, and omega-3 fats are responsible for lowered chances of asthma development. Many Americans are deficient in these nutrients, which are all known to be potent anti-inflammatory agents. Eliminating the deficiency can greatly reduce the chance of developing inflammation related illness.
Conclusion: If you’re worried about your children developing asthma, consider adding brown rice to their weekly diet plan. The nutrients in brown rice have been proven to eliminate asthma caused by deficiencies, and lower the symptoms of asthma in those who already have it.
Selecting and Storing Brown Rice for Maximum Health
Since you likely won’t be buying your rice freshly harvested, your choices likely lie between different pre-packaged varieties. Ensure that you heed the expiry date.Brown rice does actually expire - some of the healthy oils in the grain can molder if left for too long.
Choose organic rice as often as possible. Non-organic varieties are shown to have up to five times more toxic metals than organic varieties (which contain negligible amounts.)
Brown rice, contrary to its white cousin, should be stored in a refrigerator. The aleurone layer contains the oils which may go bad with time, but refrigerating the rice will greatly slow the process. White rice can be kept in a cool space in an airtight jar without being refrigerated.
Cooked rice does not have a definitive storage time, though it’s generally advised not to store it for longer than a week in the fridge. It’s smartest to just cook what you need for the day and eat that. Rice left to sit for too long can give rise to all sorts of pathogens and unhealthy microorganisms. Some of these fungi can even turn the amino acid tryptophan, present in rice, into alpha-picolinic acid. Alpha-picolinic acid can cause a hypersensitive response to eating rice - quite a dangerous compound to find in rice itself.
How to Eat & Enjoy Brown Rice, Including 5 Amazing Recipes
Brown rice is known for having a healthy cooking time of at least half an hour - so, there aren’t a whole lot of quick-fix snacks you can make with rice. However, there are a few suggestions of how you can enjoy brown rice without having to resort to using a recipe:
Cooked rice can make a great cereal if mixed with soymilk. Spice it like you would your oatmeal - nutmeg, cinnamon, cocoa, sugar, diced fruits or berries make this a delicious snack.
If you have leftover rice, you can make a rice salad by simply mixing it with chopped veggies, berries or nuts, and some dressing.
Rice is a staple for a reason - it goes great with almost anything. Serving a big bowl of brown rice as an accompaniment to many entrees will allow you to serve many more people.
Rice served without any other food can be good, if it’s properly flavoured. Olive oil and a mixture of your favourite spices can turn something otherwise bland into a tasty between-meal snack - or, a low-budget daily dinner!
If you’re feeling more ambitious, we’ve included a few recipes that use brown rice as a primary ingredient. Brown rice can lay the foundation for entrees, salads, snacks, desserts - even beverages, in the form of rice milk. You might be surprised at some of the recipes we’ve provided here!
It’s rice pudding - with brown rice! It uses typical spices that would flavour a rice pudding, but the whole grain makes this dish much deeper and nuttier than the white rice alternative. It only takes five minutes to prep, but the cooking time takes a couple hours.
You will need:
Four cups of water
Two cups of brown rice
Three quarters of a teaspoon of salt
Two cups of milk
An ounce of evaporated milk
Half a teaspoon of almond extract
A cup of sugar
A 3-inch cinnamon stick (or piece of one.)
The method: First, bring your water to a boil and add your rice. Mix in the salt, then reduce the heat so it’s simmering and let it cook at this temperature until the rice is ready. It should take about 50 minutes for all the water to absorb and for the rice to become nice and tender.
When the rice is cooked, stir in both types of milk, your almond extract and sugar. Add the cinnamon stick and simmer without a cover, stirring often. It should take just over an hour for this rice to reach the consistency of pudding.
This recipe’s name includes shrimp but the pictured result is most definitely prawns. Either way, this meal provides a healthy, delicious, tangy entree that can add an exotic flavour to your kitchen this evening! It only takes 35 minutes from start to finish.
You will need:
A cup of brown rice
One and two-thirds of a cup of water
Three tablespoons of butter
Three tablespoons of olive oil
Two cloves of garlic
Half a cup of white wine
Two tablespoons of lemon juice
One and a half pounds of prawns
A quarter cup of parsley
Half a teaspoon of cornstarch
First, bring your water to a boil in a small pot. Add your rice, then reduce to a simmer and cook until all the water’s absorbed. This shouldn’t take more than half an hour.
Meanwhile, melt your butter and olive oil in a pan. Mince your garlic, then add the garlic to your butter and cook over medium heat for a minute or two - just long enough for the garlic to release its scent. Quickly add your wine and lemon juice, then reduce the heat a bit and simmer the mixture.
Add the shrimp, mixing them, and cook until they turn pink. With regular stirring, this should take about five minutes. When they’re cooked, sprinkle your parsley (after chopping it finely, of course) on top and cook for another minute or two.
