Brown rice can be added to any diet to achieve weight loss. It can also be a substitute for white rice in Asian Countries where meals include rice as a staple. Because it has not gone through the same kind of milling process, it is less of a processed finished food product. Brown rice contains more dietary fiber, proteins, unsaturated lipids, micronutrients, and several bioactive compounds that white rice may not have.
What Are Brown Rice? What Are Its Benefits?
Brown rice is the unmilled rice with pericarp, the seed coat and nucellus, the germ or the embryo, and the endosperm. It is whole grain rice with an intact bran layer and the inedible outer hull removed (1). Brown rice gets its distinct brown color because of the intact bran layer that is left on. It is often used as a substitute for white rice.
White rice is the same grain without the hull, the bran layer, and the cereal germ. Red rice, gold rice, and black rice (also called purple rice) are all whole rice with differently pigmented outer layers.
But first, some quick facts (2):
Brown Rice Nutrition Facts
One half-cup serving of long-grain brown rice contains:
- Calories: 108
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 22 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Brown rice is a rich source of phenols and flavonoids, two types of antioxidants that help reduce damage to cells and reduce the risk of premature aging. Brown rice also provides you with many vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Health Benefits of Brown Rice
Nutrient-rich It is rich in fiber and selenium. Fiber is useful because it helps minimize the amount of time cancer-causing substances spend in contact with colon cells and selenium also is a nutrient that reduces the risk of colon cancer (3).
Brown rice has low glycemic index properties; hence it might be helpful to counter the growing type 2 diabetes (4).
A study done in 2014 found that the consumption of brown rice in place of white rice can help reduce 24-hour glucose and fasting insulin responses among overweight people (5).
The same kind of substitution of brown rice in place of white rice was done in another study (6).
A 2020 research comparing the consumption of different whole grain foods found that higher consumption of total whole grains and several commonly eaten whole-grain foods, which includes whole-grain breakfast cereal, rolled oats, whole wheat bread, brown rice, added bran, wheat flour , whole grain kernels, and several others was significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (7).
Brown rice contains more nutritional components than ordinary white rice. However, it is rarely consumed as a staple food as it is not considered desirable. Most cuisines have preferred the cultivation and milling of white rice over brown rice. The germination of brown rice can be used to improve its taste and further enhance its nutritional value and health functions. Germinated brown rice is considered healthier than white rice, as it is not only richer in the basic nutritional components such as vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers, and essential amino acids, but also contains more bioactive components.
In addition, germinated brown rice has been reported to exhibit many physiological effects, including anti-hyperlipidemia, antihypertensive, and a reduction in the risk of some chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's disease (8).
It May Lower Your Blood Sugar
Diabetics or people trying to lose some weight may benefit from eating grains, specifically brown rice for weight loss. Either substituting white rice, pasta, or noodles for brown rice may help control your blood sugar spikes due to its high saturation of magnesium. Plus, brown rice has carbohydrates that digest slowly. This is because of its high fiber saturation. Slow-digesting carbs can help maintain healthy insulin levels.
A 2006 study analyzed a group of women who increased their intake of whole grains. The participants that ate a higher amount of whole grains decreased their risk of type two diabetes by 31 percent (9).
Fights Heart Disease
Whole grain brown rice contains lignans. These plant compounds have an anti-inflammatory effect on your arteries. They lower the concentration of fat in your blood and reduce your blood pressure as well.
Lignans protect against heart disease (10).
A meta-analysis of 45 different pieces of research concluded that people who consume more whole grains lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease by 16 to 21 percent. This was in comparison to those who consumed fewer whole grains on average (11).
Research conducted with women shows that people who consume more healthy whole grains weigh less. Typically, they have a lower BMI (Body Mass Index). Both benefits were proven by multiple studies. However, the most prominent research claims that brown rice specifically lowers body weight and waist size (12).
