Brown Rice Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Brown rice

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Brown rice is a nutritious, high-fiber food associated with healthy eating. The bran layers that are typically stripped from white rice are retained in brown rice. This means brown rice contains valuable phytochemicals like essential amino acids, fiber, vitamins, flavonoids, phytic acid, and more. Because the primary source of these nutrients come from carbohydrates, many people on low-carb or fad diets may avoid eating brown rice.

What is often misunderstood is the nutritional value of certain carbohydrates like brown rice. This whole grain contains vitamins, protein, fiber, and is a great source of slow-release energy to sustain optimal body function throughout the day. For a carbohydrate-rich food, brown rice is low in fat, has minimal sugar, and contains a good amount of protein. Studies also indicate brown rice as an important component of a healthy diet and promotes it a reduced risk of chronic disease.

Brown rice comes in several varieties including long, medium, and short-grain. The size of the grain determines the texture of the rice once it is cooked. Regardless of the brown rice variety you choose to enjoy, evidence supports it beneficial for health.

Brown Rice Nutrition Facts

The following information is provided by the USDA for a 1 cup serving of cooked medium-grain brown rice.

  • Calories: 218
  • Fat: 1.62g
  • Sodium: 1.95mg
  • Carbohydrates: 45.8g
  • Fiber: 3.51g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 4.52g

Carbs

A single serving of brown rice contains over 45 grams of complex carbohydrates, 3.5 grams of fiber, and trace amounts of sugar. Complex carbs are more nutritious than simple carbohydrates because they contain fiber and other nutrients.

Because of the high fiber content, brown rice digests slower in the body for sustained energy. Brown rice also has a medium glycemic index (GI) ranking between 56-69, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The GI score represents how fast a carbohydrate-rich food raises blood glucose. Meal planning with the glycemic index involves selecting carbs that have a low to medium GI rating to better maintain blood sugar levels.

Fats

Brown rice has trace amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats with only 1.6 grams per serving. Unsaturated fats are considered healthy fats coming from plant sources and fatty fish.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends between 25 to 35 percent of total daily calories come from unsaturated fats. Preparing brown rice without added oil or butter would create a virtually fat-free dish.

Protein

There are over 4 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked serving of brown rice. There are two forms of protein, complete and incomplete. Brown rice, like other grains, contains incomplete protein so it lacks some of the amino acids to make a complete protein. According to the USDA dietary guidelines, it is recommended 10 to 35 percent of total daily calories come from protein for adult men and women.

Vitamins and Minerals

Brown rice has several bran layers full of valuable vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Among these are B vitamins, fiber, essential amino acids, flavonoids, minerals, and antioxidant compounds. Brown rice also contains high levels of phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that exhibits antioxidant function and possesses medicinal value according to research.

Health Benefits

Brown rice is a popular gluten-free, whole grain option for those diagnosed with celiac disease, wheat sensitivity, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It also contains valuable phytochemicals shown to play a valuable role in disease prevention.

Many of the health benefits of brown rice come from the antioxidants, fiber, and other valuable chemical compounds found in the bran layers. Research has indicated that brown rice is associated with a wide range of medicinal properties including:

  • Lower the Risk of Diabetes
  • Supports Heart Health
  • Improves Digestive Health
  • Helps Cancer Prevention
  • Improved Cholesterol Levels
  • Decreases Inflammation
  • Weight Loss

Adverse Effects

Arsenic is a toxin found in the environment naturally. It is also found in nearly all food and drinks to some degree, including brown rice.

There are two different types of arsenic—organic and inorganic—the latter being the most toxic form. Higher levels of inorganic arsenic have been found in brown rice because of contaminated irrigation water leaching into the soil feeding the crops. Sometimes cooking water is the cause of increased inorganic arsenic levels in brown rice.

This doesn’t mean brown rice should be excluded from your diet.

According to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report the estimated inorganic arsenic concentration in brown rice is 154ppb compared to 92ppb in white rice. The FDA report indicates these levels do not pose a health concern for immediate toxicity but may pose a risk following long-term exposure.

That said, it may be beneficial for those people eating considerable amounts of brown rice daily to moderate intake. The FDA suggests eating a well-balanced diet to minimize potential adverse effects from consuming an excess of any one food. The FDA has also set a limit on how much inorganic arsenic allowable in infant rice cereal.

Suggestions to reduce the levels of arsenic in brown rice include:

  • Wash brown rice in filtered water low in arsenic before cooking.
  • Cook brown rice in plenty of filtered water low in arsenic. (6 to 1 water to rice ratio is best)
  • If you eat large amounts of rice, white rice may be a better option than brown rice.
  • Vary the type of grains consumed during the week.
  • Eat brown rice in moderation as part of a varied diet.

Varieties

Brown rice comes in several varieties including short-grain, medium-grain, and long-grain. It has a nutty flavor and the size of the grain gives each variety a unique texture once cooked. Brown rice also takes longer to cook compared to refined white rice.

Short-grain brown rice has a short, plump, and almost round appearance. The grains are soft, tender, and stick together when cooked.

Medium-grain brown rice is larger and more plump compared to short-grain, but not as large as the long-grain variety. The grains are very moist, tender with less tendency to stick together when cooked compared to the short-grain variety.

Long-grain brown rice is long and slender compared to the medium and short-grain varieties. It is also the most familiar variety used in popular dishes like rice pilaf. The grains are light, fluffy, and separate when cooked.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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  1. Abdulwaliyu I, Arekemase S, Adudu J, Batari M, Egbule M, Okoduwa S. Investigation of the medicinal significance of phytic acid as an indispensable anti-nutrient in diseases. Clin Nutr Exp. 2019;28:42-61. doi:10.1016/j.yclnex.2019.10.002

  2. Ravichanthiran K, Ma ZF, Zhang H, et al. Phytochemical Profile of Brown Rice and Its Nutrigenomic ImplicationsAntioxidants (Basel). 2018. doi:10.3390/antiox7060071

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