What’s Wrong With White Rice?

I’m a rice eater. I have about four different kinds of rice in my pantry at this moment.. none of them white. They may be white in color, but they’re certainly not of the “American White Rice” ilk.

Why?

There are a few reasons. But first, I think it might be important to explain the process that the grain must go through (because rice starts out as a much larger grain) in order to become the white rices and pastas that we enjoy so much.

This diagram, from The Today Show, diagrams the grain when it’s first harvested. It goes through a rice husker to have the outermost shell removed, and you’re left wit brown rice. Ta-da! The bran part of the grain is where all the rich and chewy fiber is located. The germ is where the nutrient-rich portion of the grain is found. The endosperm is, well… we’ll get to that.

Take it a step further. To get white rice, the outer husk and bran (the fiber-packed part?) are stripped from the grain, as is the nutrient-filled germ. This, obviously, leaves only the starchy endosperm. From here, the endosperm is polished in sugars and/or powders to not only aid in taste, but reshape the grain. Sounds like all of the good stuff is stripped from the grain, right?

Well, that’s because it is.

This is where that “enriched” part comes in. Processing plants will “add” vitamin D and whatever else into the endosperm so that total nutritional value isn’t lost, but it pales in comparison to what originally was in the rice in the first place. As in, what it grew from the ground carrying. Riboflavin and thiamin (which helps your body in metabolizing fats), potassium (which helps your body balance out high sodium intake), vitamin e (a skin care essential that aids in anti-aging)? All are lost when rice makes the transition from brown to white.

I won’t go on my typical trademark rant, but I will say this: rice in it’s least processed form is three times as filling as enriched white rice.

Since you can see that white rice is brown rice with all the valuable stuff stripped of it with some other stuff injected in to “enrich” the endosperm, you can see why it’s so easy to cook white rice… or why it’s so difficult to cook brown rice. What would I suggest? Honestly, ditch the minute/microwaveable rices, and opt for something else.

What else is there?

I’m a big basmati and jasmine rice eater, as well as brown rice. Basmati rice might be a bit pricier – there’s no $0.99 bag of it available anywhere – but for those who love to eat enriched white rice, both are viable options. I eat brown rice, but because I was always so used to white rice, it was a hard switch for me. What do I do instead? After I cook my brown rice (for about 45 minutes – yes, that extra nutrition-y goodness means it takes much longer to cook), I use it in stir fry type dishes or I create a sauce with the leftover juices from cooking the other parts of my dish. A little lemon juice, orange peel, or even an oregano/sage/cranberry blend can go a long way.

In short, there is a benefit to taking the leap away from enriched white rice. Are you taking the leap? Have you already lept? Let me hear about it!

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.

37 Comments

  1. Jubilance February 11, 2010 at 5:59 PM - Reply

    I’ve been a brown rice eater for the past several years. I like to add different spices, and I’ve also learned to cook it using a flavored veggie broth instead of just plain water, which also gives extra flavor.

    • Feliciamichelle February 29, 2012 at 11:21 PM - Reply

      Also, also cooking brown rice in low sodium chicken broth and stirring scallions in brown rice after cooking is delicious.

  2. spiderlgs February 11, 2010 at 8:57 PM - Reply

    I love brown rice. I only eat white rice when its served at someone’s house and there is no other option. I am lucky to have a mom who drilled in my head that white rice, white bread, white sugar has no nutritional value so I may as well just be eating cardboard LOL but with less fiber.

    I must say I am in love with your blog. It is a breath of fresh air.. it’s positive and informative and real. Thank you for the time you take to make this little space on the internet 🙂

  3. Yogaweightloss February 15, 2010 at 12:03 AM - Reply

    I learnt the hard way about white rice. I have been living in the East (Malaysia) for about 3 years now, and boy do they eat rice. So, there I was eating away, cause the food is bloody tasty…then came the day I decided to weigh myself. I had put on 45pounds in 2 years, and all because of the rice I have been eating. I think my downfall was mainly caused by one of the local dishes called “nasi lemak” (please note, this is eaten as breakfast). It is basically rice cooked with coconut milk, egg, some cucumber, nuts, dried anchovies and a chilli paste.

    I now know, stay away from any fancy white fragrance rice!

  4. Roche February 20, 2010 at 10:12 PM - Reply

    You should try sprouted brown rice, it adds even more nutrition to brown rice.

    • Chris B June 7, 2013 at 5:57 PM - Reply

      Oh my goodness, I was recently reading about sprouting grains…didnt read anything about brown rice…wow!

