Growing up with a Filipino dad, we always had a pot of white rice on the go. Rice with breakfast, rice with dinner. The only time rice wasn't typically on the menu was dessert. According to the International Rice Research Institute, more than 3.5 billion people depend on rice for more than 20% of their daily calories – and these folks aren't eating the brown stuff. As fuel for half of the world's population, is white rice actually bad for you?
While it may seem like white rice is an ancient traditional food, until fairly recently, the hulled and polished rice was a luxury that only the wealthy could afford. Common folk only partially removed the bran by beating or grinding. The obvious benefit to refining rice and other grains is that without perishable bran and germ, the grains can be stored for much longer.
You can find plenty of sources that blame white rice as a scourge of modern health, but my gut says that the issues are less due to the starches from white rice, and more likely to blame on over-processed vegetable oils, chemicals, and preservatives in our food supply.
Why I switched back from brown to white
Like many well-intending health food fanatics, I spent years convinced that not only were brown rice and other whole grains better for me, but that I actually preferred brown rice to white.
Truth? Even when I soak or sprout it, I feel bloated and sluggish after eating brown rice. When I eat white rice, I have no problems at all. And while I can appreciate the nutty flavor of brown rice, it doesn't beat the simple comfort of a bowl of steaming white rice.
If you've bought into the health benefits of brown rice, this may seem absurd. Brown rice is health food, right?
The bad news about brown rice
Brown rice lovers tout the health benefits of eating the ‘whole grain', pointing out that the valuable nutrition of rice and other grains is located in the outer layers, called the germ and bran.
Unfortunately, these treasures are also locked up in there with phytic acid which binds to otherwise useful minerals rendering them useless to the human body.
What about fiber? While fiber is touted as a miracle food for everything from constipation to colon cancer, it is actually pretty easy to eat too much, which can stretch the intestinal tract out of normal range and destroy beneficial bacteria in the gut. Too much fiber may lead to gas, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease – basically the very conditions that fiber is meant to heal. (source) My take away? No need to go overboard with fiber, and if you're eating seasonal fruits and veggies you're probably getting plenty.
My final issue with brown rice is the polyunsaturated oils located in the germ layer of the grain. This fat is unstable and is likely to go rancid by the time the brown rice hits your plate. Your rice is better off without them.
That's three strikes for the brown rice: phytic acid, excessive fiber, and polyunsaturated oils.
By hulling and polishing rice both the bad stuff and the good stuff are removed, and what remains is a simple starch. White rice is just a useless starch devoid of nutrients, right?
Why I'm not missing the nutrients in white rice
White rice doesn't have a bunch of nutrients, but it also doesn't have a bunch of stuff that messes with digestion and makes me feel awful either. Despite the fears of low-carbers and modern nutritionists, the simple starch in white rice is generally a benign fuel source for the body.
Some days, like when I'm off playing in the ocean, hiking, or chasing my kids, I need extra fuel. Other days – say when I'm sitting at this computer typing for 8 hours straight, I may need less. Regardless of my personal caloric requirements, starches are not evil unto themselves unless you have a condition such as diabetes where your body cannot handle starches.
When I have it on hand, I cook my white rice in beef or chicken bone broth which is packed with minerals, gelatin, and glycosaminoglycans. These nutrients are known to benefit teeth, bones, hair, nails, and joints. (Learn to make chicken bone broth here or beef bone broth here). Want the health benefits of bone broth, but don't want to make your own? Buy bone broth online here.
I love to serve my broth-cooked rice with saucy, meaty, buttery dishes and seasonal vegetables – so not only is there something to sop up the liquid, but my family and I are getting plenty of nutrients from the rest of the meal too.
This is the main reason why I don't worry about the nutrients missing in white rice: when the rest of my food is charged with nutrition, I'm not desperately seeking unavailable nutrients bound up in rice kernels.
Still don't want the white? Soaking is not enough!
Be honest with yourself. Do you really prefer the taste and texture of brown rice?
If so, you don't necessarily have to give it up, you simply may want to prepare your rice properly if you want to digest it properly.
For some grains, nuts, and seeds, it's simply enough to soak overnight to begin the germination process, which releases phytase, the enzyme which is necessary to break down phytic acid – thereby making the grain more digestible. Learn more about phytic acid and other anti-nutrients in grains here.
Rice is naturally lower in phytic acid than other grains, but it is also low in phytase. Because of this, soaking alone is not adequate to neutralize the phytic acid. Fermentation, however, acidifies the soaking medium, which activates the small amounts of phytase present in the rice. More importantly, the fermentation process cultivates microorganisms that produce their own phytase to counteract the phytic acid. (source)
Here's how to properly prepare brown rice via fermentation:
- Soak brown rice in filtered water (no chlorine or fluoride!) for 24 hours at room temperature without changing the water.
- Reserve 10% of the soaking liquid (it should keep for a long time in the fridge). Discard the rest of the soaking liquid; cook the rice in fresh water.
- The next time you make brown rice, use the same procedure as above, but add the soaking liquid you reserved from the previous batch to the new soaking water for the new rice. (In a pinch you could also soak with whey or apple cider vinegar, but my guess is that the fermented rice water is best).
- Repeat the cycle. The process will gradually improve until 96% or more of the phytic acid is degraded after 24 hours of soaking.
Well, there you have it. White rice isn't evil. Brown rice isn't so great – unless you prepare it properly through fermentation or you're a mouse. Personally, I'm going to make my life easy and eat my white rice – cooked in bone broth and topped with butter.
I’ve been considering switching back to white rice because of the elevated levels of arsenic in brown rice as compared to white. Apparently arsenic can accumulate in the hull. After reading this post, I’ve made up my mind to go back to white. Thanks!
nunya buisness says
Allison the concentration of arsenic. could possibly be cross pollination of genetically modified rices. I would say that is the culprit. for most thing like this,damn Monsanto screwed everything up I tell ya. they have ruined this planet beyond repair I think.
Sara L. says
I highly doubt the genetic modification if the culprit for the arsenic accumulation in the hull; no genes for that process would have been manipulated. Rice plants are just particularly good at taking up arsenic from the water/soil and it is stored in the hull. Dartmouth is doing a lot of arsenic research right now, and in one study they tested conventional infant formulas versus organic infant formulas. The organic formulas had much, much higher levels are arsenic, which they determined was due to the brown rice syrup used as a sweetener. So the organic rice product (which would not have been genetically modified) still had a ton of arsenic in it. Disclaimer: I would never use infant formula. I just think that study is interesting and has a lot of valuable information. Additionally, I avoid GMOs and am not supporting Monsanto in any way. I am merely pointing out that the arsenic in rice is likely not due to genetic modification. Even organic, natural, [insert favorite buzz word here] foods/products are not perfect.
Sara L. says
*is the culprit
someone told me that in parts of the u.s. arsenic is the the soil because cotton was once grown on the same land. arsenic was used to kill a pest that destroyed the crops. the rice soaks it up – probably because, as lisa says, rice is good at doing just that.
Sara, I believe you are correct! I am Persian and we love our white rice. Traditionally, we rinse our white rice (basmati) in cold water until it runs clear, before cooking. This helps flush the arsenic and most of the starch. Makes excellent, healthier rice!
Nuima girl says
I’ve always preferred white rice. I don’t even like brown rice a bit. This article convinced me to stick to what i love even more: 😀
That goes for me as well. I have tried and tried making it at home but, one- I can’t cook it well and two, I can’t stomach it. I don’t know why? So being Puerto Rican and not wanting to give up my rice and beans, I decided that I would eat brown rice when at a good restaurant when it was part of the meal I was ordering.
I’m curious about where wild rice or black rice fall into this spectrum. I don’t like brown rice, but I’m a fan of wild rice. Does that need to be fermented? And is this full of phytic acid, fiber and polyunsaturated fats? I’ve tried to do some research but there isn’t a lot of info that I’ve found on this subject. I’m curious of what your opinion is on wild and black rice?
Great question! I want to know too! I love REAL (yes, there are ‘fakes’) Minnesotan/Canadian wild rice.
Wild rice is not actually rice, but a grass 🙂
Rice is a grass too.
Hi Brianne, thanks for your question. Wild rice is technically not a grain but a seed of a marsh grass, so it might be ok with only soaking overnight, but in general, I would still recommend fermenting any rice that has a bran layer.
Rice is the seed of a marsh grass.
“Grain” and “seed” are interchangeable.
Wheat, barley, and oats as you know them as grains and are also the seed of the gras from which the come.
All grains, nuts and seeds have some phytic acid…even flax seeds!
Awesome article. I knew there was something benign about white rice when I was suffering from IBS, as it was the easiest thing to digest back then. However, I do soak white rice – with a little acid (lemon juice or ACV) for at least 4 hours before cooking. Doesn’t it have also have some phytic acid, or are you saying the de-hulling/polishing process gets rid of all that? I can definitely say that pre-soaking white rice, especially Basmati, makes it fluffier and yummier, and drastically shortens the cooking time! I’m going to keep doing it even not necessary, but I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on that.
Hi Roxana, thanks for your comment. My understanding is that the phytic acid is in the bran. However, if you prefer to soak white rice, I don’t see how it would hurt.
Deena Barselah says
Thanks for this post. I think there’s a lot of different information out there right now regarding consumption of grains. I’m wondering what your thoughts are further on consuming sugar and starch. You wrote that, “the simple starch in white rice is generally a benign fuel source for the body,” but do you really believe it is harmless to use starch/sugar for fuel? Knowing that our ancestors used fat as a primary fuel source, didn’t rely on sugars and rarely utilized insulin to manage blood sugar, I’m wondering if we should be consuming these foods at all? It’s not easy to cut them out, that’s for sure, but are humans really optimized for grain consumption (whole or not)?
Our ancestors didn’t use fat as primary fuel (except for eskimos which are a small minority). The meat in animals was mostly lean since they lived in the wild.. and do you see much fat in deer, etc.?
Nuts had fat but other vegetables etc. are low in fat.
The point is she’s saying they didn’t eat refined starches and yes deer have fat on them. I take it you haven’t seen anything other than a lost city deer or one in the suburbs. If meat didn’t have fat it would be a very strange red meat. Also there are quite a few naturally occurring fat/oil sources besides blubber. Fish is rich in oil but isn’t what you’d consider “fatty” by looking at it. Animals are very good at storing fat for winter, are you sure you didn’t just see a deer near the end of winter if it looked that skinny to you?
Also her point stands on the grains thing. That is a relatively new thing having so much grain available (due to tractors) and governments subsidizing corn so that’s also in everything now too where previously it would not be. Mass consumption of this much grain wasn’t commonplace.
