White rice – good, bad, worth eating?

By | January 25, 2015


white riceI grew up on a diet of daily white rice consumption. I found it to be bland, but didn’t think much more of it. When I went off to college, I had no issues with white rice, but found lots of other foods to replace the need for daily rice: ramen, macaroni & cheese, bread, and so on. In more recent years, I have found that I and my family really like white rice, so we might eat it once a week or so. However, I keep hearing that brown rice is more nutritious and a whole grain, so it is better for you. I have never liked the taste of brown rice (too crunchy or something and doesn’t taste as good), but I reluctantly tried to consume it more often and white rice less often. More recently, I have heard that there are studies that indicate white rice can cause certain diseases, so my concern level went way up. Today, I am confused and want to get to the bottom of this if I can. I mean, how can Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and so many other cultures eat so much white rice for so many hundreds of years and be fine, in some cases living far longer than many other parts of the world?


So, off I went to do my research. I can now report good news and bad news – mostly good, I think.?. The good news is that I know a lot more about white rice and brown rice; this is based on the fact that I knew next to nothing before. The bad news is that the research that has been done does not give me a totally clear answer of whether white rice is good or bad. The good news is that I understand more of the reasons why people have been labeling white rice good or bad. And finally, the good news is that I feel a lot more comfortable about my rice choice now.

OK, so I read a bunch of articles. There seems to be some consistency between them, so this makes me feel good. To keep what I learned simple because that is what I am most likely to remember, I am going to hit just some of the major points.

  • White rice has little nutritional value or is just empty calories – I guess if you are in a situation where every calorie counts, you better avoid white rice or eat it in great moderation. But it does have nutrition and there are a lot of things that we eat that might not have lots of nutrition for the calories.
  • Brown rice has more nutrients than white rice – There is no controversy here. The difficulty is can your body get the nutrients out of the brown rice? Many of the nutrients are in the husk or bran, and your body needs to be able to extract it out for it to be beneficial. There are also some bad things in the husk, so you get good and bad, if you can get to either at all. White rice has these parts removed but many white rices are enriched, so some of the goodness is added back. As for the fiber brown rice contains, this can be good or bad, depending on your digestive system. Some people can struggle with digesting a lot of fiber.
  • White rice has high amounts of arsenic – This is a harder topic to address. Arsenic is definitely not good but the levels might not be higher than for other foods. The most important point I learned on this matter is that if you rinse the rice before cooking, you can get rid of a lot more of any arsenic that is present. I always rinsed the rice when I worked in the restaurants that cooked rice, but I thought that was to have the stray pieces float to the top so I could get rid of them. I am not even sure my supervisors that told me to do it knew any more, but the added benefit was getting rid of arsenic. My grandparents also always rinsed the rice before cooking.
  • Don’t eat white rice too often – I don’t think I quite understood all of the literature on this, but it was pointed out that the studies that found issues with eating rice were done right after a nights sleep and eating only rice. So, there seems to be possible issues with eating rice by itself, maybe just nutritional issues, but when eaten with other foods, the issue is not there. Sorry this is so lame. Maybe I need to read a few more articles and see if I can figure this out.

 

So, for me, I am still in search of the perfect food – one where the more I eat, the better off I am, and I don’t need anything else – but I still haven’t found it. As for white rice, I feel a lot better about keeping it in my diet. As for brown rice, I don’t need to worry about trying to switch over to it.

Some references

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