Is brown rice really better than white?

Rice on the menu for dinner? Dietitian Ashleigh Feltham compares the various merits of both the whole grain and white varieties, and even shares some meal tips.

Do the differences between whole grain foods and the regular white varieties go over your head? Even if you don’t hold any nutrition qualifications, as a fitness professional you probably have a better understanding of nutrition than many of your clients – imagine how confused they must be!

Rice is a staple for a many of us, whether it’s a tuna rice salad at lunchtime, a sushi roll grabbed on the run or a side to your favourite Asian meal in the evening – so it’s worth taking a closer look at its nutrient content.

Whether brown rice is better than white depends on how you want to use the food. For those who want to fuel up before exercise, the higher fibre content in brown rice makes it a bit of a no-go if you don’t want to find yourself rushing to the bathroom mid-workout. Generally speaking, though, the whole grain variety is superior in most respects.

Let’s take a look at a breakdown of each type (per 100g):

Energy Protein Fat Fibre
Brown: 639kJ
White: 671kJ
Brown: 2.9g
White: 2.7g
Brown: 1g
White: 0.1g
Brown: 1.5g
White: 1g

Source: Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)

A bonus of brown rice that is absent in the white variety is the amino acid, or a breakdown of a protein component called tryptophan, which has been found to improve mood. As the comparisons above show, brown rice has more fibre than the white variety, which not only fills you up and thereby decreases the amount of rice you want to eat, but also feeds the good bacteria in your gut. This is important, as keeping your good bacteria healthy and happy affects many facets of your overall health, including mood, metabolism and immunity.

On top of this, the brown rice includes all the layers of the whole grain, which means you get more vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamins, which help your body to make energy from the food you eat.

The energy in brown rice is only slightly lower than white (32kJ difference). Before you freak out about the fact that brown rice has far higher fat content than white rice, it is important to note that around 80% of this is made up of the healthier fats, also called polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Fat is not to be feared – it is all dependent on the composition of the types of fat in each food and the source of the food.

If you or your clients find the taste of brown rice difficult to manage, try swapping half of the white for brown and gradually increase the amount of brown as your taste buds acclimatise.

Now that your taste buds are tingling to include whole grain rice in your diet, here are some suggestions to get you started:

  1. Add half a cup of brown rice to your salad to increase the feeling of fullness.
  2. Brown rice with tuna is a great snack. You can buy many precooked varieties in the supermarket that have a half-cup whole grain serve. Simply microwave the rice and top with tuna.
  3. Add some rice to yogurt for a snack, boosting the sweetness by adding some cinnamon or berries.

Overall, brown rice is a clear winner for your body in terms of the nutrition power it gives you. Try including whole grains of different varieties in your diet as each whole grain contains a different nutrient profile which will further enhance your health.


Ashleigh Feltham is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and owner of Feed Your Future Dietetics. She is also an experienced personal trainer group fitness instructor. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.