Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Which Is Better for You?

All white rice starts out as brown rice. A milling process is used to remove the rice’s husk, bran, and germ. This process increases white rice’s shelf life but removes much of its nutrition, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

To counteract this, white rice is artificially fortified with nutrients. The refined grain is also polished to appear more palatable.

Both white and brown rice are high in carbohydrates. Brown rice is a whole grain. It contains more overall nutrition than its paler counterpart. Whole grain foods may help reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

The nutritional information below is based on a serving size of 1/4 cup, or 45 grams (g) cooked rice. The nutritional breakdown for white rice is based on Meijer’s organic, long-grain white rice. The breakdown for brown rice is based on Meijer’s organic, long-grain brown rice.

Nutrient proximates Brown rice White rice
Energy 170 calories 160 calories
Protein 4 g 3 g
Total lipid (fat) 1.5 g 0 g
Carbohydrates 35 g 36 g
Fiber, total dietary 4 g 1 g
Sugars, total 0 g 0 g
Calcium 0 milligrams (mg) 0 mg
Iron 0.36 mg 0.36 mg
Sodium 20 mg 0 mg
Fatty acids, total saturated 0 g 0 g
Fatty acids, total trans 0 g 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 mg

The exact nutritional breakdown varies by manufacturer. Manufacturers are responsible for providing accurate nutritional and ingredient information.

Key nutritional differences

Here are a few key differences between white and brown rice. The exact nutritional components will vary depending on the rice manufacturer, so be sure to read the food label on any rice that you buy.


Brown rice is generally higher in fiber than white rice. It typically provides 2 to 3 g more fiber than a comparable white rice.

Although fiber is best known for constipation relief, it offers a number of other health benefits. It can help you:

  • feel fuller faster, which can aid in weight management
  • lower your cholesterol levels
  • control your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of diabetes
  • reduce your risk of heart disease
  • nourish your gut bacteria

Generally, men under the age of 50 need 38 g of fiber per day, and men who are 51 years or older need 30 g.

Women under the age of 50 typically need 25 g per day, and women who are 51 years or older need 21 g.

Your daily recommended amount of fiber is based on several factors, including age and caloric intake, so talk with your doctor if you’re unsure.


Manganese is a mineral that is essential for energy production and antioxidant function. Brown rice is an excellent source of this nutrient, while white rice is not.


Brown rice is a good source of selenium, which plays an integral role in thyroid hormone production, antioxidant protection, and immune function. Selenium also works with vitamin E to protect cells from cancer.


Unlike white rice, brown rice is typically a good source of magnesium. The average serving of cooked brown rice can provide around 11 percent of your daily recommended amount of magnesium.

Magnesium is necessary for many vital functions, including:

  • blood coagulation
  • muscle contraction
  • cellular production
  • bone development

The recommended daily intake of this important nutrient is determined by sex and age. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding typically require a higher daily intake. The average adult needs between 270 and 400 mg daily.


Enriched white rice is a good source of folate. An average 1 cup serving can contain 195 to 222 micrograms (mcg) of folate, or about half of your daily recommended amount.

Folate helps the body make DNA and other genetic material. It also supports cell division. Although folate is an essential nutrient for everyone, it’s especially vital for women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.

The recommended daily value for most adults is around 400 mcg. Women who are pregnant should consume 600 mcg, and women who are breastfeeding should get 500 mcg.

Can you eat rice if you have diabetes?

Both white and brown rice can have a high glycemic index (GI) score. The GI score of a food represents the impact it may have on blood sugar levels. It’s based on how slowly or quickly a given food can increase your blood sugar levels.

White rice has a GI of 72, so it can quickly absorb into your bloodstream. Brown rice has a GI of 50. Although brown rice is slower to affect your blood sugar, it can still have a noticeable impact.

The bottom line

Brown rice is generally more nutritious than white rice. It’s higher in fiber, magnesium, and other nutrients, and it isn’t artificially enriched with nutrients like white rice is.

If you’d like to add rice to your diet but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, talk to your dietitian. They can go over the potential effects it may have on any existing health conditions and advise you on how to safely add it to your diet.

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