Brown rice is a food that is often associated with healthy eating.
Considered a whole grain, brown rice is less processed than white rice, which has had its husk, bran and germ removed.
With brown rice, only the shell (a hard protective covering) is removed, which leaves the nutrient-rich bran and germs behind.
As a result, brown rice retains the nutrients that white rice is lacking, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
However, with the rising popularity of low-carb diets, many people avoid brown rice.
This article discusses the health benefits of brown rice to help you decide if it is a healthy food to include in your diet.
While brown rice is a simple food, its nutritional profile is far from it.
Compared to white rice, brown rice has a lot more nutrients to offer.
Although similar in calories and carbohydrate content, brown rice outshines white rice in almost every other category.
One cup of brown rice contains (1):
- Calories: 216
- Carbohydrates: 44 grams
- Fiber: 3.5 grams
- Fat: 1.8 grams
- Protein: 5 grams
- Thiamine (B1): 12% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 15% of the RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 14% of the FDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 6% of the RDI
- Iron: 5% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 21% of FDI
- Phosphorus: 16% of the RDI
- Zinc: 8% of the FDI
- Copper: 10% of the RDI
- Manganese: 88% of FDI
- Selenium: 27% of FDI
This whole grain is also a good source of folic acid, riboflavin (B2), potassium, and calcium.
In addition, brown rice is exceptionally rich in manganese. This little-known mineral is essential for many important processes in the body, such as bone building, wound healing, muscle contraction metabolism, nerve function and blood sugar regulation (2).
Manganese deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, bone demineralization, stunted growth, and poor fertility (3, 4).
Just one cup of rice covers almost all of your daily needs for this important nutrient.
As well as being an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, brown rice is also a source of powerful plant compounds.
For example, brown rice contains phenols and flavonoids, a class of antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative stress (5).
Oxidative stress has been linked to a number of health conditions, including heart disease, certain types of cancer, and premature aging (6).
The antioxidants found in brown rice help prevent cell damage from unstable molecules called free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body (7).
Studies suggest that the antioxidants found in rice may be the reason for the low prevalence of certain chronic diseases in areas of the world where rice is a staple food (8).
Brown rice is very nutritious and provides the body with a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Replacing more refined grains with brown rice can help you lose weight.
Refined grains like white rice, white pasta, and white bread lack the fiber and nutrients that whole grains like brown rice contain.
For example, one cup (158 grams) of brown rice contains 3.5 grams of fiber, while white rice contains less than 1 gram (9).
Fiber helps you stay full for longer, so choosing foods high in fiber can help you eat fewer calories overall (10).
In fact, studies show that people who eat more whole grains like brown rice weigh less than those who eat less whole grains.
A study of over 74,000 women found that those who ate more whole grains consistently weighed less than those who ate fewer whole grains.
In addition, the women with the highest fiber intake had a 49% lower risk of severe weight gain than the women with the lowest fiber intake (11).
Replacing white rice with brown rice can also help reduce belly fat.
In one study, 40 overweight women who ate 2/3 cup (150 grams) of brown rice per day for six weeks had significant reductions in body weight and waist size compared to women who ate the same amount of white rice.
In addition, the women who ate brown rice experienced significant decreases in blood pressure and CRP, a marker of inflammation in the body (12).
Brown rice contains more fiber than refined grains like white rice. Choosing high fiber whole grains like brown rice can reduce belly fat and help you lose weight.
There is no doubt that brown rice is a heart healthy food. It’s high in fiber and beneficial compounds that can reduce your risk of heart disease.
A large study of over 560,000 people showed that people who consumed the most fiber had a 24-59% lower risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease (13).
Similarly, a review of 45 studies found that people who ate the highest amount of whole grains, including brown rice, had a 21% lower risk of coronary artery disease than those who ate the least whole grains (14).
Aside from being a good source of fiber, brown rice contains compounds called lignans that can help reduce risk factors for heart disease.
Diets high in lignan-rich foods like whole grains, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and nuts have been linked to reduced cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and decreased arterial rigidity (15).
In addition, brown rice is rich in magnesium, a mineral that plays a vital role in keeping the heart healthy. A review of 40 studies found that increasing dietary magnesium was associated with a 7–22% lower risk of stroke, heart failure, and all-cause mortality (16).
