White, Brown or Wild Rice: Which Is Best For You?

by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Professional

There are several different varieties of rice. Most people were raised eating white rice and continue to do so. However, different types of rice provide different nutritional benefits. Let's look specifically at white rice, brown rice, and wild rice.

White rice

White rice has been milled so that the husk, bran, and germ are removed leaving you with a refined product. During this process, the rice is polished giving it the bright, white, shiny appearance we expect.

By removing these layers the flavor, texture, and appearance of the rice is changed and the shelf life is extended as it is now less likely to spoil.

Nutrients are removed during the processing, such as the B vitamin thiamine. Due to this depletion of nutrients, white rice is usually enriched. This means that some of the nutrients removed during processing are added back in, such as thiamine, niacin, and iron.

Brown rice

Brown rice is not milled, meaning the only layer removed is the husk, leaving the bran, germ, and endosperm intact. This makes for a wide difference in nutritional composition between brown rice and white rice.

During the enrichment of white rice, magnesium is not a nutrient that's added back. Long grain brown rice contains 84 mg of magnesium, while white rice contains only about 19 mg per cup of cooked rice. Brown rice also contains a higher level of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and folate:

Potassium - 84 mg vs 55 mg per cup
Phosphorus - 162 mg vs 68 mg per cup
Zinc - 1.23 mg vs 0.77 mg per cup
Folate - 8 µg vs 5 µg per cup

Brown rice also provides higher levels of fiber and protein:

Fiber - 3.5 g vs 0.6 g per cup
Protein - 5 g vs 4.3 g per cup

Wild rice

Wild rice is actually a grain (the seed of wheat grass). Let's look at the nutritional breakdown and the compare to white and brown rice:

Potassium - 166 mg per cup
Magnesium - 52 mg per cup
Phophorus - 134 mg per cup
Zinc - 2.20 mg per cup
Folate - 43 µg per cup
Fiber - 3 g per cup
Protein - 6.5 g per cup

Wild rice contains more protein, zinc, and potassium than both brown and white rice varieties. Wild rice is also significantly higher in folate and most of the other B vitamins.

What this means for heart health

High blood pressure plays a prominent role in your risk for heart disease. To control high blood pressure, you need a diet rich in potassium and magnesium. To prevent heart disease you must also maintain healthy cholesterol levels, which means a diet rich in dietary fiber. Based on these needs you'll want to include brown and/or wild rice in your diet over white rice.

Meatless meal option. . .

Even if you are not a vegetarian, it is still beneficial for heart health to include occasional meals that are not meat based. Preparing a meal including both rice and legumes provides all your essential amino acids equaling a complete protein source. A great alternative to consider

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Nelson, RD, LN

Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so you can live life and enjoy your family for years to come. Lisa's passion for health comes from her own family history of heart disease, so she doesn't dispense trendy treatments; Lisa practices what she teaches in her own daily life. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques.