Should We Be Eating Brown Rice or White Rice?

brown ricePhoto Credit: michelle@TNS via Compfight cc

We strive to eat a traditional food diet.  What does that mean?  That means that we try to eat foods as close to the way they were traditionally prepared throughout the generations, before chronic sickness and disease was the norm.

The Research of Weston A. Price

Weston A. Price was a dentist who traveled around the world studying tooth decay.  What he found was certain people groups had no tooth decay.  His studies eventually led him to discover that the cultures who still prepared their foods the way their ancestors did, and did not consume the denatured and processed foods that are prevalent today, suffered from minimal tooth decay and disease.  In fact, these cultures had vibrant health. There is a lot of wisdom to be learned from the cultures who are doing things right. And you know what else is remarkable about his findings?  All the people groups that experienced vibrant health and strong teeth ate completely different diets from each other.

However, every diet contained:

  • raw milk and animal products (with an emphasis on organ meats)
  • 10 times the amount of fat soluble vitamins than the average American consumes
  • 4 times the amount of minerals and water soluble vitamins than the average American consumes
  • properly prepared grains (soaked, soured, or sprouted)
  • beneficial bacteria (from lacto fermented foods)
  • unrefined salt
  • and the consumption of bone broth. (source)

Properly Prepared Grains

For me, the hardest part of eating a traditional diet is understanding the science behind properly prepared grains.  There is a lot of contradictory research out there, and to be honest, if I am going to take the time to soak, sprout, and ferment my grains, I want to know that I am doing it right and that it’s actually effective.  Rice is especially confusing. Some people say brown rice is better for us, some people say white rice is better for us, other people say no rice is good for us.  The traditional foodie would say properly prepared brown rice is the best choice.  But I don’t think the answer is so black and white.

Here is what I know about brown rice (all of this information is gleaned from this article):

  • Brown rice contains 12,509 milligrams of phytic acid per 100 grams of dry weight. Phytic acid locks up the other minerals in the rice so that our bodies can’t absorb them.  This is why traditional diet dictates that the rice be soaked or sprouted – because those actions reduce the phytic acid and makes the nutrients more available to our bodies. Too much phytic acid in our diet can also cause health issues.
  • Traditional cultures take effort to remove most of the bran from the rice. One study showed  “that milled rice, rather than whole brown rice, results in the highest mineral absorption from rice.”  Furthermore, “Other experiments have shown that while whole grains contain more minerals, in the end equal or lower amounts of minerals are absorbed compared to polished rice and white flour. This outcome is primarily a result of the blocking mechanism of phytic acid, but may be secondarily the result of other anti-nutrients in grains.”
  • You will get more nutrients from rice grown in mineral-rich soil with the bran removed, than brown rice grown in depleted soil.
  • Brown rice contains no phytase. (Phytase is needed to break down the phytic acid.)  Therefore, soaking rice in warm water alone is not going to effectively reduce the phytic acid.  A starter needs to be used.

Are you thoroughly confused yet?  I know that it has taken me a long time to wrap my brain around this information.  And to be honest, I wish there was more research out there.  I don’t like getting all my information from one source.  The article quoted above does have a list of references, however most of them I am not able to access. And while I definitely believe that a traditional diet is right for our family, I don’t always agree with everything I read on the Weston A Price website.  For example, they say that we digest more minerals from milled rice, yet in another article bluntly state that you should never eat white rice.

The Verdict

That being said, here is the conclusion we have come to regarding our consumption of rice. Since rice is not a huge staple in our household and not a main source of nutrition, I am not going to worry about it. If I don’t have time to soak my rice, then I will serve my family white rice.  I can always cook it in bone broth to increase the mineral content. If I do have time to soak the rice, then I am going to follow this method which has been proven to reduce the phytic acid by up to 96% by the fourth cycle. Honestly, I would be fine switching to all white rice, but the type A side of me doesn’t want to pass on the extra nutrients that are available in the brown rice when properly prepared.  Nutrient-dense food baby – that’s just how we roll. 🙂

For more reading check out:

What? White Rice Better Than Brown?  The Healthy Home Economist

Brown Rice or White Rice: Which is Healthier?  Butter Believer

 Do you prefer brown rice or white rice? Do you make an effort to soak your grains first? Is rice a staple food in your house?

  1. It’s enough to make our head spin right off if we let it, no? Good grief. I was reading an article about soaking oats with some ground up buckwheat because oats donuts have the phytase either, so soaking in just water won’t remove the phytates. I didn’t realize this was also the case with brown rice. And frankly it sounds easier then soaking, reserving liquid, cooking and repeating. Did you come across any such info on using buckwheat or something to provide the phytase to break down the phytates? I’ll have to find the article (on oats) and see if there was any additional links. Thanks for this post! Didn’t know brown rice didn’t have phytase!! Just got done sprouting, dehydrating and vitamixing 4 lbs of brown rice in to four too, doh!

    • The information from suggested whey, lemon juice, or vinegar being added to the soak. However I’m not sure how that solves the phtase problem. I’m inclined to add a tablespoon of flour to the soak as well. Sprouting the rice and then cooking it will definitely reduce the phytates so I wouldn’t worry too much. You are right – it’s enough to make our heads spin!

      • Thanks! I’m new to your blog; saw one of the several Nourished something or other that I follow on FB share this brown rice post. Excited to see your faith aspect. And I hadn’t realized what to call our way of eating “traditional food” until reading this post. Makes me laugh too…what kind of diet do you follow? Vegan? Paleo? lactovegetarian? Whaaa? I don’t know…we eat real food like they did back before it got all jacked up. “Traditional food” I like it! I’m rambling. I plan to look more at your blog but I’m wondering what kind of bread you make; what’s your favorite?

  2. Wauw this is one of the best health articles i’ve read… Your style is truly stunning!

  3. Thank you for this. I had a debate about this and I don’t understand why we wouldn’t just eat ancient grains like amaranth, millet, and quinoa, or soaked rice. Yeah, if you’re at Chipotle and you think they haven’t soaked their grains, go for the white.. but I would choose ancient or soaked grains whenever possible.