Another review of nine studies showed that every 100 mg / day increase in magnesium intake reduced mortality from heart disease in women by 24-25% (17).
Brown rice is high in fiber, lignans, and magnesium, all of which have beneficial effects on heart health and your risk of heart disease.
Reducing carbohydrate intake and choosing healthier options are critical to blood sugar control.
Although carbohydrates have the biggest impact on blood sugar, people with diabetes can reduce spikes in blood sugar and insulin by eating less refined grains like white rice.
Replacing white rice with brown rice can benefit people with diabetes in a number of ways.
In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who ate two servings of brown rice per day experienced significant decreases in post-meal blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c (a marker of blood sugar control) compared to those who ate white rice ( 18).
Brown rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice, which means it is digested more slowly and has less of an impact on blood sugar.
Choosing foods with a lower glycemic index can help diabetics better control their blood sugar.
Several studies suggest that foods with a higher glycemic index increase blood sugar, insulin, and ghrelin, a hormone that causes hunger (19, 20).
Reducing ghrelin levels can help people with diabetes control their hunger, which can reduce overeating and keep blood sugar levels under control.
Also, replacing white rice with brown rice can reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
In a study of over 197,000 people, replacing just 50 grams of white rice with brown rice per week was associated with a 16% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (21).
Choosing brown rice over refined grains can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar and reduce the chance of developing diabetes in the first place.
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Today, more and more people are following a gluten-free diet for a variety of reasons.
Certain people are allergic or intolerant to gluten and experience mild to severe reactions such as stomach pain, diarrhea, gas, and vomiting.
In addition, people with certain autoimmune diseases often benefit from a gluten-free diet (22, 23).
These factors have led to an increasing demand for gluten-free foods.
Fortunately, brown rice is naturally devoid of this often problematic protein, making it a safe choice for those who cannot or do not want to consume gluten.
Unlike highly processed gluten-free products, brown rice is a whole grain that is filled with beneficial nutrients that your body needs to function properly.
Brown rice is also made into other healthy gluten-free products such as crackers and pasta that people on a gluten-free diet can enjoy.
Brown rice does not contain gluten and is a safe and healthy choice for those on a gluten-free diet.
One of the best things about brown rice is its versatility.
You can eat it any time of the day and incorporate it into a variety of recipes.
Here are a few ways to add brown rice to your diet:
- Make a cereal bowl for lunch with brown rice, vegetables, and protein
- Top brown rice with eggs, salsa, avocados, and black beans for a hearty breakfast
- Swap oatmeal for brown rice porridge at breakfast
- Use brown rice instead of white rice when preparing stir-fries
- Instead of white pasta, incorporate brown rice into your favorite soup recipes
- Throw brown rice with fresh vegetables and olive oil for a tasty side dish
- Make black bean and brown rice burgers for a plant-based dinner or lunch
- Use brown rice to make energy bars
- Swap white rice for brown rice for a healthier version of rice pudding
- Ask for brown rice in your sushi rolls to add fiber to your meal
- Use brown rice in your curry recipes
- Try risotto with a healthy twist by using brown rice instead of arborio rice
- Replace white noodles with brown rice noodles
- Saute brown rice with olive oil and garlic for a flavorful carbohydrate option
As you can see, there are tons of ways to consume brown rice. This nutritious whole grain goes well with many ingredients and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Brown rice is a flexible ingredient that can be enjoyed in various recipes and meals. You can also use it as a healthy substitute for white rice or pasta.
Brown rice is a very nutritious, gluten-free grain that is packed with an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial compounds.
Eating whole grains like brown rice can help prevent or improve various health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Not to mention, swapping refined grains like white rice for brown rice can even help you lose weight. Brown rice is a versatile carbohydrate that can be eaten at any time of the day.
Whichever way you choose this wholesome whole grain product, you are going to be making wise choices for your overall health.
