Rice is a staple in the diets of more than half of the world’s population. Although white rice is the most commonly-consumed type, many people prefer brown rice because they feel it has more nutritional value. Is white rice bad for you, or are these claims unsubstantiated? Here are some things you should know about white rice that will help you determine whether or not it is right for you.
Role of Phytic Acid
White rice differs from brown rice because the bran is removed from it during milling. This eliminates not only the color, but a great deal of phytic acid. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, phytic acid can block calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper. Phytic acid also inhibits pepsin and other enzymes that are essential for digestion. This means that white rice may actually be easier to process, and is even thought to reduce gut-related disorders including colon cancer. Phytic acid may also lead to tooth decay, and should therefore be avoided by anyone who wishes to eliminate cavities naturally.
Arsenic and Heavy Metals
Rice grown in polluted areas may contain high amounts of mercury, arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals. Overexposure to heavy metals increases the risk of birth defects, and may lead to nervous disorders and renal failure. Most of the metals found in rice are concentrated in the bran. As such, they are more likely to be present in brown rice, since the bran has already been removed from white rice.
Increased Risk of Diabetes
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have determined that eating five or more servings of white rice weekly greatly increases one’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. At the same time, they determined that eating at least two servings of brown rice each week lowered a person’s risk by 16%. White rice is lower in fiber than brown rice, and fiber is important because it slows the rush of glucose into the bloodstream. White rice therefore causes blood sugar levels to raise much higher following a meal.
Less Protection Against Heart Disease
Another Harvard study was performed on more than 86,000 men over a period of 5 ½ years. This study concluded that men who consumed one or more servings of whole grain breakfast cereals per day reduced their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 20%. A separate study followed 75,500 women for a period of ten years, and showed a 30% reduction among females who consumed whole grains. These two studies show that brown rice may actually be more effective than white rice when it comes to preventing heart disease, a leading cause of death in the United States.
Is white rice bad for you? The answer is “it depends”, as there is a great deal of scientific evidence that shows white rice has positive and negative effects. For optimum health, you should consume white rice in moderation, and occasionally substitute brown rice to ensure you are getting all the nutritional benefits of both types.