Brown rice vs white rice: is there really a big difference?

Brown rice vs white rice: is there really a big difference?

Today, I want to be a little less broad and get a little more specific by looking at two particular foods commonly thought of as “clean” or “dirty,” “healthy” or “unhealthy” and “good” or “bad.” 

I’m talking about brown vs white rice, the yin and yang of annoying diet arguments.

Now to the average person, brown rice vs white rice is easy to compare, and the verdict has already been in for quite some time. Brown rice is clean/healthy/good, and white rice is dirty/unhealthy/bad.

So if you’re trying to lose fat, build muscle, prevent fat from being gained, be healthier, or just make any sort of improvement to the way your body looks, performs, and functions, brown rice is supposedly the better choice by far, and white rice should be avoided.

Sound about right? Cool. 

Now let me show you why it’s bullshit. 

Let’s jump into the real difference between brown rice and white rice.


  • What is brown rice and white rice? 
  • Brown vs white rice nutrition & the glycemic index
  • Brown rice vs white rice nutrition: fibre, protein, micronutrients & anti-nutrients

What is brown rice and white rice?

assorted rice

Before we get into the more technical stuff, it’s important to break down the basic differences between white rice and brown, like how it’s processed and what this means for nutrition, cooking, and shelf life.

So, is there a difference between brown and white rice? Is brown rice much better than white, as all the arguments go?


Brown Rice

White Rice


Only the outermost layer (husk) is removed, leaving the bran and germ intact.

The outer husk, bran, and germ are removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm.

Brown rice vs white rice in nutritional content

Higher in fibre, vitamins, and minerals like B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. 

Lower in fibre, vitamins, and minerals compared to brown rice.


Chewier and nuttier flavour.

Softer, lighter texture and mild flavour.

Cooking time

Longer cooking time due to higher fibre content.

Shorter cooking time due to lower fibre content.

White vs brown rice GI index

Lower glycemic index, leading to slower release of energy and better blood sugar control.

Higher glycemic index, leading to quicker release of energy and faster blood sugar control.

Shelf life

Shorter shelf life due to higher oil content in the bran layer.

Longer shelf life due to removal of the bran and germ.

The most crucial part of all this info is the GI index — let’s get into it. 

Brown vs white rice nutrition & the glycemic index 

The glycemic index (GI) classifies foods based on how quickly and how high they raise blood sugar levels. The higher a food’s GI value is, the faster it will be digested, and the faster/higher it will raise blood sugar levels. The lower a food’s GI value is, the slower it will be digested, and the slower/lower it will raise blood sugar levels.

For this reason, eating according to the glycemic index (eating low GI foods/avoiding high GI foods) is often viewed as a great idea for everything from losing fat or preventing fat from gaining, to controlling hunger, to preventing heart disease, diabetes and more.

White rice has a higher GI value than brown rice. Most people know this, and it’s typically the first reason given why brown rice is better than white.

Is this true? Yes. Although, the difference in glycemic index can sometimes be less significant than people make it out to be depending on exactly what types of rice are being compared (long grain, short grain, basmati, jasmine, etc.).

But regardless of which type of rice is being compared, brown DOES have an advantage over white in terms of the glycemic index. No doubt about that.

What should be doubted, however, is whether any of this glycemic index crap matters in the real world. 

Does the glycemic index matter? For the most part, it doesn’t.

The GI value of a food is determined when it’s eaten in isolation after an overnight fast. This is how this food will affect your blood sugar when it’s the FIRST and ONLY thing you’re eating after a full night of not eating anything.

This is where the glycemic index becomes borderline useless to determine whether food is “good” or “bad.” There are two reasons why.

Eating after an overnight feast? Probably not.

With the exception of your first meal of the day, you’re not eating after an overnight fast. So most of the time you eat rice (or whatever else), you’ll be eating it AFTER eating other foods and meals earlier that day.

Why does this matter? 

Because now there are other foods in your system already being digested, this will reduce the speed of digestion of all other foods being eaten from that point on.

So the white rice (or brown rice) you’re eating for dinner tonight will digest slower (and therefore have less of an effect on your blood sugar) than the glycemic index says it will, thanks to whatever foods you’ve already eaten today.

Eating in isolation? Probably not.

The bigger issue here is that, in the real world, the average person is unlikely to eat these foods in isolation, meaning the average person won’t sit down to a big plate of white rice and nothing else (yet this is the scenario the glycemic index is based on).

Why does this matter?

Because when other stuff is eaten along with it like it usually is, it changes everything. It’s now less about each food in the meal and more about the overall meal itself.

And, the protein, fat, fibre, etc., in those other foods will greatly reduce the glycemic index/speed of digestion of the entire meal to the point where there will be no meaningful difference between brown and white rice or whether it’s part of the meal at all. 

So a meal of white rice + some fibre (like a vegetable), or fat (like various oils or nuts), or protein (like chicken), or all of the above will be MUCH lower glycemic and digest MUCH slower than a meal of just white (or brown) rice alone.

And a meal of white rice + some fibre/fat/protein vs a meal of brown rice + that same fibre/fat/protein will digest at virtually the same speed and affect blood sugar in virtually the same way.

Simply put, when other foods enter the meal, brown rice vs white becomes irrelevant. It’s gonna digest slowly either way.

What does this mean?

While all of this glycemic index stuff may look like it matters a whole lot on paper, the truth is that it matters a whole lot less in the real world. So if that’s your #1 reason for considering brown rice to be the good/clean/healthy choice of the two, you may want to reconsider.

Brown rice vs white rice nutrition: fibre, protein, micronutrients & anti-nutrients 

When asking “what's better for you, brown or white rice?”, you have to consider the nutritional content. It’s said that brown rice has a huge advantage over white rice in this area; it has more fibre, protein, and “healthy” nutrients overall. White rice, on the other hand, is just “empty calories” with little to no nutritional value.

So, if there’s one thing everyone can agree on, brown easily beats white in this area. 



Not quite. They’re often either exactly equal, or brown just barely beats white.

Seriously. They’re damn near identical in every area, including the same in protein (3 grams of protein in white rice and brown per serving). Brown does have the advantage in fibre, though, and what a huge advantage it is… one whole gram more than white. Wow!

Eat a small piece of broccoli or 10 little green peas (or some laughably tiny amount of whatever your favourite vegetable is) with your white rice, and you’ll instantly have an equal (if not higher) amount of fibre in rice. Whatever advantage brown occasionally has is so tiny (e.g. 1 additional gram of protein) that it won’t matter in the grand scheme of your diet.

Not to mention, if you’re eating rice (which contains a very small amount of lower-quality protein) as a primary source of protein in the first place, you should probably reevaluate your diet.

If you’re trying to get more protein and/or fibre in your diet, the best option would be to combine your rice with something like chicken (or another lean meat) and vegetables. Now your meal will digest much slower, have much less impact on blood sugar, AND provide a useful amount of protein and fibre (and various micronutrients).

Is there protein in rice? Sure, but we can go one better. 

The debate between brown rice vs white rice is a hot topic, but the truth is that both can be part of a healthy diet. It’s important to remember the fundamental rule of nutrition: a balanced and varied diet is key. Rather than focusing on the type of rice you pair with your meal, consider the quality of your diet as a whole. 

No one food or supplement can provide all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs for power, performance, and optimum health!

If you’re looking to beef up your protein intake, rice isn’t going to do it alone (not by a long shot). Stock up on premium proteins and snacks online at MAX’s (we offer 10% off your first order).

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