Which diet is the healthiest? One eating hack can boost more than your body
Scientists, nutritionists, and social media influencers have made their careers researching what—exactly—makes the best diet. In recent years, the Paleo diet, which attempts to replicate what our ancient ancestors were said to have eaten, has been pitted against the keto diet (essentially a version of the Atkins diet) and intermittent fasting (which insists there isn’t any diet is) fought for supremacy. But there’s one diet that almost all scientists agree is healthy for your body, your brain — and maybe even the planet.
Many nutritionists have long emphasized that a balanced diet consisting primarily of vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and fruits is ideal for a healthy adult body and has numerous health benefits.
In other words: a plant-based diet. As it turns out, this type of diet is not only good for human health — it can also save the planet from the climate crisis.
In a recent study published in the journal Nature, scientists show how people in higher-income countries could remove enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to keep the global temperature from rising above 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius by switching to a plant-based diet change.
Two degrees is the upper warming limit set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel to contain the worst effects of the climate crisis.
Specifically, researchers cite the EAT-Lancet diet as the healthiest diet for you and the planet. Here’s what you need to know.
What is the EAT Lancet Diet?
An infographic summarizing the plant-based diet recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission. The diet is high in vegetables and low in meat.
The world population is expected to grow to 10 billion people over the course of the 21st century. Feeding this growing population in a way that is sustainable for the planet will be a challenge.
The EAT-LANCET Commission brought together leading scientists to determine the best “Planetary Health” diet – a diet to promote human health and protect the sustainability of the environment in line with the UN’s climate goals. (You can read the full report here.)
People in higher-income countries make up just 17 percent of the world’s population, but if they switch to a plant-based diet, we could eliminate the equivalent of “about 14 years of current global agricultural emissions,” the researchers say.
According to the Commission, the two main components a meal that follows the guidelines of the Planetary Health Diet:
- Half a plate of vegetables and fruit.
- Half a plate with a mix of “whole grains, plant-based protein sources, unsaturated vegetable oils, and (optionally) modest amounts of animal-based protein sources.”
The number of calories, on the other hand, would depend on the needs of the person.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of what a person can eat on an average day as part of the planetary health diet:
- Whole grains (rice, wheat, corn, etc.): 232 grams or 811 calories
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes and cassava): 39 calories
- Fruit: 200 grams or 78 calories
- Dairy: 250 grams or 153 calories
- Protein: Can vary from 14 to 50 grams (30 to 291 calories) depending on whether it is animal protein (ie beef, lamb, poultry, fish, eggs) or plant protein (legumes and nuts).
- Added Fats: Unsaturated Oils (40 grams or 354 calories) or Saturated Oils (11.8 grams or 96 calories)
- Added Sugar: 31 grams or 120 calories
The commission’s scientists conclude that a plant-based diet is a “win-win” for the earth and humanity, stating: “A diet high in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods brings both improved health and environmental benefits.”
Why is the planetary health diet good for the earth?
If people in high-income countries switch to a plant-based diet and we convert farmland to natural vegetation, we can make a big contribution to curbing global warming, researchers find.Getty
Food systems in rich countries contribute a lot to the climate crisis. As the researchers report in the latest Nature study, the global food system emits 13.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, or about 26 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Animal production, along with land use, “constitutes the majority of these emissions.”
Per capita meat consumption in richer countries is six times higher than in lower-income countries. Greenhouse gas emissions from meat consumption are also significantly higher: animal-based products account for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from food systems in richer countries, but only 22 percent in lower-middle-income countries.
“Hence, dietary changes in high-income countries could have the potential to significantly reduce agricultural emissions around the world,” the researchers write.
If people in higher-income countries transition to the plant-based diets outlined here and return farmland of animal origin to natural vegetation, researchers say we can reduce annual agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from those countries by 61.5 percent and save up to 98.3 gigatons carbon dioxide in the soil.
Besides saving the planet, EAT-Lancet is also crucially good for human health, which can help people in wealthier countries adapt to a plant-based diet.
Why is the planetary health diet good for humans?
Eating a plant-based diet has numerous benefits, from reducing obesity to improving heart health. Getty
The food best suited to cooling down a warming planet is also extraordinarily good for human health.
“Healthy plant-based eating should be recommended as an environmentally responsible dietary option for improved cardiovascular health,” researchers write in a separate 2018 report.
