Brown Rice: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, and How to Prepare It

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on September 21, 2022
4 min read

Rice has been a staple of the human diet for thousands of years. Some rice farming tools from China date back 8,000 years, and some remains of ancient rice are up to 2,000 years older than that.

Today, rice is a staple in more than 100 cultures, and there are more than 40,000 varieties grown.  Of those varieties, many can be prepared and sold as brown rice. Brown rice means you’re eating the rice as a whole grain. That’s important because the less processed the grain, the more nutrients you get.

The bran and germ, the two outer layers of brown rice, contain most of the vitamins and minerals in the grain. Those layers get removed when manufacturers make white rice, and that’s why brown rice is the healthier choice.

Here are some of the best health benefits brown rice has to offer:

Reduced Risk of Diabetes

Brown rice has a low glycemic index (GI), meaning it doesn’t cause your blood sugar to spike after you eat. Studies show that by eating three servings per day of whole grains like brown rice, you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 32%.

White rice, on the other hand, can increase your risk of diabetes. Another study found that people who eat a lot of white rice are about 17% more likely to develop diabetes than folks who eat less. Scientists estimate that by replacing about 50 grams per day of white rice with brown rice, a person can reduce their diabetes risk by 16%.

Improved Heart Health

Many of the nutrients in brown rice help keep your heart healthy. It’s a rich source of dietary fiber, which can reduce your risk of death from heart disease. Brown rice also contains high levels of magnesium, which can help make you less vulnerable to heart disease and stroke.

Overall, studies show that eating more whole grains, including brown rice, could reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 22% and your risk of stroke by as much as 12%.

Better Weight Control

As of 2020, four in every 10 Americans qualify as obese, and one in 10 is severely obese. Adding brown rice as a dietary staple may help people who are overweight to shed more pounds and reduce their body mass index, a common marker of healthy or unhealthy weight. 

Brown rice also contains more dietary fiber than white rice. Higher-fiber foods cause you to feel fuller longer while taking in fewer calories. If you replace white rice with brown rice, you will be able to eat less without feeling hungrier.

Nutrients per Serving

One half-cup serving of long-grain brown rice contains:

Brown rice is a rich source of phenols and flavonoids, two types of antioxidants that help reduce damage to cells and reduce the risk of premature aging. Brown rice also provides you with many vitamins and minerals:

Portion Sizes

Keep in mind that one serving of brown rice is only a half-cup of cooked rice. A half-cup of dry brown rice will give you a full cup of cooked rice, and you might get even more with a side of rice from your favorite restaurant. Be careful to stick to that half-cup serving.

To cook your brown rice:

  1. Rinse your rice in cool water to remove extra starch and any dust that might have built up.
  2. Add the rice to a pot with about 1 ½ cups of water for every cup of dry brown rice.
  3. Bring the water to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.
  5. Let the rice simmer for about 20 minutes before you take it off the heat.
  6. Leave the rice to sit and steam for another 10 minutes before you serve.

You can also use a rice cooker, which will heat the rice until it’s done and then switch automatically to warming mode:

  1. Use the same ratio of rinsed dry brown rice to water.
  2. When the cooker is done, let the rice sit on warming mode for 5 to 10 minutes, so it doesn’t get sticky.

Brown rice can be a healthy side dish or a base ingredient for many different recipes. Here are a few ways to try it:

  • Add it to soup for healthy carbs.
  • Stir fry vegetables and meat or tofu, then add some brown rice.
  • Mix up a rice bowl with beans, salsa, greens, and maybe some chicken.
  • Combine it with ground beef and spices to make stuffed bell peppers.
  • Combine it with some milk, sugar, and egg to make rice pudding.