Considering the Japanese word for “rice” is the same as their word for “lunch”, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that there are some very large populations out there that have more or less always used rice as a staple. By the way, there is also very little animal fat in traditional Japanese cooking.
Do you think that soaking will help with the low levels of arsenic? I don’t think the sensitivity I have is to rice. It’s to the arsenic in it. I feel I’ll after eating it. Thoughts on that?
Magic and Mayhem says
Soaking doesn’t necessarily help at all, but lots of rinsing does. There are actually quite a few ways to reduce the arsenic and the location its grown matters too (even in the US). Here’s more info on how to really minimize the arsenic. http://www.examiner.com/article/ways-to-protect-yourself-from-arsenic-rice
am Persian and we love our white rice. Traditionally, we rinse our white rice (basmati) in cold water until it runs clear, before cooking. This helps flush the arsenic and most of the starch. Makes excellent, healthier rice!
What about white rice raising blood sugar levels too quickly? I am insulin resistant, and can get a sugar high on anything white- including rice…?
Robert Pruitt says
Try switching to parboiled rice. You can buy plain bags called parboiled rice or you can buy the uncle bens “converted” rice, as it is also just parboiled. It has a glycemic load for 1 serving of around 38. Anything below 55 is considered low and usually good for diabetics and pre-diabetics.
Bonus. parboiled rice is just white rice that they have pressure steam cooked, which forces almost all of the nutrients in the brain into the grain itself. So you get the nutrition of brown rice in a white rice form, but with a lower insulin response than even brown rice(around 44).
Just commenting to be sure I hear you reply to the need for soak on white rice, and arsenic questions. Txs!
I’m curious about soaking white rice as well. I have rinsed it in the past, but not soaked it. I am wondering if there would be benefits to that? Thanks for all you do!
Ebby's mama says
in my household tradition the standard for making rice requires a rinse three times and soaking for about 15-30 depending on the cook. it’s then sautéed in samna (ghee) and equal ratio of boiling broth is added. after it’s done cooking we leave it there to steam on the stove. this is for basmati grains.
Robin AKA GoatMom says
I like Jasmine, Lotus Volcano rice that is a mix of brown and red, some of the Lunberg mixes. We don’t eat a lot of rice and just eat what were in the mood for or goes best with the dish.
farmer liz says
Thanks for this great explanation, I love white rice, but I felt guilty about it, I thought brown rice was better for me. I don’t really like the taste of brown rice, but its not so bad if I soak it first. I soak it for about 8 hours in water with a splash of kefir. I should probably soak it longer, although it usually tastes a little sour, so I think it does start to ferment, and the texture when cooked is quite gluggy. Its hard to tell if you’re soaking/fermenting things for long enough (or too long), but I suppose its better than not soaking at all. Now I won’t feel so bad about the occasional meal with white rice when I’ve forgotten to soak the brown rice 🙂 I’ll be interested to read your replies to some of the other comments.
Great article! I just switched back to white and find that I feel so much better after eating it! I think I have been lying to myself for years now about liking brown better.
My husband was surprised to find me making white rice to go with our curry last week, isn’t that breaking the rules? Ha! But I do love white rice and don’t really care for soggy, sour, soaked brown rice so I switched back. We have it maybe twice a month, with bone broth and butter too! So how bad can it be? Great to see your post on this, I like your theories on the subject.
Brittany @ The Pistachio Project says
This is the second blog post I’ve read about white being better. But neither have discussed if white is better in regards to it converting to sugar when disgusted (just like white flour). I’m all for switching back to white (my husband would love it as well) but I want to know about the sugars. If the sugar point is mute as well and white is still better than brown rice than…. would the same go for white flour vs whole wheat flour?
Great post! Thank you for this information. I gave up on brown rice (and other grains) a long time ago. I just didn’t feel right when I ate it. I love fluffy, white rice and the mixed rice from a Mediterranean restaurant, but I always looked at it as a treat. Now I don’t feel as guilty about indulging 🙂
Date With Your Plate says
I’ve recently done some research regarding rice and arsenic levels – while it’s true that arsenic concentrates in the hull of brown rice, there are some things you can do to reduce the arsenic levels:
• Eat organic rice, since pesticides and other synthetic chemicals are banned
• Purchase rice from those areas with the least exposure to inorganic arsenic (basmati rice from India and Pakistan, jasmin rice from Thailand)
• Cook rice in a more traditional manner: rinse raw rice thoroughly before cooking, and use a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup rice, draining the excess water after it’s done cooking. Although a small amount of the nutritional value may be lost, this method reduces inorganic arsenic levels by 30 percent.
• Look for the Lundberg Farms brand – this California family farm has been growing organic rice for decades and they use less water than average to grow it
• Eat an antioxidant rich diet to help reduce arsenic levels within the body
Hope that helps!
Great article …my 11 year old would live on white rice if I let her! Makes me feel a little better about some of picky eating habits!
Would you PLEASE, please, please with white rice on top share some of your… “I love to serve my broth-cooked rice with saucy, meaty, buttery dishes and seasonal vegetable – so not only is there something to sop up the liquid, but my family and I are getting plenty of nutrients from the rest of the meal too.” Recipes???? Did I say please?
Karen T says
I would love to know how to cook rice in broth too! please!
Just use broth instead of water! Here’s my “recipe”:
– Boil water with spices , leaves, with meat on bones.