Numerous studies shed light on how plant-based eating can improve or reduce the risk of a variety of health conditions, including:
“Improving plant-based diet quality over a 12-year period was associated with a reduced risk of total and [cardiovascular disease] mortality, while increased consumption of an unhealthy plant-based diet is associated with a higher risk of total and [cardiovascular disease] mortality,” researchers write in another 2019 study.
Animal proteins provide essential nutrients like iron and zinc. So if you choose to eat a plant-based diet, it’s important to get enough plant-based protein from other sources to make up for the loss.
Iron-rich foods include legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grain breads – all of which are included on the ideal plate, according to EAT-Lancet guidelines.
For this reason, following a diet with specific guidelines for consumption — like the EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Diet — can ensure you’re still getting essential nutrients and protein despite following a plant-based diet.
The reverse analysis – Whether you’re trying to convince a friend to cut down on his meat intake or working to include more leafy greens in your own diet, it’s helpful to remember the connections between the planet and our own bodies.
After all, skipping a cheeseburger because of global warming might seem like an abstraction, but when you consider that your heart health is at stake, you’re more likely to choose a healthier, plant-based option that also has tremendous benefits for the planet.
Fiber offers many health benefits
Conversations and advice about nutritional components seem to be in the news all the time. Low carb here, high protein there. But one thing that doesn’t get nearly the attention it should is fiber.
When you learn about all the benefits of getting enough fiber, you’re wondering why we’re not talking about it more. According to the National Institutes of Health, fiber is found in the plants you eat, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It is sometimes referred to as bulk or roughage.
Some people probably don’t talk much about fiber because we primarily associate it with normalizing bowel movements and relieving constipation. However, there are many other health benefits of fiber as well. Some studies suggest that a high-fiber diet may also help you lose weight and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
There are two forms of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Both are good for us for different reasons. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance that binds to fats. This helps lower blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL or bad cholesterol. Soluble fiber also slows the absorption of glucose, which may help people with diabetes. Insoluble fiber is also helpful as it bulks up the stool and helps it move through the body more efficiently.
In general, whole fruits, legumes, and vegetables are good sources of both types of fiber. Take an apple for example; The skin consists of insoluble fiber and the fleshy part contains soluble fiber.
The latest USDA dietary guidelines recommend women eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams per day. Our American average is only about 10 to 15 grams per day. In practice, you could get 27 grams of fiber by eating ½ cup chopped vegetables (4g fiber), 1 medium whole fruit with peel (4g fiber), 2 slices of 100% whole wheat bread (6g fiber), ½ cup eat black beans (8 g fiber) and ¾ oatmeal (5 g fiber).
Dan Remley, our OSU Extension Food, Nutrition and Wellness field specialist, has developed a great resource called Fiber Fills You Up, Fills your Wallet and Fuels Your Health. In it, Remley says, “High-fiber meals are lower in calories, affordable, and can help your family feel full after a meal.”
He has a few fiber tips to help you gradually add more fiber to your day:
- Eat oatmeal several times a week.
- For breakfast, choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. Choose grains with “whole grain,” “bran,” or “fiber” in the name. Or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
- Serve a meatless dinner once a week. Replace meat with beans.
- Eat two servings of vegetables per meal.
- Leave the skin on fruits and vegetables.
- Add oatmeal to cookies.
- Snack on nuts, dried fruits and popcorn.
- Choose chips or crackers with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.
On the other hand, there are some processed foods with added fiber sources. In some cases, this can be a helpful way to add more fiber to your diet. Be aware that these products are high in calories and may add more sugar or sodium than you think. Your best bet is to eat as many whole fruits and whole grains as possible rather than these formulated products.
Today I leave you with this quote from Desmond Tutu: “Do your little good where you are; It’s those little bits of good that overwhelm the world.”
Emily Marrison is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and can be reached at 740-622-2265.
The case for making whole-wheat pizza dough
The Perfect Loaf is a column by Maurizio Leo-turned-bread expert (and resident bread baker of Food52). Maurizio is here to show us anything that’s naturally leavened, enriched, yeasted, whatever – basically any vehicle to smear a lot of butter. Today he talks about the pros and cons of whole wheat pizza dough.
