I’m sure most of you are aware of the Ministry of Health (MOH) declaring war on diabetes, because it costs Singapore more than a billion a year. Most of you have also read the much-sensationalised news about how white rice is worse than sugary drinks as it spikes your blood sugar more than canned drinks would.
While some nutritionist have deemed this claim by the CEO of the Health Promotion Board (HPB) erroneous, there is no denying that white rice definitely has a big contribution to the development of diabetes in our society since white rice is a staple most of us consume daily.
Take a trip down to your local supermarket and you may notice the rice found can be broadly and loosely categorised into 3 categories – white rice, brown rice and red rice. There are definitely many other types of rice like black rice or purple rice, but these are the 3 that are most commonly found in supermarkets in Singapore.
(Note: GI – Glycemic Index is a measurement carried out on carbohydrate-containing foods and their impact on our blood sugar. The lower the GI score, the less likely it would be to spike your blood sugar.)
The diagram above highlights some differences between white, brown and red rice.
Red rice is rich in antioxidants, and is good for people who want to manage their weight and enhance their immune system.
Brown rice has more nutrients for a better nutrient profile to maintain overall wellness.
To get the best of both worlds, one may also mix both rices to reap the benefits of brown and red rice.
There are ways in which white rice differs from its brown counterparts:
1) Cooking time
Brown rice takes a much longer time to cook as compared to white rice because the bran prevents the rice from absorbing water as quickly. Sources online have cited the time to be a range from about 40 minutes to an hour for the rice to be cooked, which may differ depending on your rice cooker. You may also soak the rice overnight to soften the rice so as to shorten its cooking time.
2) Texture and Taste
Brown rice, as compared to white rice, tends to be harder in texture and nuttier in taste. Some recipes suggest using up to 4 cups of water for 1 cup of rice to make the brown rice texture softer.
3) Nutritional content
White rice is a very poor source of vitamins and minerals because most of it has been stripped away in the process to polish it. The bran and germ that are still intact in brown rice are a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, ferulic acid, lysine, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, niacin, vitamin B6 and thiamine. All this in turn reaps a lot of health benefits as compare to white rice.
Brown rice varieties tend to be much more expensive than white rice, and can range from 1.5 times or even 2 or 3 times more expensive for organic rice. However, try not to let these prices put you off because this is only a little price you have to pay for your health!
5) Shelf life
The bran contains a small amount of oil that can turn bad, indicating that white rice which has been polished actually has a longer shelf life. Brown rice on the other hand can turn rancid faster, so do take note to store it properly and avoid buying in big bulk if the household is unable to finish all the rice in time.
By Shalom Chia
You may refer to this article, which the diagram is largely based on, from the HPB to get a more comprehensive breakdown of the different brown rice varieties