When meat is fully cooked, use a not-so-thin sifter to filter the water keeping spices in
– Add 1 cup of rice for each 2 cups of liquid left in pot.
– Keep stirring until it boils, keep boiling for 5 min.
– Turn heat down, let it cook until soft, probably 40 min
Serve with a Lebanese garlic sauce (finely mince garlic with salt, add true olive oil, add pepper).
Ebby's mama says
same as above but we use equal parts broth to rice. rice is sautéed first in fat and spices like a few cloves a cardamom pod and a cinnamon bark. broth is added hot. whole thing boiled for 5 minutes to let water evaporate. cover and simmer over low heat in a strong pan like a Dutch oven (3 qt) for about 40 min. leave it on the stove after done and let it steam. don’t touch ever after you have covered it. fluff with a fork and rice can be spooned out into serving dish with a dessert plate.
so if I want to make 3 cups of rice. everything is in threes. 3 tbs oil. 3 cups rice. 3 cups broth. 3 tsp sea salt. it is never served dry unless you want to be police escorted out of your kitchen and want everyone to talk about you. there is always a wet broth style or stew style dish on top and always eaten with a spoon!
Hi Michelle – sure, they’ll be coming up soon.
Andrea Merrigan says
Wonderful, I am so tired to fixing brown rice I am going to try white rice again:) Sharing this article for my Weekend Wanderings post this weekend.
We don’t eat much rice. It is my understanding that rice is very high in arsenic..as potatoes are….because of the way they harvested and raised. We do eat some but it is fermented for 4 days…first with lentils and then with teff to make a sour dough type dosa.
The other reason we don’t do much rice esp white is the candida aspect. The white rice is more simple and it flares the candida worse.
I believe if vinegar is added and it soaked about 24-48 as if to sprout most of the phytates are removed…
a bigger issue with grains are lectins. Those, too, are also removed with a 24-48 hr soak. If I do the 48 hr soak…I change the water and add more vinegar after 24 hrs.
I realize everybody’s body is different and that we are prone to like what we are raised on, but your article read a little bit more like an excuse than well reasoned argument. I look at my Pilipino step mom and watch her fight breast cancer and also watch her fill her diet of completely nutrient void white rice. This is the same to me as children who fill up on candy and then don’t have room for supper. My other issue is also the sugar: you state that it is OK, as long as you don’t have diabetes, but how do you think you get diabetes? Chronic overeating of simple sugars…My step mom also has high blood sugar that she is not taking care of.
Everything in moderation, I suppose, and good fats (I can’t believe you said not to eat brown rice because the fats MIGHT be rancid, lol) and proteins with it will even out the blood sugar spike.
I grew up on brown rice, it makes me feel great and nothing beats the nutty steam with some butter on it, YUM, lol. Each to their own. Thanks for your thought provoking articles.
Sharon Devi says
I don’t think you can blame ‘white rice’ for causing her breast cancer. Cancer can be cause by multiple things: SAD (Standard American Diet) that’s full of additives/preservatives, poor diet, highly processed food, radiation, stress, etc.
A friend of mine just recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is so angry & can’t understand why this is happening to her, because she’s done all the right things (according to her), having green smoothies for her meals, juicing, being a vegetarian, she exercises everyday, avoids sugar, doesn’t smoke or drink, doesn’t stress and yet she got breast cancer.
Andrea Raymond says
You cannot get Diabetes from simply eating too much sugar!!! Type 1 happens when your body stops producing natural insulin through the pancreas. Type 2 is because you are overweight, which may or may not have to do with eating a lot of sugar — please do not spread false information.
My son is Type 1 and Celliac (gluten intolerant), so white rice is a huge staple. And yes, it is high in carbs, but as he is so limited with the grains he can eat and that he likes, I am so glad to read your article. As long as the rice is balanced with healthy low carb items in the rest of your meal, the carb count is not much higher than potatoes. As long as the diabetic calculates their carbs and doses the correct insulin, it is fine. Thank you for the great article.
Good answer! You got everything right. I loved your answer, excuses!
@Sharon Devi – Your friend was NOT doing everything right. If she was doing everything right, she would not have gotten cancer. There’s a lot she is not telling you or a lot more we are not hearing here.
The reason that whole grain rice may be subject to higher levels of arsenic is due to it being grown in highly polluted areas. There are ways to cook it and get most of the arsenic out as outlined by ‘Date with your plate’ above.
All you white rice lovers who love eating your white rice everyday, go ahead and continue with that pattern and you will be setting yourself up for more disease as you age.
Tracy | Screaming Sardine says
Thanks so much for this post. I love white rice, though I was trying to stay away from it and eat more brown rice. But brown rice always gave me a sick and heavy feeling in my stomach.
Sarah @ RealFoodOutlaws says
I agree with you 100%, Emily! Even after soaking brown rice I would feel bloated. White rice doesn’t affect me.
I have just been reading in an 80’s nutrition book about parboiled rice. At our WAPF chapter meetings we have discussed the brown v white issue several times! According to Rudolph Ballantine, parboiling the rice drives the b vitamins to the centre of the grain, so it is more nutritious than white rice which hasn’t been parboiled. According to Ballantine, in India where they traditionally parboil there rice have no issues with beri-beri (thiamin deficiency). I would love to know if anyone else has information on parboiled rice.
