Article: White rice vs brown rice… real difference?


Dear Timaree: “I grew up eating ‘sticky’ white rice and haven’t really eaten much brown rice because it seems so ‘dry’. I am cooking it wrong? What are the real differences between brown rice and white rice?”

Although many of my college students grew up eating white rice and consider brown rice absolutely “foreign”, both come from the same exact plant! Rice, like all grains, is composed of several layers: the outermost is an inedible husk, followed by the bran (protective coating high in fiber). Inside the bran is the endosperm (starchy part) and the germ (highest in nutrients). White rice is refined (heavily processed), as the husk, bran and germ portions have been removed, leaving only the endosperm (starch). Brown rice is a whole grain because only the husk has been removed, think of it as white rice with the little bran “jacket” and germ still intact! While this may seem inconsequential, nutrition-wise the differences are staggering! Compared to white rice, brown rice has: 93% more Vit B-6, 280% more potassium, 450% more magnesium, 550% more fiber and 800% more Vit E!

Cook Smart

Some people complain that it takes longer to cook brown rice, and while there are many quick cooking brown rice products available, I tend to favor saving money and buy uncooked brown rice. I simply cook it in larger batches (1 cup of uncooked brown rice makes ~3 cups of cooked rice) and freeze what I don’t use right away in 1.5 cup amounts. It thaws well in the fridge and then is ready be used in other recipes, topped with a stir-fry or made into a delicious salad/side dish. I experimented with 2 easy cooking techniques and ended up with extremely similar (and excellent) results.  Both came out perfectly and I went on to make a delicious Citrus-Infused Mediterranean Rice (recipe below) and Lime Cilantro Rice!

Shop Smart

Since white rice and brown rice come from the same plant, you can find each version of your favorite variety (brown jasmine, brown Basmati, etc.). If you like “sticky” white rice, be sure to try short or medium grain brown rice. Since whole grains tend to have a slightly shorter shelf life than heavily processed foods, I keep my uncooked brown rice in the freezer.

Eat Smart

Whether you have been eating brown rice for years, or have just recently considered trying it, you don’t want to miss my hands-on nutrition cooking classes at Hutchins Street Square. My first series begins on June 14, 2011 with “The Whole Grain Conversion”, a interactive experience that will allow you to experiment with a large variety of whole grains and cooking techniques so that you can benefit from incorporating more whole grains into your diet (reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, improved digestive health and weight control), while thoroughly enjoying your food!!!

Citrus-Infused Mediterranean Rice

1 cup of barely steamed chopped spinach (frozen chopped spinach thawed in fridge works great)
1/3 cup each (chopped finely): celery, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, scallions
3 cups cooked brown rice (from 1 cup uncooked brown rice – see 2 easy cooking techniques or step-by-step pictures)
2 Tablespoons chopped almonds

Combine all ingredients, except for the almonds, toss with Citrus Mustard Dressing (below) and allow flavors to marry for ~30 minutes at room temperature. Garnish each serving with almonds and a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley.

Citrus Mustard Dressing

2 tsp veggie broth, orange juice or water (in place of oil)
2 tsp spicy mustard
1 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice  (zest before squeezing)
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients to combine and let sit until ready to use.

Nutrition Info: (1/6 of the recipe ~1 1/3 cups of rice mixture): 158 kcals, 3g fat, 28g carbs, 5g fiber, 5g protein, 227 mg of sodium, 340 mg potassium, 85 mg of calcium, 78 mg magnesium, 2mg iron

Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.

My article was published in the Lodi News Sentinel on June 8, 2011.

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