White Rice or Brown Rice… Does it Really Matter?
Pooja Bhargava is an ACSM( American council of sports medicine) and IIFA(Indian institute of fitness administration) certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Consultant and Physical Fitness expert. She is also the founder and CEO of Fitness U and Nutrition (F.U.N), Mumbai, since April 2011.
Most of us believe that a meal cannot be complete with a serving of fluffy white rice. But recently, health guru’s have been promoting the health benefits associated with brown rice. Brown rice when compared to white rice, wins as the healthier choice for a number of reasons. A lot of research has been conducted on the two types of rice and one can conclude that colour is not the only difference between the two. We take a closer look at the health benefits associated with both these types of rice.
Brown rice on the other hand wins hands down when it comes to health benefits. Only the husk is removed and the bran is left intact. This makes brown rice a healthier choice as compared to white rice since it contains the necessary bran full of dietary fibre. More dietary fibre makes the grain more slowly digestible, hence it has a lower glycemic index. Since the glycemic index is low, the insulin spike is taken care of and it aids in weight loss. Also, since it has not been processed extensively it has most of its nutrients intact.
Rice is a carbohydrate that gives us energy, through the release of glucose. Glucose is the primary need of our body’s energy systems. Why then should white rice be abolished, just because it is low in fibre? Dietary fibre is no doubt the most neglected in the West but at the same time it has been given more importance than necessary. Ideally, an average male needs 30-35gms of dietary fibre per day. An average woman needs 20-25 gms of dietary fibre in a day.
Dietary fibre provides roughage to aid in the elimination of toxins through smooth excretion. If done in excess, it can have negative effects. It can create gastrointestinal problems like explosive diarheoa, nausea, stomach cramps, bloating and gas. It can also interfere with the absorption of nutrients and hence cause vitamin deficiencies. If one has 2-3 servings of vegetables, two to three servings of fruits, the right amount of fats and proteins and drinks enough water without overdoing the animal protein, one gets enough fibre required in a day.
White rice becomes less nutritious if it is heavily processed. A smarter way to consume this rice would be to have long grain rice like Basmati and Jasmine rice. They are not treated heavily and hence retain most of their nutrients. As regards the glycemic index, one needs to remember that it’s not only the glycemic index but the glycemic load on the gut that influences fat storage. The Glycemic index tells you how rapidly a carbohydrate releases sugar but it doesn’t tell you how much of that particular carbohydrate affects the sugar influx. If white rice is eaten in the right amount needed for your body weight, with a good serving of vegetables and a good source of protein it will definitely not spike the insulin in the blood. Many a times, we overlook the broader picture. We either overdo a nutrient or completely banish it.
Brown rice does contain a lot of fibre in it but also contains phytic acid. Phytic acid binds to minerals and leeches it out from the body. That is a major drawback. Also, it takes very long to cook and the taste is not as appetising. Too much of fibre, as we discussed earlier can create more disturbance in the flora of the gut. The flip side of having brown rice also sometimes is that people think they can include a little junk food in their diet since they are otherwise taking care of the healthy fibre.
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