I am so with ya sistah. My Mom is Filipino (
Gudrun B says
i LOVE brown rice! to me it just has more taste
then again, depending what i make it with or for i will use white;
i feel not all human digestive systems are alike and some will have no problems with brown rice while others have a harder time with it; so why torture yourself with brown?
but that parboiled thing i must check, sounds very interesting, Carol!
What about arsenic? Should we be eating rice at all?
So, so happy you wrote this. My “gut” has been telling me the same thing for a while, and I don’t eat brown rice. Somehow that nagging “guilty” feeling has persisted, and now it’s time to kick it to the curb and enjoy my rice in moderation!
Does anyone have a clue about Rice Milk for babies/kids? Is there an arsenic threat in this as well?
Don’t throw away the rest of the rice water! The rinse water from white or brown rice makes your skin amazingly soft! And fermented rice water makes an excellent kitchen counter cleaner and will boost your dish detergent as well 🙂
Leonora Corate says
oooh, do tell! how do you use it?
Thanks for the article. I really dislike brown rice but suffer through it if I make something like a stir-fry and include rice. I haven’t eaten white rice in years. I didn’t have time to read through all the replies, but it looks like a lot of people are team brown and a lot are team white. I realize everyone is different and may even prefer the brown over white but I’m going back to white. When I think about it, I made stir-fry a lot and don’t anymore because of disliking the brown rice. Stir-fry was a major source of veggies for me so this will be a good thing. Everything in moderation anyway, right. Thanks for making me realize white rice isn’t such a horrible thing after all. Looking foward to browsing the rest of your site!
Sherri @The Well Floured Kitchen says
I am a little skeptical to believe that eating something where all the nutrition has been stripped off is good for you. I think it would be similar to eating white flour or white sugar. Of course, I love the nutty flavor of brown rice and have no digestive issues. I have more of a concern about arsenic, so thanks to the commenter who mentioned some ideas to reduce it.
I was always under the impression that a lot of white rices were chemically processed to remove the hulls and that some are even bleached to make it whiter in color. Is there any truth to this? This was always more my reasoning for eating brown rice, not the rice itself, but the way in which it’s been grown and processed. I’d love to know if I’ve been believing a myth.
I would love to see you comment on sources of good, white rice.
This is exactly why I only eat white rice when I need a carb refeed!
Thanks for this great informative post! I’ve always had problems with brown rice so I listened to my body and stopped eating it. I didn’t mind with all the soaking and/or fermenting of brown rice. It was simply too much work for me. However, I do eat white rice. I love it with some good homemade bone stock and it works well with so many other dishes too. But I’ve just read that there is GM rice?! That human genes are engineered into rice?! Have you heard about this? My rice is not organic, I bought it from an Asian grocery store. It says it’s from the USA. I’m so worried right now because I’ve been eating this brand for quite a while already! It makes me want to vomit just thinking that I ate GM rice…Should I switch to organic right away?
Here’s the link from which I’ve read:
Hi Tiffany, thanks for your question. I don’t think there’s GMO rice yet but I’d still switch to organic asap.
Anastasia @ eco-babyz says
We haven’t had rice in a while, except for when visiting some friends. We are following the Cure Tooth Decay diet, for the most part, to heal my kids’ teeth. But I still have an unfinished 50 lb bag of Indian Basmati that we really like. I’m thinking of soaking it and incorporating into one meal a week – wouldn’t want all that rice to go to waste and it would add some variety. 🙂
Great post. I’m also a former brown rice eater who switched in the past couple of years back to white rice, usually jasmine or basmati, and I agree Lundberg is terrific for their environmental stewardship. They also responded quickly and proactively to the arsenic reports (theirs is low in arsenic).
I eat Paleo-ish so have cut other grains out of my diet and feel so much better and lost some belly fat. I do find that, like many women especially, it’s possible to be too low in carbohydrates, especially if you’re very active or stressed (I’m both). White rice eaten, in moderation, with butter or other healthful fats and protein isn’t going to cause blood sugar issues for most people. If someone can’t handle it, they should skip it, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for everyone. I do intermittent fasting to some degree, but if I go too low in carbs, it increases my stress. White rice with dinner is one way to balance things out. Tonight, for instance, we had fresh salmon cooked in ghee, leftover white rice reheated with chicken stock, steamed green beans and cauliflower with pastured butter (also on the rice), cucumber and fennel salad with olive oil vinaigrette, and a bit of sauerkraut. Nourishing, satisfying, fast, and no bloated belly from brown rice, and no blood sugar issues.
To those who worry about eating white rice instead of brown, reread the post. You may have missed how phytic acid binds up the nutrients, such as they are, in the bran, and the germ has unstable polyunsaturated oils, so there’s really nothing to miss. If you’re eating meat and fermented vegetables, you’ll get plenty of B vitamins.
Me too! I love the nutty taste of brown rice but I’m doing only small amounts of select white rice now. (Organic, Lundberg Brand etc.). This is very helpful but even beyond these two main reasons for me:
1) Arsenic. I had a TMA (Tissue And Mineral Analysis) done a few years ago and my arsenic levels were through the roof. I had no idea where from – I didn’t even eat much chicken. When I saw the CU reports on arsenic in rice that filled in that piece of the puzzle. Thanks for the tips Jody, also I’d add – Take a good selenium supplement.
2) Oxalates. I discovered that much of my pain issue (fibromyalia) was due to my over absorption of oxalates. There are a lot more oxalates in brown rice than white.