  5. Nikki April 8, 2010 at 10:23 PM - Reply

    I have been a brown rice eater for the last 4 years. It was a hard transition. Growing up, we had white rice EVERY night. As sure as a plate was on the table, white rice was on it. I would be lying to say I don’t miss my white rice… but I can honestly say I love brown rice. Basmati and Jasmine are good also but pricey.

  6. Netherland April 12, 2010 at 1:41 PM - Reply

    WOW! This is so informative! I’ve asked a number of people, including nutritionists why I should eat brown instead of white, and none could ever give me the educated and detailed explanation that you have! Thanks! But still I have a question, because I’m addicted to to three things cheerios, white rice, and pecans. Embarrassingly, I can this is my diet. Anyway my question, why is it Asian people can eat white rice 2 to 3 times a day and still remain so small!?! That’s not fair!

    • Erika April 12, 2010 at 6:56 PM - Reply

      Off the top of my head, I offer two quick answers:

      1) Asian society is nowhere near as sedentary as American society. They still walk/bike their commutes, not drive.

      2) Their rices and grains probably don’t go through the same processing as ours.. but I’d have to check to be sure.

  7. Kim May 21, 2010 at 8:43 AM - Reply

    @Netherland, I lived in Japan for four years and people walked or rode their bikes whenever possible. I really think that has a lot to do with their small size. Plus, they worked a lot.

    • Mischa April 12, 2011 at 8:56 PM - Reply

      Regarding Asians and white rice, One reason may be that they have MUCH smaller portions. I live in Japan and when I see my colleagues with their little lunch box portion of rice, it always amazes me.

    • Brianna Leigh February 25, 2012 at 9:18 PM - Reply

      Love your pic! I cosplayed as Gogo for an anime convention a while ago. Fun times.

  8. rissa October 21, 2010 at 1:57 PM - Reply

    so the basmati and jasmine are better because with those we are still getting the whole grain and it hasn’t been stripped but it’s not as umm i honestly don’t know how to describe brown rice, i just dont like it.

  9. Mia November 2, 2010 at 5:12 PM - Reply

    I loved white rice and the only other type of rice I tasted was brown for a long time. Then I tasted some Jasmine rice a friend of mine made, it was delicious and very lite. Still, I always stuck to plain ole white rice. Then a coworker of mine was talking about what she was going to make for dinner and she mentioned Basmati rice (at that time I had never heard of it). I asked about it and she told me it was similar to Jasmine. Still, plain ole white rice for me. Then came YOU (Erika) lol. I copied one of your recipes with Basmati rice and now I am a fan. It is so much better than plain ole white rice in so many ways that the extra price can be overlooked. I am a fan for life and it’ll take a lot for me to just eat plain ole white rice again.

    • Erika November 2, 2010 at 5:21 PM - Reply

      🙂

      • Doe January 23, 2012 at 7:44 PM - Reply

        So maybe I missed something. I love Jasmine and Basmati rice but are they high in fiber and the others good stuff? I thought no white rice was the way to go?

        • Erika Nicole Kendall January 24, 2012 at 9:35 AM - Reply

          Jasmine and basmati have brown versions! Go for those!

          It’s about the processing – jasmine and basmati may be short on the fiber (they won’t have the same as their brown counterparts) but they’re not typically processed the same, so they shouldn’t have all the same issues. Same with sushi rice. Honestly, it depends much more upon the origin of your rice and whether or not they’re processing it the same as the white rice with which we’re familiar. I’ve tasted some and felt like it could’ve been the same as the crap I was eating before.

          Most importantly, give them a shot – if you find that you are slipping back into your typical eating habits, it may be best to slide back to the brown versions of each rice, or give wild rices a shot.

  10. Lorrie March 1, 2011 at 7:52 PM - Reply

    I have recently (the beginning of this year) converted my immediate family (My boys and I) to brown rice. Basamati is very good, wild rice is good and jasmine, its all good. Recently I bought a brown basmati rice with barley mixed in it just to be adventerous. I always cook my rice with frozen mixed veggies and spice it all up with cumin, paprika and salt. This has become our weekly mainstay and I have de-emphasized for my children the necessity of a huge piece of meat and we consume alot of beans. Although we have to worry about gas the next day, I feel it is a good trade off for our health. This is a great start going into a period in our economy when we will have to do much more with much less. If you have a .99 Cents Only store nearby they have various kinds of dried rice and beans for .99 cents. Trader Joes has many unique blends at an affordable price and many of the ethnic grocers have a nice selection of rice, such as Vallarta’s which is a local grocery store here that caters to hispanic food tastes. Anyway, you just asked me about rice! I used to hate rice, but now I love it and I dont mind that I have to cook it longer especially when I know my body will metabolize it more efficiently when I go for my next workout!

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