Improves Heart Health
Unfortunately, brown rice is not as popular as white rice and other refined grains in many parts of Asia. This is because it is associated with poverty and wartime shortage. However, brown rice grains contain natural nutrients that are vital to our health. Bran contains several things of major importance, fiber, and essential oils. Fiber is not only filling but is implicated in preventing heart disease. White rice contains only a fraction of these healthy components compared to brown rice (13).
It Keeps You for Full Longer
Can you use grains for weight loss?
Brown rice keeps you satiated for longer periods. This is one thing that makes it ideal for those looking to lose weight. When keeping to a weight loss diet, it is important to ensure that you are always eating at a caloric deficit for the body to lose weight. The easiest way to maintain a deficit is not just by exercise, it is by controlling your food intake. Of course, a combination of the two works, but for most people, it is not just the sedentary lifestyle that causes the weight gain but it could be the over-eating coupled with the fewer calories burned that result in either obesity or being overweight. The fact that brown rice plus a few other smaller healthy choices made can help reduce this hungry feeling can go a long way for losing weight or weight management, as well as promoting healthier eating habits.
For people who are obsessive snackers or tend to eat a lot, eating a whole food like brown rice as a substitute for the typical carbohydrates that you would usually eat would be an especially effective way to still maintain the same eating habits but with a different, healthier alternative, at the same time satiate your hunger for longer periods.
Due to its high fiber content, it takes much longer to digest, so you will be more satiated with your hunger until it is time for your next meal. Replace your main carbohydrates or simply add one or two cups of cooked brown rice to your plate.
In 2013, a study was done among those who are obese, a research found that Insulin resistance and total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels were reduced after consumption of BR. In conclusion, consumption of BR may be beneficial, partly owing to the lowering of glycaemic response, and may protect postprandial endothelial function in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Long-term beneficial effects of BR on metabolic parameters and endothelial function were also observed (14).
Done in 2012, another study concluded that taking brown rice suppressed body weight gain and lipid accumulation in the liver and epididymal adipocytes, and improved serum lipid profiles. These results suggested that it is a potential agent against obesity (15).
Brown rice has been shown to have an effect on ameliorating obesity in animal tests done with obese rats. These findings demonstrated that GBR exhibited anti-obesity effects through suppression of body weight gain and food intake, improvement of lipid profiles, and reduction of leptin level and white adipose tissue mass in obese rats fed HFD (16).
This evidence highlights food preference as a promising therapeutic target in obesity–diabetes syndrome and suggests that brown rice may have the potential for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans (17).
Comparison with White Rice
White rice has been bred and processed to focus on breeding for superior grain quality with a good texture, taste, palatability, and aroma. This focus on flavor rather than nutritional content has given rise to the increased risk of diabetes (18), while all signs point to brown rice as being more useful in terms of fighting against diabetes, having a lower glycemic rate, having relatively higher amounts of dietary fiber, moderate amounts of protein, unsaturated lipids, micronutrients, and improving the insulin resistance of diabetics (19).
Brown rice has an advantage over white rice when it comes to nutritional content. Being less processed than white rice, it doesn’t lose as much when it comes to its nutritional value.
Many studies have shown the effects of the nutrients it contains. Not only does it have more nutrients, the nutrients have been very beneficial for those who are struggling with obesity, thyroid issues, and diabetes. As a satiating source of carbohydrates, it helps all too well with people who are over-eaters by helping them feel more full for a longer period. It’s also rich in fiber, a great thing to have when trying to maintain a healthy gut biome.
That said, either type of rice can be part of a healthy diet — as evidenced by the long history of white rice in the traditional cuisine of many cultures. Brown rice may have a more favorable or maximum nutrition profile, but there’s nothing wrong with having white rice as a part of a balanced diet.
Difficulty with Brown Rice
The effect of brown rice with low protein intake was studied in five healthy young men. In the brown rice diet, fecal weight increased, and apparent digestibility of energy, protein, and fat decreased, as did the absorption rates of Na, K, and P. The nitrogen balance was negative in both diets, but more negative in the brown rice diet. The phosphorus balance on the brown rice diet was significantly negative, but other minerals were not affected by the diet. The researchers concluded that brown rice reduced protein digestibility and nitrogen balance (20).
