Uncle Ben: How Can White Rice be Whole Grain?

Uncle Ben – that master of parboiled gummy rice-like starch – released a new product in 2011: Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain White Rice. Many people wondered: how can white
rice be whole grain? In fact, there were several articles published on a variety of newspapers, blogs, and magazines asking that very question or one similar.

Rather than trying to simply answer that question, we are going to answer it with another question: what is white rice?

White rice is what you get when you remove the husk, bran, and germ from whole grain or brown rice. When you lose the bran you lose the fiber. When you lose the germ you lose B vitamins and some fat. All that remains is the endosperm, making white rice essentially, nutritionally naked starch.

Consumers like white rice because it is light and fluffy. Food manufacturers like it because without the fat it is less likely to go rancid and has a longer shelf life than whole
grain rice does.

So, what exactly is whole grain white rice? With Uncle Ben’s product, it’s parboiled white rice (reduces cooking time) with rice bran, germ and B vitamins added back in –
along with a good dose of inulin (in the form of chicory root) to bulk up the fiber.

How does it compare nutritionally to brown rice and white rice?

  • Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain White Rice: 1/4 cup dry rice has 170 calories and 4
    grams of dietary fiber
  • Brown rice: 1/4 cup dry has 180 calories and 2 grams of dietary fiber
  • White rice: 1/4 cup dry has 180 calories and 1 gram of dietary fiber

It may look like Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain White Rice is the hands-down winner when it comes to fiber. And while it technically does have twice as much fiber as brown rice as it
advertises keep in mind that a good bit of the fiber is from inulin, a resistant starch whose health benefits are suspect.

In fact, WebMD.com lists inulin as ‘POSSIBLY SAFE’ when you look on the Side Effects tab on the article about it. It also recommends that pregnant and breast-feeding women should “Stay on the safe side and avoid use.” If you hate the texture of brown rice, then this is a decent alternative. If you like white rice, eat it and find your whole grains elsewhere. But if you are looking for the most

nutritionally sound rice stick with the brown rice. It has cheaper, it does not need enriching and its fiber is naturally occurring. Even though nearly 20% of consumed calories per day come from rice, it is better to opt for brown, red, or black rice as opposed to white rice to get the most nutritional benefit.

Here is how the brown rice and white rice compare:

Fiber: Brown rice, per cup, provides 3.5 grams of fiber. That is 14% of your daily fiber needs. White rice, on the other hand, contains around 0.6 grams of fiber per cup. Minerals: 1 cup of brown rice provides 22% of daily magnesium needs, 15% of phosphorus, and 6% of iron needs. Comparatively, white rice contains 15% of the daily needs for iron, 6% of the daily needs for magnesium, and 7% of your daily need of phosphorus.

B Vitamins: Brown rice provides 13% of thiamine and niacin, 15% of vitamin B-6, and 2% of folate per serving. White rice is generally enriched with B vitamins, so it may have as much as 21% thiamine, 17% niacin, and 46% folate, and only 2% vitamin B-6. While there is no hard and fast rule saying you cannot eat white rice, it is important to include other higher fiber grains in your diet.

In fact, an article in Consumer Reports in 2012 reported that several types of rice products you can get at the grocery store contain worrying levels of arsenic, which may increase your risk of developing cancer or other health issues. It is recommended that you limit how often you eat rice products to no more than three servings each week.

(NOTE: This product is no longer available.)