Brown rice is a cereal manufactured from the seeds of the plant from which white rice is also produced. Before removing the bran and germ of the seed after removing the outer shell it is called brown rice. The energy contents of both white and brown rice are same. But they vastly differ in their nutrient content. It is the high nutrient content in it make brown rice a superior and healthier variety of rice (1).

Like white rice, brown rice is also a staple food widely cultivated and consumed in most part of the world and particularly in the Asian countries.

What is brown rice?

Brown rice is the seed of a grass plant which is grown under well irrigated conditions generally in wet lands. Rice is the world’s third largest produced agricultural commodity after sugar cane and Maize. It is presently cultivated in almost all parts of the world and used as staple food (2).

Depending upon the quantum of rain fall and irrigation sources it can be a biennial or annual crop.  It requires fertile soil for optimum growth and yield. In view of the need to keep the land always wet it is normally cultivated in plains. But it is also grown in hill tracks with adequate rain fall.

Nutrition information

100 gm. brown rice provide 370 calories of energy, 77.24 gm. carbohydrates, 3.52 gm. dietary fiber, 0.85 gm. sugar, 7.85 gm. protein and 2.92 gm. fat. It contains Thiamine (B1) 35% RDA, Niacin (B3) 34% RDA, Riboflavin (B2) 8%RDA, Pantothenic acid (B5) 30% RDA, Vitamin B 6 RDA 39%, Folate B9 RDA 5% and minerals Manganese 178%RDA, Magnesium 40% RDA, Iron 11% RDA, Phosphorous 48% RDA, Selenium 33% RDA, Zinc 21% RDA, Potassium 5% RDA, Calcium 2% RDA (3).

In contrast, white rice contain only traces of some of the vitamins and minerals present in Brown rice which explains the superiority of brown rice over white rice. Brown rice is generally cooked like white rice and consumed. In fact, it can be gainfully used to prepare all food dishes one can prepare from white rice with the added advantage of additional nutrition.

In addition to being a staple food, brown rice provides a number of health benefits. Substituting white rice with brown rice improves the overall health of a person. Some of the significant health benefits derived from brown rice are:

Protects the heart

Manganese is a rich mineral present in brown rice. In 100 gm rice the manganese availability is 178% of required daily amount (RDA). Manganese is a very important mineral required to regulate the blood pressure directly connected to the health of the heart. Much of the health disorders are due to erratic or high blood pressure. Manganese has the potential to regulate the blood pressure and prevent heart diseases. Moreover, Selenium present in it neutralizes the Sodium in the body as any excess sodium could contribute to heart disorders. It has been established that postmenopausal women who are prone to heart attacks due to stoppage of production of estrogen are protected by regular consumption of brown rice. Phyto-nutrients in the rice are also helpful in preventing strokes and heart diseases (4). Atherosclerotic plaques in the blood vessels of such women are reduced by the regular consumption of brown rice.

Prevents and cures diabetes

Diabetic generally have to satisfy their frequent hunger by appropriate food. Much of the normal food consumed by them increase the blood sugar level instantaneously. In this situation brown rice comes to their rescue. It has low glycemic index and prevent spiking of blood sugar levels. Moreover, the fiber and polyphenolic compounds in brown rice further reduces the glycemic index and make it an appropriate food for all types of diabetics (5). It is more helpful for type 2 diabetics as they suffer due to continuous high sugar levels in their blood due to insulin resistance.

Prevent constipation

High amount of manganese present in the rice accelerates digestion of fats consumed. Dietary fiber in this rice improves the digestive system and regulates the bowel movement. Constipation is found to be a symptom for a number of health disorders including hear related diseases (6). The bran layer in Brown rice has the potential to reduce absorption of acid and humidity in the body which improve the functioning of the digestive tract.

