Is brown rice just a fad. Is it really healthier than white rice? Many people question this. Well, here is the scientific evidence that brown rice is really better than white rice.
Most health foodies know that brown rice is better than white rice. Research confirms that brown rice not only contains more nutrients. It also helps drop the pounds and reduce inflammation.
Brown rice is more nutritional
Researchers from Japan’s University of Tokushima Graduate School of Health Biosciences have proven what natural health proponents have been suggesting for decades: Brown rice is superior to white rice, not only nutritionally, but for glucose metabolism and for the prevention of metabolic syndrome.
The researchers ran multiple tests with healthy and obese volunteers, the first to analyze the effect of brown rice consumption on weight management and/or loss, body fat, abdominal fat and glucose metabolism. They also measured the effects of the two types of rice on the health of the arteries (endothelial function and dilation). These effects were also tested in patients who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
The researchers then randomized 27 male volunteers into groups and for 8 weeks they had the subjects eat various patterns of brown rice or white rice meals. The researchers also mixed the protocols to include a return to white rice consumption for those who ate brown rice for eight weeks.
After the series of tests, the researchers determined that those eating brown rice in their diets had greater weight loss during the eight weeks. Furthermore, most of that weight loss returned after they returned to white rice consumption.
The research also determined that the brown rice consumption resulted in slower glucose metabolism – lower postprandial glucose levels – as compared to white rice consumption.
The researchers also determined that consuming brown rice resulted in a greater dilation of the brachial artery – a measure of the arteries’ endothelial health.
The research also found that two months of eating brown rice resulted in lower insulin resistance. Cholesterol levels (LDL-c and total) were also lower after 8 weeks of eating brown rice.
The researchers wrote:
“In conclusion, consumption of brown rice may be beneficial, partly owing to the lowering of glycemic response, and may protect postprandial endothelial function in subjects with the metabolic syndrome. Long-term beneficial effects of brown rice on metabolic parameters and endothelial function were also observed.”
Metabolic syndrome and the role of whole foods
Metabolic syndrome is evidenced typically by an overweight status or obesity level of weight, glucose metabolism issues – with either glucose intolerance and/or insulin resistance. Rounding out the effects of these is evidence of coronary artery disease – which typically affects those with glucose metabolism issues due to the formation of free radicals in the blood stream from the greater levels of glucose in the blood.
This research and others has pointed to the fact that metabolic syndrome is often a factor of eating overly processed foods – and the avoidance of whole foods in general.
The reason for this is that whole foods typically contain greater fibers – in the form of husks, peels, seeds and segment walls. These are typically separated from the food during processing, leaving a mash of starches with limited nutrients. For some foods, a particular nutrient – such as sugar – is extracted from the food and the rest tossed.
The separated, mashed food is then typically heated to high degrees in order to sterilize it – which kills many of the remaining nutrients. This sterilized food is then packaged with preservatives and other chemicals to produce what natural health experts might call “fake food.”
In the case of rice, white rice is milled, which means its germ, bran and hull (husk) removed. The remaining kernel is then typically polished and enriched with some of the vitamins it is now missing due to the bran and germ being removed – including folic acid and other important B vitamins.
Brown rice reduces weight, inflammation
Remember first that brown rice maintains the rice bran shell around the kernel. Rice bran helps with weight loss along with other benefits.
In a six-month cross-over study, 40 obese or overweight women with a body mass index of at least 25 ate either brown rice or white rice. Outside of the type of rice, their diets matched in other respects. Both diets maintained 50-60% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein and less than 30% fats. The subjects each ate 150 grams of cooked rice, either white or brown rice, supplied by the researchers.
The subjects were divided into two groups. For the first six weeks, one group ate the brown rice and another ate the white rice in their diet.
After a two week break (wash-out period), the groups switched. The white rice group ate the brown rice and vice versa.
The subjects were each tested before and after each period. They were tested for weight, BMI, waist and hip circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels and C-reactive protein (CRP) – a marker for inflammation.
The research found that those eating the brown rice during each group had lose more weight and waist and hip circumference, as well as had reduced inflammation compared with the white rice group.
