Health Benefits of Brown Rice

Is brown rice healthy? Here's what to know about brown rice nutrition and what to be aware of.

Brown rice is a nutrient-rich source of energizing carbs. As a whole grain, it offers more health benefits than white rice.

Technically the seed from the rice plant Orzya sativa, brown rice is also a great source of fiber. However, some caution may be advised when preparing this grain.

Brown rice's wholeness accounts for some of this staple's perks, including heart health, blood sugar control, and weight management. There are plenty of easy ways to incorporate this versatile whole grain into your next meal, snack, or dessert.

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Benefits of Brown Rice

Part of what makes brown rice so good for you is that it's whole—a whole grain. Grains are considered whole when their three original parts—the bran, germ, and endosperm—are intact.

A grain's bran is its fibrous outer skin. The germ is its embryo, which has the potential to sprout into a new plant. The endosperm is the germ's starchy food supply. The bran, in particular, is what you don't want to miss out on.

Blood Sugar Regulation

Brown rice plays a very important role in regulating blood sugar by keeping blood sugar levels low. It is also associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Scientists think these effects are due to brown rice's whole-grain goodness. The bran layer seems to be why it takes you longer to digest brown rice than white rice. This, in turn, could also be why eating brown rice prevents your blood sugar levels from getting as high as they do when you eat white rice.

White rice is different because it's not a whole grain: It's refined, meaning the bran and germ are stripped away, leaving only the endosperm. Unlike brown rice, white rice has actually been associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Heart Health

You may not associate rice with heart health, but there are reasons why you should. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) comes in many forms including high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Eating brown rice may be able to help you lower factors that increase your risk of developing CVD. Specifically, these factors are high blood lipid levels, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Scientists studying the effect of brown rice consumption on inflammatory markers and CVD risk factors in 40 non-menopausal female adults who had overweight or obesity had good news. A diet consisting of brown rice was shown to significantly reduce inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein, as well as other CVD risk factors.

Weight Management

In addition to cardiovascular protection, brown rice may be beneficial when it comes to weight management.

Compared to white rice, brown rice was not found to be associated with weight gain in a 2019 study among Japanese workers. However, the workers who ate equally high amounts of white rice gained more than 6.5 pounds within a one-year time span.

Eating brown rice in your diet may also help you keep your weight stable. Some evidence even suggests that brown rice could increase your resting metabolic rate. A higher resting metabolic rate means that you burn more calories when you're sitting or relaxing.

Antioxidant Effect

Brown rice contains many types of antioxidants: phenolic compounds, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and others. Antioxidants are powerful molecules found in foods like fruits and vegetables. Their power comes from their potential to prevent or delay some types of cell damage.

Phenolic compounds are a common antioxidant group. They are known to protect cells against damage linked to a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.

Take note: You won't get the same antioxidants from white rice as you will from brown rice. The most antioxidant effect is found in the bran in whole grains. Boost your antioxidants even more by incorporating black, purple, and red rice into your diet along with brown rice.

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Nutrition of Brown Rice

One cup of cooked long-grain brown rice contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 248
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Sodium: 8 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 51.7 grams
  • Fiber: 3.2 grams
  • Protein: 5.5 grams
  • Manganese: 2 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 79 milligrams

Brown rice is also rich in vitamins and essential fatty acids.

One cup of brown rice can give adults at least 85% of their daily manganese needs. Manganese is a mineral that benefits immune function, reproduction, and strong bones.

In that same portion, you'll get over 20% of your daily need for magnesium. Magnesium is required for muscle and nerve function, DNA production, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation.

Cooked brown rice also supplies other essential nutrients needed for optimal health. The rice contains between 10% and 27% of the daily goal for selenium, copper, phosphorus, and several B vitamins.

Risks of Brown Rice

One concern about brown rice consumption is the levels of arsenic. Arsenic is a groundwater contaminant linked to potential health risks, including adverse pregnancy outcomes and certain cancers.

However, arsenic risks due to rice consumption of any kind are not that easy to assess. Identifying the precise link between rice consumption and health outcomes is complicated by several factors: Populations being studied don't always have comparable rice consumption patterns relative to their total caloric intake. Plus, the amounts of arsenic in water used to cook rice varies widely. This makes the risk from the rice itself difficult to tease out.

Look for parboiled or converted brown rice if you're concerned about arsenic levels. A 2021 study found that partially boiling brown rice can remove up to 54% of unwanted heavy metals like arsenic. The parboiled method outperformed soaking or rinsing and was also shown to help preserve nutrients such as zinc.

Another way to reduce possible arsenic exposure is to consume brown rice in moderation, as one of several sources of whole-food carbohydrates.

Tips for Consuming Brown Rice

Brown rice is incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into nearly any meal.


  • To make a breakfast porridge, flavor the rice with plant-based milk and a touch of maple syrup and cinnamon, and then top with nuts.
  • Add veggies and brown rice to omelets and frittatas.

Lunch and dinners:

  • Add brown rice to soups, chili, jambalaya, tacos, and casseroles.
  • Incorporate it into salads or grain bowls, along with leafy greens, other veggies, and lean protein, drizzled with sauces like seasoned tahini, vegan pesto, or guacamole.
  • Serve brown rice with flavorful stir-fries.
  • Look for brown rice sushi.
  • Incorporate brown rice into veggie burgers, stuffed cabbage and bell peppers, and lettuce wraps.

Snacks and desserts:

  • Snack on brown rice in rice cakes.
  • Incorporate brown rice into desserts like pudding, toasted brown rice ice cream, cookies, and bars.

Other forms of the grain are also readily available. Add puffed brown rice to dark chocolate and other sweet treats, and swap wheat flour for brown rice flour in baking and cooking. Plain sprouted brown rice protein powder is a great option for smoothies or to bolster the protein content of pancakes, mashed cauliflower, or blended soups.

A Quick Review

Brown rice is a filling, nutrient-rich whole grain that's naturally gluten-free and versatile. Its health perks include preventing type 2 diabetes, helping with weight management, and boosting heart health. The antioxidants and other nutrients in brown rice are primarily found in the bran.

Reach for brown rice over white rice to up your intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and to potentially reduce disease risk. You may prefer its slightly nutty flavor and hearty texture, too.

Just keep in mind that, like any food, it's best to eat brown rice in moderation. Combine moderate portions of brown rice with other whole foods to take advantage of the health benefits and best optimize your overall nutrient and calorie intake.

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