Not only protein but an anti-nutrient found in brown rice known as phytic acid may change your mind about adding brown rice to your diet. Phytic acid limits the absorption of vitamins and minerals which may cause adverse health effects or nutrient deficiencies in the long run. It was found that the phytic acid brown rice contains important minerals and inhibits the enzymes we need to properly digest proteins and starches. It can prevent us from absorbing the good nutrients in our food (21).
Now that we’ve gone over the effects of brown rice, it is time to go through the simplest ways to prepare it. All over the world,
Brown Rice to Water Ratio
To cook brown rice on the stovetop, follow a 2 to 1 ratio of water to rice; so, for 1 cup of rice, you would use 2 cups of liquid. Adjust according to as you may need to add more water depending on whether you are using short-grain, medium-grain, or long-grain rice.
Getting the rice to water ratio is important and takes a little getting used to because having too little will yield a tougher bite, and having too much water results in soggy grains of rice.
Keep in mind any instructions if the package on the rice includes cooking instructions.
On a Stove
Cooking rice is easy, but there are a few key steps to achieving perfectly cooked brown rice with a not-too-chewy, not-too-soggy texture.
First, Rinse 1 cup of brown rice in a fine-mesh sieve under cold water for 30 seconds. Drain. Remove any impurities or loose starch by washing it away.
Measure the Water, combine the rice, a big pinch of kosher salt, and 2 cups of water in a wide, medium saucepan. Follow the 2 to 1 ratio for water to rice.
Next, bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed about 30 minutes. It is important to cover the rice at this point as it will help steam the grains that are on top
Your rice should be done in 10 minutes, you will know when the water has been absorbed fully and see that the rice is steaming when you open the cover.
On a Rice Cooker
Most rice cooker models come with a pre-programmed setting for brown rice, though it can be advantageous to cook it on the normal setting to have more control over the temperature and time. When in doubt, consult the user manual for optimal cooking times and water-to-rice ratio for your particular make and model, as well as the type of rice you’re cooking.
In an Instant Pot
An even faster way of cooking brown rice is through your instant pot. Use your Instant Pot to pressure cook brown rice in a fraction of the time on the stovetop. In the inner pot of your Instant Pot, combine 1 1/4 cups chicken broth, 1 cup short-grain brown rice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Put on the lid and lock it. Set pressure to cook on high for 25 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.
How to Add Brown Rice to Your Diet
One of the best qualities of brown rice is its versatility.
You can eat it at any time of day and incorporate it into a variety of recipes.
Here are some ways to add brown rice to your diet:
- Take it as a substitute for White Rice, anytime you would eat White Rice or Pasta, use brown rice instead.
- Use Top it with sauteed vegetables and an egg
- Use it as a substitute for oatmeal and make a savory porridge
- Use brown rice instead of naan or white rice for curries
- Use it as a side for soups and stews.
- Top it with seafood, vegetables, fruits, and seasoning as a healthier way to make poke.
- Make a grain bowl for lunch with brown rice, vegetables, and protein
- Make black bean and brown rice burgers for a plant-based dinner or lunch
- Use brown rice to make energy bars
- Though it may upset true-blooded Italian, use brown rice instead of arborio rice for risotto
- Swap white pasta with brown rice pasta
- Make desserts with brown rice pudding
- Substitute it for white rice to make fried rice
- Sauté brown rice with olive oil and garlic for a flavorful carbohydrate option
As you can see, there are countless ways to consume brown rice. In general, the idea is that it is a solid substitute for carbohydrates so when it is boiled or steamed, use it in place of what you would have eaten instead.
As a cooking ingredient, it takes a little more water than white rice and despite that, it has a little more bite to it than white rice so consistency isn’t going to be the same, but know that it is a healthier alternative when consuming carbs for weight loss.