Prevent weight gain

Even though the rice is dense with carbohydrates, the dietary fiber with manganese present by reducing the already low glycemic index reduces accumulation of fat and sugar in the body. With this property coupled with enhancing digestion weight gain is prevented (7). Like other whole grains, brown rice improves satiety and give the feeling of full stomach for a longer time thereby preventing frequent food intake. By enhancing the metabolism of fats, brown rice not only prevents accumulation of fat in the body but also breaks down the existing fat and help in weight reduction.

Optimizes the energy

Carbohydrates consumed need to be converted into energy to keep the body strong and healthy. Brown rice provides as much energy and vitamins along with minerals to optimize the energy levels. Manganese is an important mineral required to break the carbohydrates into energy. The quantity of manganese present in it is more than the RDA which supports the conversion to maximize the energy. Unlike refined or white rice, protein present in brown rice is significant which raises the strength and energy level of the body (8). In addition to manganese, brown rice also contain magnesium at 40% RDA which also help in converting the carbs and fats into energy.

Lowers bad cholesterol

Lowering the bad cholesterol level is important to maintain a good cholesterol ratio. The rice bran contains saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats all of which help in reduction of bad cholesterol level in the blood. While rice bran oil can be separately used, consumption of the rice itself is sufficient to lower the cholesterol level in the normal diet pattern (9). Added to fats, fiber present in the rice also help in reducing the overall cholesterol in the blood.

Prevents cancer

Free radicals produced in the body during the metabolism process is harmful to the health as they remain in the body and break into cancer causing agents. Manganese and selenium present in this rice are effective in neutralizing the effects of free radicals and eventually protecting the body from the formation of disastrous cancer cells. Selenium has the special characteristic of improving the quality of metabolic process by breaking down hormones and toxins in addition to helping the repair of damaged DNA (10). Consumption of brown rice is particularly helpful in preventing breast, colon and prostate cancers. Moreover, brown rice as a whole grain is effective in preventing breast cancer in menopausal women due to the fiber content.

Reduces inflammation

Oxidation and inflammation are the twin harms encountered by body in the normal diet pattern. Being a whole grain brown rice is rich in anti-oxidants which in functions as anti-inflammatory agent also. With this property it can improve the functioning of the respiratory system and prevent conditions like asthma (11). Every type of disorder including arthritis caused due to inflammation can be prevented and cured by regular consumption of brown rice as a substitute food. It is emphasized that the use of brown rice must be as a substitute and not as an addition to normal white rice generally consumed.

Prevents metabolic syndrome

When any three of the five disorders namely, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, low HDL, abdominal obesity and high serum triglycerides, simultaneously surface, such a condition is called metabolic syndrome. It is known that all these disorders are serious in nature and has the potential leading to various other health issues including heart attacks. Brown rice as any other whole grain has the ingredients that prevents occurrence of metabolic syndrome.

Protects the nervous system

Brown rice contains many B vitamins including riboflavin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, B6, Niacin and folate which are helpful in strengthening the overall nervous system and the brain. Moreover manganese in the rice counters involuntary spasm and other nerve disorders. Brown rice contain an extremely important compound known as GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid) which is a neurotransmitter which helps in the communication between the brain and the nervous system. GABA reduces the neurodegenerative disorder and prevents the same. With this specific property in combination with amino acids, it relieves anxiety and depression also.

Prevents Alzheimer’s

Depression, hypertension or head injury causes the neurodegenerative disorder called Alzheimer’s. GABA, glycerin and glutamine present in sprouted brown rice prevents such a condition (12). Sprouted brown rice also has the potential to inhibit the causes of the disease effectively. Dementia and amnesia are also prevented by this.

Strengthens the bones

Magnesium present in the rice along with calcium and iron help in improving the bone density and strengthens the bones. Demineralization of bones is prevented thereby conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis are also prevented.

Prevents gallstones

High amount of insoluble fiber in brown rice prevents formation of gallstones. This is more beneficial for women.

Melatonin present in the rice prevents insomnia and provides quality sleep.

Ramya Srinivasan, PDGBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. As a result of her passion in native medicine, she got her Diploma in Traditional Siddha Medicine from Bharat Sevak Samaj registered under the Indian Planning Commission. She is certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.