Add the cornstarch to the cooking juices. Cook until the starch thickens - at least a minute, but not too much longer. Serve the prawns and sauce over the rice!
This delicious meal brings an eastern flavour to the kitchen. It’s a tasty comfort food that packs a lot of nutrition with its taste. It takes fifteen minutes to prep and an hour to cook, meaning the meal will be ready for you and your guests or family in just over an hour.
You will need:
A cup of water
An 8 oz. can of stewed tomatoes
Three quarters of a cup of quick-cooking brown rice
Half a cup of raisins
A tablespoon of lemon juice
Three teaspoons of curry powder
A cube of chicken bouillon
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
A quarter teaspoon of salt
Two cloves of garlic
Three quarters of a pound of boneless chicken breast
Begin by preheating your oven to 350 fahrenheit.
Mince your garlic. Mix it with your water, tomatoes, rice, raisins, lemon juice, curry, your bouillon cube, cinnamon, and salt. Bring all these ingredients to a quick boil. While it’s heating, cut your chicken into pieces about an inch thick. When everything’s boiling, add your chicken, then switch everything into a casserole dish.
Put the casserole mixture into the oven, covered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, and cook until the rice is soft and tender and the chicken’s juice has no colour.
This is an exotic meal with a reasonable price tag. It’s got deep flavours and packs quite a bit of a healthy punch. The meat in this meal is optional, so vegetarians can feel free to make this meal without any animal products. It takes thirty minutes to make, and you’ll get four servings from the recipe.
You will need:
Three tablespoons of soy sauce
A tablespoon of sesame oil
Half a teaspoon of ginger (powdered)
A quarter teaspoon pepper
Two tablespoons of olive oil
Two cloves of garlic
Half a cup of frozen corn
Half a cup of frozen peas
Three cups of brown rice
Two cups of pineapple,
Half a cup’s worth of ham
Two green onions
First, get some water boiling and cook your rice!
Then. start off by mixing together your soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger powder and pepper in a bowl. Set this aside for later.
Peel & grate your carrots. If your pineapple is fresh, dice it. Dice your ham as well, and slice your green onions.
In a big pan, or in a wok, heat up your olive oil. Mince your garlic and dice your onions, then add them to the skillet when the oil is heated. Cook them over medium heat, frequently stirring. The onions should start looking translucent after a few minutes.
Add your carrots, corn and peas when the onions are clear. Cook them for a few minutes. When all the veggies are tender, you can add your rice, pineapple, ham, green onions and soy sauce mixture.
Stirring, cook these until they’re all heated through. This shouldn’t take more than two minutes. After this - it’s done!
This burger has a fantastic texture, flavour, and nutritional impact. It’s quite filling, and incredibly simple to make. You only need a few ingredients, and the longest part of it is cooking the rice. The recipe makes twelve burgers.
You will need:
Two cups of mashed sweet potatoes
A cup of cooked black beans
One and a half cups of brown rice
Half a cup of walnut meal
Half a cup of diced green onion
Two and a half teaspoons of cumin
A teaspoon of smoked paprika
A quarter teaspoon of salt and pepper
A quarter teaspoon of chipotle powder
First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. While it’s heating, halve your sweet potatoes. Brush them with olive oil and put them on a baking sheet, lined with foil, facing down. It should take about half an hour for them to become tender. Once they are, let them sit aside and turn the heat down to 375 fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, get your rice cooked. Add the rice to three cups of boiling water and reduce to a simmer for about half an hour.
Add your cooked black beans to a mixing bowl and mash them lightly, just for texture. Then add your baked sweet potatoes and mash a bit more, add a cup of rice and your green onions, walnut meal, and spices. Mix until they’re well distributed. Add more seasoning if you desire, or more nut meal if the mixture’s too liquidy. It must be moldable.
Grease a baking sheet, and line a measuring cup with plastic wrap. Fill the measuring cup with a quarter cup of sweet potato mash. Push down and pack it until its compact, then transfer this burger to the baking sheet. Press it down until you’ve reached a desired thickness - the thinner they are, the less time they take to cook.
Bake for as long as it takes to cook them through. Thin burgers should take half an hour, thicker ones closer to 45 minutes. Flip them halfway through..
Serve on buns with your choice of toppings - tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, whatever you want.
Brown rice is an amazing, healthy staple grain that can be used in a ton of different recipes. If you haven’t already been using this grain in your diet plan, you’ll want to consider including it in your kitchen.
The range of nutritional benefits is impressive, and rice is cheap - you could save yourself a trip to the hospital. Brown rice has been studied to ward off diabetes, heart disease, help people lose weight, improve metabolism, and aid your body in eliminating toxins. If that’s not enough reason for you to pick up a bag of this cheap, hardy grain, then nothing will be!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.