Brown Rice: Nutrition, Calories, and Benefits

Brown rice is good for you and a nutrient-rich source of energizing carbs and fiber. This whole grain offers more health benefits than white rice. Brown rice’s wholeness accounts for some of this staple’s perks, including heart health, blood sugar control, and weight management.

Brown rice is technically the seed from the rice plant Oryza sativa. Part of what makes brown rice so good for you is that it’s a whole grain. Grains are considered whole when their three original parts—the bran, germ, and endosperm—are intact. A grain’s bran is its fibrous outer skin. The germ is its embryo, which has the potential to sprout into a new plant. The endosperm is the germ’s starchy food supply. The bran, in particular, is what you don’t want to miss out on.

There are plenty of easy ways to incorporate this versatile whole grain into your next meal, snack, or dessert. Some caution may be advised when preparing this grain. Read on to learn about brown rice, including nutrition, calories, and more.

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Brown rice may be beneficial when it comes to weight management. A study published in 2019 found that, compared to white rice, brown rice was not associated with weight gain among Japanese workers. Those who ate equally high amounts of white rice gained more than 6.5 pounds within a one-year time span.

Eating brown rice in your diet may help you keep your weight stable. Some evidence suggests that brown rice could increase your resting metabolic rate. A higher resting metabolic rate means you burn more calories when sitting or relaxing.

Brown rice contains many types of antioxidants: phenolic compounds, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and more. Antioxidants are powerful molecules found in foods like fruits and vegetables. Their power comes from their potential to prevent or delay some types of cell damage.

Phenolic compounds are a common antioxidant group. They are known to protect cells against damage linked to a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.

Keep in mind that you won’t get the same antioxidants from white rice as you will from brown rice. The most antioxidant effect is found in the bran in whole grains. Boost your antioxidants even more by incorporating black, purple, and red rice into your diet along with brown rice.

Brown rice plays an important role in regulating blood sugar by keeping levels low. It’s also associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Researchers think these effects are due to brown rice’s whole-grain goodness. The bran layer seems to be why it takes you longer to digest brown rice than white rice. This, in turn, could also be why eating brown rice prevents your blood sugar levels from getting as high as they do when you eat white rice.

White rice is different because it’s not a whole grain: It’s refined, meaning the bran and germ are stripped away, leaving only the endosperm. White rice, unlike brown rice, has been associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) comes in many forms, including high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Eating brown rice may be able to help you lower factors that increase your CVD risk. These factors are high blood lipid levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

A study published in 2014 examined the effect of brown rice consumption on inflammatory markers and CVD risk factors in 40 non-menopausal women who had overweight or obesity. A diet consisting of brown rice was shown to significantly reduce inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein, as well as other CVD risk factors.

One cup of cooked long-grain brown rice contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 248
  • Fat: 1.96 grams (g)
  • Sodium: 8.08 milligrams (mg)
  • Carbohydrates: 51.7 g
  • Fiber: 3.23 g
  • Added sugars: 0.485 g
  • Protein: 5.54 g

Brown rice is also rich in vitamins and essential fatty acids. One cup can give adults at least 85% of their daily manganese needs. Manganese is a mineral that benefits immune function, reproduction, and strong bones.

You’ll also get over 20% of your daily need for magnesium. Magnesium is required for muscle and nerve function, DNA production, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation.

Cooked brown rice also supplies other essential nutrients needed for optimal health. It contains between 10% and 27% of the daily goal for selenium, copper, phosphorus, and several B vitamins.

One concern about brown rice consumption is the levels of arsenic. Arsenic is a groundwater contaminant linked to potential health risks. Risks include adverse pregnancy outcomes and certain cancers.

Arsenic risks due to rice consumption of any kind are not that easy to assess. Identifying the precise link between rice consumption and health outcomes is complicated by several factors. Populations being studied don’t always have comparable rice consumption patterns relative to their total caloric intake. The amounts of arsenic in water used to cook rice also vary widely. This makes the risk from the rice itself difficult to tease out.

If you’re concerned about arsenic levels, look for parboiled or converted brown rice. Boiling brown rice can remove up to 54% of unwanted heavy metals, like arsenic. The parboiled method is also shown to help preserve nutrients such as zinc. Another way to reduce possible arsenic exposure is to consume brown rice in moderation, as one of several sources of whole-grain carbohydrates.

Brown rice is incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into nearly any meal. Here are some ways to consume it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts.


  • Add vegetables and brown rice to omelets and frittatas.
  • Flavor the rice with plant-based milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon to make breakfast porridge. Top with nuts.

Lunch and dinners:

  • Add brown rice to soups, chili, jambalaya, tacos, and casseroles.
  • Incorporate brown rice into veggie burgers, stuffed cabbage and bell peppers, and lettuce wraps.
  • Incorporate it into salads or grain bowls, along with leafy greens, other vegetables, and lean protein, drizzled with sauces like seasoned tahini, vegan pesto, or guacamole.
  • Look for brown rice sushi.
  • Serve brown rice with flavorful stir-fries.

Snacks and desserts:

  • Incorporate brown rice into desserts like pudding, toasted brown rice ice cream, cookies, and bars.
  • Snack on brown rice in rice cakes.

Other forms of the grain are also readily available. Add puffed brown rice to dark chocolate and other sweet treats, and swap wheat flour for brown rice flour in baking and cooking. Plain sprouted brown rice protein powder is a great option for smoothies or to boost the protein content of pancakes, mashed cauliflower, or blended soups.

Brown rice is a filling, nutrient-rich whole grain that’s naturally gluten-free and versatile. Health perks include helping manage weight and supporting heart health. The antioxidants and other nutrients in brown rice are primarily found in the bran.

Reach for brown rice over white rice to increase your intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and potentially reduce disease risk. You may prefer its slightly nutty flavor and hearty texture. Just keep in mind that, like any food, it’s best to eat brown rice in moderation.


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