* * *
The longer I bake bread and bake pizza, the more I like increasing the whole grain content of the dough. Sure, there’s an undeniable charm that comes with the classic Italian way: a 00-flour-based pizza baked at a super-high temperature, resulting in an extremely soft texture, high rise, and an open, airy crust . And while my sourdough bread almost always includes a whole grain component, lately I’ve been pushing the whole grains into my naturally leavened pizza dough as well. Swapping out some white flour is an easy way to take flavor to the next level: the addition of bran and germ mixed into the batter brings deeper grain flavors (read: nutty, earthy, and hints of minerality) and in Combined with long natural fermentation you get a double whammy of flavor and nutrients.
The challenge, however, is that adding more whole grains to a recipe (pizza and bread alike) usually results in a sturdier end result. The increase in bran and germ in the dough begins to affect the dough structure, inhibiting that high rise and open, airy interior. But what these doughs lack in volume, they more than make up for in flavor.
Let’s look at how we can bring these flavor and nutritional benefits to a whole wheat sourdough pizza dough.
How much whole wheat flour should be in pizza?
To be honest, I don’t think you can go too far! I had pizza made from 100 percent whole wheat flour, and while it was a bit more squat, a bit chewy, and a lot heartier than a classic pizza, the flavor was great. Personally, I like to split the difference. Using half white flour (00 or all-purpose flour) and half whole wheat flour is the best of both worlds: nice rise from the white flour and added flavor from the whole grains, all in a dough that still stretches easily to make cakes .
Typically, with sourdough pizza, the more whole grains you have in the mix, the more sour or complex the final flavor profile. I think that’s partly why the longer I bake bread and cook pizza, the more I value adding whole grains to a mix – the depth of flavor is just unmistakable. For pizza, however, a 50:50 mix of whole wheat and white flour means extra acidity, but not too much. It makes a wonderful addition to any toppings you might add and will brighten up the flavor of any cheese, meat or veg you throw on your pizza.
What other flour can I use?
In addition to pure whole wheat flour, using another sifted variety like Type 85 (which falls somewhere between whole wheat and white flour) is also a good option. This flour contains more bran and germ than white flour, but it’s not as much that you get all the wheat berries as it is with 100 percent whole grain. What I like about Type 85, which can sometimes be described as a “high extractive” flour, is that it works and works very similarly to white flour, but there’s a big flavor boost from the fine bits of bran and germ that are still present in the flour . And there’s a wide range of these balanced flours too, from Type 80 all the way up to Type 110, which is much closer to whole grain than white – experiment to see which you prefer. White wholemeal flour, i.e. wholemeal flour made from white wheat berries, would also work here. It produces a milder flavor profile due to the reduction in tannins.
What mods do I need to increase whole grains even more?
When topping up the whole wheat flour in a recipe, you need to increase hydration since the flour contains more particles of bran and germ, which tend to absorb more water. Also, you need to watch the fermentation activity in the dough as whole wheat flour tends to increase fermentation activity due to the increased nutrients. I like to add my sourdough starter or levain portion to a batter in step with whole wheat flour increases. For example, if I wanted to make a 75 percent whole wheat pizza dough, I would reduce the 18 percent starter called for in a 50 percent whole wheat dough to 15 percent.
How can I make my dough softer?
One thought I had in mind when developing my whole wheat sourdough pizza dough was to add a small percentage of extra virgin olive oil to the dough. Some pizza enthusiasts may balk at the idea of a free-form pizza, but adding fat to a dough helps create tenderness. We must also take into account the fact that we are preparing this pizza in a home oven, not in a professional pizza oven where it will still take a few minutes to fully bake; The added fat keeps the crust from drying out.
Adding a little olive oil — I use 1 to 2 percent of the total flour weight — brings just enough softness to offset the longer cooking time required in a home oven. In fact, I go this route with my sourdough pizza romana, which is baked on a sheet pan and results in a firm and crunchy, yet somewhat chewy and soft dough. With this recipe, however, I found the batter to be overcooked and soft enough for me, but if you’re looking for a little more tenderness, a drizzle of olive oil added during the batter mixing step is the answer
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