Good post. Thanks for it.
another yummy way to cook white rice is with coconut milk. makes for a rich, creamy, and slightly sweet flavoured rice and it soaks up all that healthy fat.
And grated ginger. My family loves coconut ginger rice.
Erica Lynn @ Optimal Health Consultant says
I agree if you are feeling bad after eating brown rice you probably have an intolerance to it and need to cut it out of your diet. However, I would be careful replacing it with white rice at the quantities you described yourself eating. White rice still turns to sugar in your stomach just like white flour.
Leonora Corate says
I am Filipino too so I can relate completely to your story! When I went grain-free a couple of months ago I thought I would have to give up my beloved white rice, along with the wheat and corn. But after doing my own research I’ve pretty much come to the same conclusions as this article – that it’s easier to digest than brown rice, is considered a “safe” starch in primal/traditional eating and well, let’s face it, there’s no way I’ll give up traditional Filipino breakfasts with eggs and fried white rice (fried in COCONUT OIL, of course).
Thank you! I have been saying this forever!!!! It’s not the rice that’s the problem. It’s not.
I read about this several years ago on Sarah Pope’s site, The Healthy Home Economist, and am so happy to have you also speak out on it. I had secretly gone back to eating white rice instead of brown because quite frankly, brown rice doesn’t taste that good. Even doing the soaking/fermenting thing like WAPF says to do, still produces a gummy pot of rice that sits in your gut like, well gummy rice. You are correct that the majority of the rice eating peoples of the world eat white rice, not brown and for all the reasons you state. Thanks to you and Sarah, I have “permission” to eat white rice again! Boy, tell that to your local WAPF chapter and you get some jaws dropping!
PS…..Sarah says that basmati is the best white rice because it is absorbed more slowly than the other white rices. The white basmati from India is super long grained and tastes much better than California’s basmati.
I didn’t read all of the comments so I don’t know if it this has been said, but the “nutrient deficient” white rice becomes packed with the nutrients in the bone broth you cook it in, so it isn’t just a “simple starch” anymore. You left this out of your posting.
My Grandmother would rinse white rice and then boil it like pasta in a pot of water and then strain it when done. I asked her why she cooked rice like pasta. She said, “The rice comes out cleaner after straining the rice.”
Do you think cooking rice like pasta is a healthier way to cook rice?
Brilliant! I’ve always hated brown rice and refuse to even pretend to eat it. I figured that billions of Asians and Indians couldn’t all be wrong but, there was always a wee nagging sense of guilt. Now it’s gone! Thank you!
Richard, was your grandmother French perhaps? That is the French style of cooking rice. 🙂
Tiffany- you said: “But I’ve just read that there is GM rice?! That human genes are engineered into rice?! ”
there is GMO rice, a Monsanto product. its called Golden Rice and it was made to have more beta carotene in it. More info here:: http://fbae.org/2009/FBAE/website/special-topics_golden-rice.html
As far as i know, there are no plant GMO crops containing human genes. I could be wrong, but i would be *highly* skeptical. So don’t panic. 🙂
Starr @ The Kiefer Cottage says
I like brown rice, but it tears me up inside. I’ve been told (patronizingly) that it’s because I don’t get enough fiber in my diet, and yet, I actually get plenty of fiber from other plants. My gut has literally been telling me that it’s not right for me to eat brown rice, and I guess I should listen.
I think this is good news. AND, I think eating white potatoes is good too. There, I said it . . .
I’m also curious about BLACK rice – but based on this whole post I am just thinking it should be a) organic and b) treated just like brown rice and soaked and fermented before cooking.
It is way tastier than brown rice and the black color comes from the same goodies that make blueberries blue. 🙂
Sara G says
I am curious about your steps for properly preparing brown rice via fermentation:
You wrote: Reserve 10% of the soaking liquid in a should keep for a long time in the fridge). Discard the rest of the soaking liquid; cook the rice in fresh water. I assume it should read: Reserve 10% of the soaking liquid (it should keep for a long time in the fridge). Discard the rest of the soaking liquid; cook the rice in fresh water.
Then you write: Repeat the cycle. The process will gradually improve until 96% or more of the phytic acid is degraded after 24 hours of soaking. Are you repeating this with the same rice? Ie how many 24 hour soaking sessions are you doing per batch of rice? Or are you saying that the more times you save 10% of your soaking liquid the better it will get at fermenting the rice. Am I just reading this incorrectly? Can you please clarify this step?
I eat Jasmine rice. Like you I don’t even like the taste and texture of brown rice, on top of the fact that it is harder to cook. Plus it’s more expensive.
I have a hard time understanding your statement that eating too much fiber can cause Crohn’s disease. I have Crohn’s and while it’s not good to eat too much fiber when you’re in a flare-up, eating tons of fibrous foods in remission is one of the best ways to prevent future flares. My belief is that Crohn’s is caused by a variety of things, including genetics, stress, antibiotics, and eating too many carbs (sugar/grains). I’ve never heard of someone getting Crohn’s and saying, “if only I hadn’t eaten so much fiber”.
Leilani Cleveland Deveau says
THANK YOU for this – growing up with a Filipino *mom* white rice was a staple in our home as well. I had a total epiphany reading your article. White rice has always “agreed” with me more than brown…thanks for the info!
I use parboiled rice. It’s supposed to retain the nutrients of brown rice. It doesn’t taste as good as regular white rice, though. It’s also supposed to be cleaner than white rice.
sarah tosick says
hello! is there no need to soak white rice because the hull has been stripped? thanks!
