Think Brown Rice is Healthier Than White Rice? Think Again!

When I was twelve, my father lived at an ashram for a few seasons, and I stayed with him each weekend, essentially living the life of a monk. To my sensibility, the food was deplorable, and no single food upset me more than the brown rice: the ever-lasting staple.

Unfortunately, the potential health drawbacks of brown rice (as compared to white) have only recently come to light. And yet, I believe the evidence is hard to ignore.

If you’re a brown rice enthusiast, you might do well to read the following information. I would’ve liked to present this information to the trim yogis back then—but alas, it was not available.

First, from Dr. Mercola:

“Aside from providing excessive calories as carbohydrates, one of the major adverse consequences of most grains is that they are loaded with toxins…the average person gets about 1.5 grams of natural food toxins daily, which makes up more than 99.9 percent of all the toxins ingested. These are toxins made by plants, as opposed to manmade toxins, which serve to protect the plant from being eaten by mammals. The one grain type that is virtually toxin free is white rice, which has far fewer toxins than brown rice. The vast majority of toxins in white rice are destroyed by cooking…”

The “toxins” Mercola refers to are also often called “anti-nutrients.” Gluten and lectin are two examples of anti-nutrients. You might have read about glutenbefore. If you’re unfamiliar with lectins, I suggest reading any number of articles from the National Institute of Health’s website, or this article, specifically: “Do dietary lectins cause disease?” You might also read this helpful post from Mark’s Daily Apple: “The Lowdown on Lectins.”

Second, from the New York Times:

“Consumers have already become alarmed over reports of rice-borne arsenic in everything from cereal bars to baby food. Some food manufacturers have stepped up screening for arsenic in their products, and agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration now recommend that people eat a variety of grains to ‘minimize potential adverse health consequences from eating an excess of any one food.’

But it’s not just arsenic and cadmium, which are present in soil both as naturally occurring elements and as industrial byproducts. Recent studies have shown that rice is custom-built to pull a number of metals from the soil, among them mercury and even tungsten…The highest levels often occur in brown rice, because elements like arsenic accumulate in bran and husk, which are polished off in the processing of white rice. The Department of Agriculture estimates that on average arsenic levels are 10 times as high in rice bran as in polished rice.”

If you’re looking for an all-purpose rice recipe that minimizes exposure to potentially toxic substances, I recommend one that suggests washing and soaking the rice (recipe below).

Perfect Pot of Rice
1 cup white basmati rice
1 2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
two whole garlic cloves
two slices fresh ginger
Sea salt

In a medium saucepan, wash the rice in seven or more changes of cool water until the water runs clear. Cover the rice with cool water and set aside to soak for 30 minutes, or up to 18 hours.

Drain the rice. Throw the water, olive oil, turmeric, garlic cloves, slices ginger, a few pinches saffron, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt into the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Remove the rice from the heat. Remove the lid and put a few paper towels over the pot; cover again and let stand for 5-10 minutes.

Fluff with a fork, remove aromatics, and serve.