Home Debunking The Myths What’s Wrong With White Rice?

What’s Wrong With White Rice?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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.


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!

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Jubilance February 11, 2010 - 5:59 PM

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 - 11:21 PM

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

spiderlgs February 11, 2010 - 8:57 PM

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 🙂

Yogaweightloss February 15, 2010 - 12:03 AM

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!

Roche February 20, 2010 - 10:12 PM

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

Chris B June 7, 2013 - 5:57 PM

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

Nikki April 8, 2010 - 10:23 PM

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.

Netherland April 12, 2010 - 1:41 PM

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 - 6:56 PM

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.

Kim May 21, 2010 - 8:43 AM

@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 - 8:56 PM

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 - 9:18 PM

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

rissa October 21, 2010 - 1:57 PM

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.

Mia November 2, 2010 - 5:12 PM

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 - 5:21 PM


Doe January 23, 2012 - 7:44 PM

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 - 9:35 AM

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.

Lorrie March 1, 2011 - 7:52 PM

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!

BlackBetty March 31, 2011 - 3:21 PM

Erika, if you eat a lot of rice, you might want to invest in a Rice Cooker. I use one by Tiger, just set it before bed or on my way to work and I always have fresh rice. You can also use it to make Irish Oatmeal and dinner.

Lala April 16, 2011 - 2:39 PM

I have a rice cooker, but it never dawned on me to cook Irish oatmeal in there. DUH! thanks

Colah April 17, 2011 - 1:15 AM

Like Sam Beckett, I have lept

Trader Joe’s has a brown jasmine rice. Can you say best of both worlds??

Peace July 3, 2011 - 3:51 PM

Hi Erika,

I’m a college student who just discovered your site. I loveee the wealth of information I’m getting! Although I’m at a healthy weight, I know I’m not living a healthy lifestyle, and your site is giving me a lot of tips to help change that. Thank so much and keep doin what you do! Much love from Houston <3

Amanda July 10, 2011 - 1:31 PM

I just found your blog – very interesting posts and nice layout too. I’ve only had brown rice a few times and found it had a nice nutty flavor but I’m not a big fan of it. My mother only ever made basmati rice when I was growing up, so that and wild rice are the only kinds I make. I had plain white rice for the first time when I met my husband and wasn’t impressed. Not much texture (kinda soft and mealy feeling in the mouth) or fragrance and kind of bland flavor.

As for why Asian people can eat only white rice and not gain weight, I think a lot of that is portion size because many Asian-Americans who grow up here and maintain a lot of their traditional foods but enlarge their portions to more Americanized standards have higher weights than Asians in Japan/China/Korea/Cambodia/etc. That’s just anecdotal though, not sure if it has any basis in science.

Cherished September 26, 2011 - 4:58 PM

I’m not a fan of brown rice. I recently found out that traditional Jamacian Peas and Rice is made with brown rice cooked with unsweetened coconut milk, seasonings and cooked forever. Now that is something we all could enjoy without thinking that we are eating “brown” rice with the added benefit of beans and nutrients from the milk.

Late Bloomer December 28, 2011 - 6:20 PM

I used to hate brown rice. As much as I tried to like it, I could not. However, within the 2 years, my taste buds have become more open to it. I still prefer jasmine rice, but I keep a small supply of brown rice on hand for those times when I run out of the jasmine. It just took some getting used to, and when accompanying certain meat dishes, my palate welcomes it. I don’t actually think it was the taste that made me previously dislike it. I think it was the somewhat chewiness, and I like my rice just above tender. But I couldn’t get my brown rice to that point, unless I overcooked it.

Catherine January 2, 2012 - 4:00 AM

I learned in my Food Science class that the bran is removed because it’s hard to eat and the germ makes it go rancid too fast.

However, Uncle Ben’s has a process in which it dissolves the nutrients into the endosperm before it removes the bran. Therefore, more nutrients. Yay.

Kacee May 2, 2012 - 4:57 PM

I have never had any other rice besides white or brown. I keep hearing about jasmine rice being delicious. Any recipe ideas?

Carolina Arceo September 11, 2012 - 2:25 PM

I tried brown rice a million different ways and I can’t seem to get use to it… I’m a die hard white rice eater! Can I stick to white rice and mix in more veggies and chicken to balance a proper diet? Anyone?

Just to mention I have a very active lifestyle… Cardio in the a.m, lift afternoon and run at night

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2012 - 12:26 PM

*side eye*

Kami November 18, 2012 - 11:32 AM

I have a question about white basmati and jasmine rice are those the same as american white rice? I also like the purple bown rice and the black pearl rice sometimes. I usually make white basmati rice or quinoa. My other question is rice noodles considered a processed food?

Erika Nicole Kendall November 18, 2012 - 1:55 PM

“I have a question about white basmati and jasmine rice are those the same as american white rice?”

NO! No, no, no!

Rice noodles are processed, but are also considered a healthier alternative. You ultimately have to decide, for you, whether or not they’ll be a part of your diet and, if so, how often you eat them.

El November 20, 2012 - 3:53 AM

Oh, this is a great article! I’m in a love affair with all kinds of brown rice. I make brown rice risotto (which shortcuts, because I learned once that standing and stirring for 40 minutes is not cute) often and I also ADORE wild rice and black rice. I don’t think I remember the last time I ate American white rice; the closest I get to “white rice” is Jasmine rice or Calasparra if I can’t find their brown versions in the market. If you haven’t tried Calasparra rice, I totally recommend it! It’s fabulous in paella and similar dishes, and does the whole saffron rice thing really well!

Heidi March 15, 2013 - 9:30 PM

I have been cooking brown rice for a few years now and I have to say I just now learned how to cook it. I have had my share of burn pots and undercooked BR that’s because like u said i was so used to cooking white rice…so sad but I stuck with it because I knew it was better for me

BK March 15, 2013 - 9:42 PM

I love white rice, crave it, the smell of it makes me happy. But I’ve learned to substitute basmati & jasmine which i also enjoy. I also just discovered Quinoa and have integrated it into my meal plans. I just don’t like the texture of brown rice. That chewy, husk part doesn’t sit well with me.

Leelee March 18, 2013 - 2:13 PM

I’ve been getting into eating wild rice(black). I mix with my brown rice and it tastes amazing.

Stacy March 23, 2013 - 9:12 AM

Brown rice is one of the very few grains I will actually eat. I use this recipe: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=603 It turns out perfect every time, and you can do something else while it’s cooking. I leave out the salt and use a bouillon cube, or replace the water with chicken or veggie broth. It gives the rice a bit more flavor.

mssusangb April 16, 2013 - 1:28 AM

I prefer brown rice but also like Basmati and Jasmine. I bought recently some black rice but have yet to try it. As far as plain ole American rice, I prefer Uncle Ben’s (or the generic equivalent). I’m not a big rice eater and only tend to cook it when it’s part of a dish.

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