I also swiched back to white rice a year ago, and I am very happy with my descision..! I tried and tried and tried to like brown rice, red rice and wild rice.. The tast was ok and I actually did preefer it in some dishes, but my stomach just didn’t like it. Even my energy-level went straight down after dinner, and I had to lay on the couch for half an hour! I did NOT like that at all 😀
Merina Alchemy says
Great article! I’ve always preferred white, especially Basmati rice over brown rice. I’ve had so many people try to push brown rice on me, as a healthier alternative. However, I’ve always felt that brown rice was not right for me, and found white rice to be enjoyable, digestible, more so than other “grains.” Intellectually, I hadn’t even realized that it was the phytic acid and rancidity that are the culprits, although I’m very aware of these issues with other foods. Thank you for your well written blog, I really appreciate the type of solid research and nutritional wisdom you share!
I’m a new prediabetic. I would recommend all with significant family diabetes history to just cut out rice altogether. Unfortunately, my blood sugar goes toward 200 on white rice and 135 after two hours of eating only a half cup of brown rice! And the brown doesn’t even taste good. I wish I knew what rice can do to an overweight person who becomes borderline diabetic. I can eat dark chocolate a few squares and two hours later be only 90-100 on blood sugar. I’m finding whole grain bread to be a better carb option and have given up on rice 🙁 sad, I was raised on the stuff!
Everyone thinks they’re an expert. Being overweight is not the sole cause of type 2 diabetes. My Dad developed type 2 diabetes late in life and he is thin as a rail (under weight as a matter of fact).
Being underweight and not having enough muscle is actually a bigger health risk than being somewhat overweight. Muscle protects a person.
Just read your comment and wanted to mention that the same happened to my thin, fit, hard working, healthy eating Mother when she was in her her 40’s. Have recently discovered that she is in fact late adult onset type 1 might be the same with your Dad.
PS. Specialist told me that one of the oldest type ones he had diagnosed was in their 90’s.
I’m definitely not an expert and I don’t think being overweight alone makes one have type 2 diabetes. I’m just shocked at how easily it was that I’m having a reaction to white rice and simple sugars. I did mention I had significant family history one side of my family all has diabetes as they had gained weight and gotten older over 40, I feel there is something to that and I never knew what white rice did to my body till I got my glucose monitor. Genetic predisposition? Not sure. My hubby eats massive amounts of white rice and no reaction. It’s so frustrating and I do know there are skinny and also fit people with type 2, I have a friend like that. Halle Berry has it! I do need more muscle mass I’m glad that was mentioned, I’ve heard lifting weights helps with blood sugar hopefully that helps. Maybe just some can eat the white stuff and others shouldn’t? I wish docs tested sugar reactions not just fasting blood sugar I always passed the fasting every physical but I failed the sugar challenge after being pregnant. I had gestational diabetes.
In the Philippines I grow tons of white rice in our farm, hybrid, inbred, etc… too many chemicals (insecticides, herbicides, etc) and fertilizers needed to grow it… probably the fault of the government because it does not care if the rice needs to much input as long as yield is really high (otherwise how would it feed the whole country?)… We never eat our white rice, we just sell it… We buy RED UPLAND NATIVE RICE – the type that never was grown or developed in a LABORATORY, the type that is so low yield only the tribal farmers actually grow it cause government would have shivers if everyone grows it – whole country would starve and all – but the red rice resists insects and doesn’t need much fertilizer… so if you can find one of these upland native rice varieties go eat it and you won’t even think about brown rice or white rice or whatever in terms of taste and nutrients.
Growing up in India, as you we also were brought up on white rice. Of course, rest of our diet was complete with lots of veggies, lentils, legumes, nuts, sprouted beans like mung, healthy dairy like yogurt and some fruit Fortunately, we did not have any serious health problems and are not overweight because, we live an active lifestyle and portion control. Just like Italians have no issues with eating pasta. The problem in America, as you perfectly pointed out is over-processed food, also high consumption meat and of course no exercise or physical activity. Thank you for this article. I love my Basmati rice 🙂 Cheers.
Actually, you may be pretty wrong about the whole Phytates thing, and I see a lot of this misinformation floating around right now on brown rice…
I think the misconception — and I’ll be honest, I had this misconception — is that consuming a food that contains phytic acid is going to steal nutrients away from you. But it turns out that that phytic acid in the food is most commonly bound to a metal ion already, so the phytic acid or phytates that are other derivatives — Phytic acid is myo-inositol hexaphosphate, but you can have pentaphosphate, tetraphosphate, and trisphosphate isomers that are also going to form various complexes with metal ions, precipitate them out of solution, and prevent their absorption. So what this stuff does, it just means that if you look at, say, the iron content of kale, well, you’re not going to absorb all the iron that you see because some of it is bound to phytic acid or phytates.
unless you were to supplement with free phytic acid for some reason. Maybe if you have primary hemochromatosis, that would be beneficial for you.
spinach, purslane, kale. They’re very high not just in phytic acid but in other naturally occurring phytochemicals that will bind iron. So the polyphenols, for example, they can bind iron. What else? Oxalic acid. That can bind iron and other minerals. They are rich in tannins. Tannins can also do that. They’re rich in a variety of compounds that can bind minerals. So if you look at, specifically of iron in this case, from plant sources versus animal sources. The animal sources were always better.
