You’ve heard it said before: brown rice is better for you than white rice. But no one ever says why, which leads us to wonder, is anyone really making the switch to the supposedly healthier grain?
According to a recent survey by NPR that included nearly 10,000 participants, roughly 50 percent of those surveyed said they frequently swap brown rice for white rice in their dishes. I suppose from a statistical standpoint, this really isn’t too bad. But considering how much healthier brown rice really is for you, it’s more eye opening than you’d think.
To get the low down on whether or not brown rice really does trump white, we consulted DietsInReview.com’s Registered Dietitian, Mary Hartley, RD to set the facts straight.
What is the difference between brown rice and white rice?
A grain of brown rice consists of the outer covering, called the bran, the small embryo at the bottom called the germ, and the endosperm in the middle.
To make white rice, the outer hull and germ are removed, in doing so, many nutrients are lost, and if white rice is polished, even more nutrients are lost. Also, brown rice is converted to white rice to prolong its shelf life. Because the germ contains oil, brown rice is susceptible to rancidity.
Compared to brown rice, white rice has significantly less fiber, essential fats, B-vitamins, vitamin E, manganese, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, and other nutrients. By law in the U.S., polished white rice is “enriched” with vitamins B1, B3, and iron, but not with the other eleven or more lost nutrients.
Is it really better for us like we’ve been taught?
What dishes taste better with brown rice in your opinion?
Brown rice is a good base for all kinds of food, including appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, desserts, and breakfast cereals. Stir-fried vegetables and full-meal salads are more filling when served or made with brown rice. Brown rice also works well in soups and casseroles that feature beans and lentils.
Any brown rice recipes you might recommend?
Mujadarra (moo-jha-druh) (4 servings)
A classic Middle-eastern dish of lentils, brown rice and caramelized onions
2 sweet onions, sliced
2 cups cooked brown rice*
2 cups of cooked green lentils
2-4 tsp of cooking oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley or cilantro, fresh
*Cook brown rice ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator, covered well, for up to one week. Use it as an ingredient in recipes.
1. Add oil to a large pan and cook the onions over medium-high heat for 30 minutes or until very soft and brown. Remove ¾ of the onions and set aside; cook the remaining onions until crispy, remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Add the caramelized onions back to the pan, along with the lentils, brown rice, balsamic vinegar, and spices. Stir and cook on low until the mixture is heated through.
3. Top with the crispy onions and garnish with parsley or cilantro. Serve with a sauce of plain yogurt, crushed garlic and mint and a fresh green salad.
So it appears, brown rice really does beat out white in the battle of the grains, which has left me convinced that I need to make the switch in my kitchen once and for all. If you’re having trouble with the taste of brown rice, recognize that it’s not always an easy change at first and that some foods are a bit of an acquired taste – but the gained health benefits make it worth it. Keeping that in mind, try adding brown rice to dishes that contain strong seasonings so the flavors blend in more; and do this until you’re ready for brown rice’s more hearty, earthy taste.