Difference Between White and Brown Rice

The main difference between white and brown rice is that in producing white rice, it undergoes refining and polishing process and which removes the nutrients accumulated in the rice bran and germ and the remaining endosperm contains mostly carbohydrate. In contrast, brown rice is considered as a whole grain rice because the processing of the rice only removes the non-edible outer hull.

Rice belongs to the monocot family Poaceae; it is grown in larger quantities and provides more food energy and carbohydrate for the entire world than any other type of crop. Rice is a rich source of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, oils, and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) as well as bioactive phytochemicals (polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanin, carotenoids, etc.). It is the agricultural commodity with the third-highest global production, after sugarcane and maize. As a staple food, rice plays a significant role in certain religions and popular beliefs as well. There are two types of popular rice in the world known as white and brown rice. They are different from each other due to their colour and the production process.  They have different sensory and nutritional properties and this article explores these differences between white and brown rice.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is White Rice
     – Definition, Characteristics, Properties
2. What is Brown Rice
     – Definition, Characteristics, Properties
3. What is the Difference Between White and Brown Rice
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Brown Rice, White Rice

Difference Between White and Brown Rice - Comparison Summary

What is White Rice

White rice is also known as fully milled or polished rice because husk, bran, and germ of the rice grain are removed during white rice processing. As a result of this processing, the flavour, texture and appearance of the rice can be changed. However, removing the fat rich bran and other outer layers helps to prevent microbial spoilage, insect damages and extend its storage life. 

Difference Between White and Brown Rice

White rice seed is a bright, white, and shiny. However, the milling and polishing processes remove a significant amount of essential nutrients in rice. A diet based on refined white rice mainly leads to neurological disease beriberi and some other non-communicable diseases.

What is Brown Rice

Whole grain rice is known as brown rice and during brown rice processing, only the outer hull is removed. Compared to white rice, brown rice has a mild, nutty flavour and low shelf-life and is more nutritious.

Main Difference - White vs Brown Rice

Generally, any type of rice variety, unpolished or unrefined, may be consumed as brown rice. Therefore, coloured rice varieties such as red rice, purple rice and black rice are also considered as brown rice because they are eaten un-milled and they have differently-pigmented outer bran layers.

Difference Between White and Brown Rice

Grain Colour and Appearance

White rice has a bright, white, shiny appearance. In contrast, brown rice is generally brown in colour. If the bran layer contains coloured pigments, they may appear as black or red in colour. This is the most noticeable difference between white and brown rice.

Glycemic Response

White rice generates higher glycemic responses than red rice while brown rice generates lower glycemic responses than white rice.

Parts of the Grain

In white rice, endosperm, bran, and germ are removed during the processing. However, in brown rice, only the outer non-edible hull is removed during the processing. This is an important difference between white and brown rice.

Shelf Life

Due to its bran layers, brown rice contains a high amount of oils and brown rice is highly susceptible to microbial spoilage, insect damages, and fat rancidity. Therefore, brown rice has a lower shelf-life compared to white rice.

Thiamine (vitamin B1) Content

Thiamine (vitamin B1) content of white rice is lower than brown rice and regular consumption of white rice as a dietary staple leads to the development of neurological disease beriberi. In fact, Thiamine (vitamin B1) content of brown rice is greater than white rice because most of the thiamin is accumulated in the bran layer. This is a major difference between white and brown rice.

Fortification or Enrichment

White rice is often fortified or enriched with vitamins and minerals. In the United States, laws are enforced to ensure white rice enrichment with B1, B3, and iron. Brown rice is rarely fortified or enriched with vitamins and minerals.  

Dietary Fiber Content

Moreover, the dietary fibre content of brown rice is greater than white rice because most of the dietary fibre content is accumulated in the bran layer.

Satiety and Eating Quality

In addition, Brown rice has a mild, nutty flavour; thus, it provides less satiety and eating quality compared to brown rice.

Mineral Content

Another difference between white and brown rice is that white rice mineral content is low compared to brown rice, which is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and manganese.

Antioxidant Content

Antioxidant content of white rice is lower than brown rice. In contrast, the antioxidant content of brown rice is greater than white rice because most of the Antioxidant content is accumulated in the bran layer.

Health Benefits

High consumption of refined grains including white rice greatly contributes to metabolic syndromes and associated complications such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. In contrast, brown rice has a number of health benefits such as;

  • It contains heart-healthy oils and they can help the body reduce LDL forms of cholesterol.
  • Brown rice promotes weight loss
  • Brown rice can lower the creation of arterial plaque build-up and reduce the chances of developing heart disease and high cholesterol.
  • Due to its high fibre content, brown rice can lower levels of colon cancer, stabilize digestion, prevent/relieve constipation and promote proper elimination/bowel function
  • Brown rice can help keep blood sugar stabilized as it releases sugars slowly thereby help to manage type II diabetes


In conclusion, rice belongs to the grass species Oryza sativa and as a cereal grain; it is the most widely consumed staple food of a large part of the world’s human population. Both white and brown rice are the world’s more favoured staple foods and are the most important source of carbohydrate and protein in a majority of countries. However, there is a substantial difference between white rice and brown rice based on nutrition and sensory properties. Many nutritionists recommend consumption of organic parboiled brown rice as the best option.


1. Rice is Life (PDF). Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. 2004.

2. Brown Rice, By Adityamadhav83 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About the Author: Geesha

Geeshani has a BSc (Hons) degree in Food Science and Technology and Master's degree in Food and Nutrition. She is currently a PhD Student at the Massey Institute of Food Science and Technology. Sharing what she learned is a passion of hers and enjoys writing.