Iwould recommend parboiled rice, to get the nutrients in the hull without the anti nutrients.
Madeline Jacks says
I already loved your blog, but this article made me love you even more! White rice cooked in bone broth + butter is my ultimate comfort food!
Thanks Madeline! I couldn’t agree more 🙂
For solely nutrition purposes, organic basmati and long grain wild rice, I believe to be the best choice. I dont see absolutely any health reasons for white rice. But no matter, everyone has a preference! and right now, I’ll opt out of rice, and go enjoy a bowl of creamy coffee ice cream! Thanks for the info.
Hi, wondering whether to give brown or white rice to my infant, as her first grain. If brown, and I do soaking method, do you rinse thoroughly before soaking because if arsenic.
Hi Alana – Thanks for your question. You would want to rinse the brown rice thoroughly and soak overnight before cooking. Hope that helps!
I’m also half Filipino too, coming in both sides of the family. Both my parents are half White coming from White grandparents of theirs but were born in the Philippines and they always serve white rice.
I was diagnosed with celiac disease and decided that eating paleo was right for me. However I occasionally have sushi while out to dinner and I have not felt any discomfort from it. Thank you for the explanation.
What a fresh post in this question – here I am, loving the jasmin rice, but boiling brown rise for hours and hours, changing waters and stuff…. I guess, I am going to boil white rise with chicken bone broth tonight and give it a good stir with organic butter! And be at ease with it, as we eat it with our raw veggies dipped in virgin olive oil and then some parmesan cheese on the side! Thank you, darling 🙂
About 12 years ago I decided to eat healthy. I switched from white to brown rice. At the same time I lowered my fat intake. I became incredibly contstipated! I started drinking lots of water, added brown bread. This continued and my stool was immense , it would stop the toilette! I then proceeded to have excruciating diarrhea once a month. So I started on chewable fruit tablets, it improved my regularity but the sized was huge, and my regularity depended on the chewables. Then one day I ate a ton of ice cream left over from my grandkids visit. Next day my stool was better. I googled the relationship of fat and constipation and came upon a site that claimed that too much roughage/low fat is the cause. I remembered then that my problem started when I gave up white grains and fat! I now enjoy white rice and bread and butter and I am regular! I know that this is contrary to what we have been told. But, if you have this problems give it a try. I love fruits, vegetables and meats. I forgot beans agree with me. What a relief!
Perhaps, less worrying about trying to prove what you heard that somebody told you or putting your college science to use and instead let the relaxed state of delicious appease the mind and as such bring the body to its optimal physiological state.
Gross over consumption of milled grains raises the glycemic index and load. We are drawn to these types of food because of the dopamine release associated with rapid increase in blood sugar.
The real health risk with white rice consumption is it’s contribution to cardiovascular risk due to it’s very high glycemic load. Regular pasta , white bread and potatoes are equal accomplices .
The germ has little nutritional value. What vitamins it contributes should be ample in a generally diverse diet. The cellulose content removed with milling does warrant discussion. The symbiotic bacterial relationship we have is changed by high fiber diets.
Often wrong but never in doubt.
I apologize if this was already stated.The arsenic is not from the GMOs. It is from the Insecticides that have been used which deposited the arsenic in the soil.
I often find Jasmine rice in a discount store and wouldn’t buy it, because I don’t know if India or Thailand uses Gmo rice yet? I avoid it at all costs. If anyone knows whether it is safe to buy it from these countries, pls let me know. I don’t buy pineapples from Costa Rica, because I heard that they have gone Gmo and they are suppressing this fact. Thanks!
Katie Short says
Thank you so much for this thoughtful article. While I firmly believe that a person’s heritage and genetic composition have a TON to do with their optimal diet, having available facts makes it easier to make good decisions for my individual situation. People with Asian bodies may do better on white rice and fish. Those with Mediterranean heritage do best with olive oils and whole grains many times. Why? Because that’s what their bodies were genetically programmed to need after generations of evolution (lower-case “e”, not Darwinism). Those of us who don’t know or are a mismash of heritage (like me), have to find what works. I’m sorry that there are so many folks who have commented that you are wrong, or causing folks diabetes and cancer. I’m sorry that not everyone can see how simple it is to understand your perfect diet isn’t the same as mine, necessarily. I wish more folks understood that steering clear of heavily processed foods and “foods” that are mostly lab-created, different dietary choices can be equally valid and healthy. Mostly I wish I’d seen this article sooner, because I feel good in the grocery store buying organic brown rice, but crappy at home after eating it. Thank you for your work, and I hope you’re better than I at ignoring the “haters”. Blessings to you!
Emily Bartlett says
Thanks Katie. I appreciate your comment. You need to do what feels good for your body at the end of the day.
Eat both. Problem solved.
Have you seen semi-whole rice? I’m in France and have been delighted to find this, called “semi-complète.” It cooks obviously more rapidly than brown (though I still prefer to soak it a bit) and retains the grains separateness, so to speak. I only sometimes like white rice. I can’t stand when it sticks and I also don’t appreciate thinking about eating empty carbs. But brown rice disgusted me as I systematically saw black ends that made me wonder endlessly if it was mold and then spend time sorting the rice. It tastes dirty too (I have a sensitive palate), and then of course I wondered if I was absorbing any of the minerals because of the phytates…. I’m pregnant so this has been a great solution for me. There are usually never any of these black ends, and I’m sure there is much less arsenic.