The brown rice groups had an average of 1.2 kilograms lower weight (about 2.6 lbs.), 2.38 centimeters less waist circumference, 3 cm reduced hip circumference and .52 kg/m2 less BMI on average. The brown rice group also had 0.98 mg/L less CRP levels compared with the white rice group.
Brown rice contains many nutrients and antioxidants
Brown rice typically contains significantly more nutrients than white rice, including vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. Other research has confirmed brown rice’s ability to reduce blood glucose and increase insulin sensitivity, as well as reduce LDL-cholesterol levels.
A study from Portugal’s Centre for the Research and Technology of Agro-Environment and Biological Sciences studied brown rice compounds and found that they contain a variety of antioxidants, including phenolic acids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, tocopherols and tocotrienols. The latter two are considered vitamin E – superior to synthesized versions.
This latter study also found that darker varieties of rice contained more antioxidants than lighter colors. Their rating went from black rice with the most antioxidants, with purple rice, red rice and brown rice following in order of antioxidant levels.
They also found that Japonica rice varieties had the highest antioxidant levels compared to the more commercial Indica varieties.
But what about phytic acid?
There is a growing concern among the health community regarding phytic acid content in rice and other grains. Research has found that many unprocessed nuts and grains contain phytic acid. Phytic acid has been shown in multiple studies to potentially decrease the absorption of certain minerals, including calcium, iron and zinc.
And uncooked and unsoaked brown rice has higher levels of phytic acid than white rice (0.84-0.99% vs. 0.15-0.60%).
However, it is not as simple as that. Phytic acid – also called inositol hexakisphosphate as well as phytate – is broken down into its soluble components (hydrolyzed) during soaking, cooking, fermentation and germination processes.
Phytates are also hydrolyzed by enzymes called phytases – which become available during the processes just mentioned. In the presence of a phytase, phytates are converted to inositolphosphates such as myo-inositol triphosphate, which do not block mineral absorption.
Phytases are available throughout nature. Upon germination, most grains will produce phytases to neutralize phytates. (Yes, nature is intelligent.)
And many bacteria also produce phytase – including intestinal bifidobacteria such as Bifidobacterium infantis – a bifidobacterium passed from mother to infant during birth and within breastmilk – and lactobacilli such as L. acidophilus, L. plantarum and L. paracasei – which are present in the guts of healthy persons. These and many other probiotic strains produce phytase, which in turn hydrolyze any remaining phytic acids not hydrolyzed during soaking, cooking, fermentation and/or germination.
Multiple studies have successfully tested the ability of these and other probiotic strains to hydrolyze phytic acid with their phytase content.
Is rice grown with GMOs?
Fortunately, at the moment, not on a large-scale commercial basis. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t GMO rice in development. Consider for example, Bayer’s LibertyLink GMO strain.
In 2011, Bayer CropScience settled lawsuits with 11,000 rice growers in the United States by agreeing to pay a total of $750 million. This was done to end the legal battle with rice growers who were damaged by lower prices after the USDA reported in August of 2006 that long-grain rice grown in the U.S. was tainted by trace levels of genetically modified rice strain, LibertyLink.
Bayer’s genetic modification was designed to allow rice to better tolerate Bayer’s Liberty-brand herbicide. During crossbreeding tests, the GM rice strain contaminated over 30% of the nation’s rice fields. Damaged croplands were located in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi.
A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri by rice farmers said that after the The U.S.D.A.’s announcement, the rice futures market fell about 14%, costing the farmers about $150 million.
The GM testing occurred at a Louisiana State University-run facility in Crowley, Louisiana.
Upon the discovery of the contamination, Bayer officials characterized the GM contamination as an “act of God.”
Brown rice: An ancient grain
Brown rice is an ancient grain that has nourished billions of people for thousands of years. The ancient Ayurvedic formula for consuming rice with meals is to include yogurt with the meal. Though the soaking and longer cooking style of Ayurvedic rice (curried with turmeric and other spices) naturally reduces its phytic acid content, the accompanying yogurt helps immediately jump start the fermentation process. This is followed up by the phytase produced by the intestines probiotics – leaving little if any phytic acid hydrolyzed.
Other ancient cultures such as the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese also used fermented foods and sauces alongside their rice meals. The wisdom of these ancient cultures is an important consideration in our choice of foods.
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Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.