When it comes to training, competing, dieting, or just trying to eat healthier, rice is a staple for most people in the health and fitness world these days. It’s the go-to option for the carbohydrate in any meal prep, but with all the variety, some people debate whether white rice or brown rice is better, or if they should be eating rice at all (some people still believe that carbs are bad, which is crazy). The common misconception is that white rice is unhealthy and brown rice is superior. This isn’t necessarily true.
Brown rice is a whole grain. Unlike white rice, it has not been refined, so it retains the bran and germ which are nutritious parts of the grain. These aspects give it more fiber and antioxidants, and they also make for a heavier, more complex carb.
White rice tends to be the first option everyone reaches for. Although it isn’t a complex carb like brown rice, it is still low in saturated fat, cholesterol-free, fat-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free, making it a “clean” carb. When it comes to picking healthy carbs, it does the trick. White rice is refined and has had the bran and germ removed. The same refinement, however, removes the phytic acid located in the bran of the grain. This acid can be known to irritate those sensitive to some foods, upset stomach, or create minor health problems. White rice does not come with these side effects as brown rice does.
From an outside standpoint, brown rice overall is healthier for your average, everyday individual with a sedentary lifestyle. If you aren’t exercising, brown rice is more beneficial. The reason athletes choose white rice over its counterpart comes down to fueling the body. Difficult, intense workouts that athletes or regular gym-goers experience tap the glycogen supply in the muscles. It is important to replenish that depletion by eating carbs such as white rice, which rank high on the glycemic index. Journal of Sports Science claims that this is the best way to give your body what it needs to train hard and still recover well. Athletes need carbohydrates to give themselves the energy to perform daily and white rice provides this.
White rice is not the “empty-carb” that it is often proclaimed to be. The grain contains magnesium, selenium, iron, some B-vitamins and folate. When it comes to digestion, white rice is considerably better. Brown rice can cause gastrointestinal problems, block the absorption of macronutrients, and in some cases can cause allergic reactions, mostly due to that phytic acid left when the grain isn’t refined. White rice is lighter, and being lower in fiber and acid allows for it to digest much easier than its counterpart, which is ideal for a pre or post-workout meal.
Both options are a carb that satisfies nutritional needs and are healthier than many other typical carb options, but they are beneficial in their own ways. So, what’s the bottom line? It’s important to know how the foods you eat affect your body so that you can learn to use them to your advantage. If you’re looking for a perfect lunch to keep you feeling full until your afternoon workout, opt for brown rice early in the day. If you usually eat and then hit the gym 30 minutes later, white rice is an easy digesting carb source that will power you through your workout.
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