Brown Rice vs. Black Rice

Brown Rice vs. Black Rice
4.43 (88.57%) 14 votes

Which has more antioxidants: black rice, brown rice, or red rice?


You know the answer to this question: white rice versus brown rice? But what about the answer to this question: brown rice versus red rice? Ah, what the heck: brown, versus red, versus black rice; which is healthier? 

And the winner is…red rice! That was a surprise; I’ve been using black, but I just switched to red. Ten times more antioxidants than brown rice.

The phytonutrients in these pigmented strains of rice may protect against heart disease, inhibit the growth of human cancer cells, and even help protect against asthma and hay fever, so I encourage folks to make the switch.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.


You know the answer to this question: white rice versus brown rice? But what about the answer to this question: brown rice versus red rice? Ah, what the heck: brown, versus red, versus black rice; which is healthier? 

And the winner is…red rice! That was a surprise; I’ve been using black, but I just switched to red. Ten times more antioxidants than brown rice.

The phytonutrients in these pigmented strains of rice may protect against heart disease, inhibit the growth of human cancer cells, and even help protect against asthma and hay fever, so I encourage folks to make the switch.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.


Doctor's Note

For more videos on rice, check out:
Kempner Rice Diet: Whipping Us Into Shape
Power Plants

Also see my other videos on rice, and antioxidants

For further context, check out my associated blog post: The Best Foods: test your nutrition knowledge.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

72 responses to “Brown Rice vs. Black Rice

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      1. I agree. It would be nice to see the best type of rice, not from an antioxidant perspective, but from beneficial fiber and glycemic index perspectives. Maybe barley is better?

    1. I read something on wikipedia that made me think that the antioxidants in red and black rice don’t count
      “Although anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants in vitro, this antioxidant property is unlikely to be conserved after the plant is consumed. As interpreted by the Linus Pauling Institute and European Food Safety Authority, dietary anthocyanins and other flavonoids have little or no direct antioxidant food value following digestion. Unlike controlled test-tube conditions, the fate of anthocyanins in vivo shows they are poorly conserved (less than 5%), with most of what is absorbed existing as chemically modified metabolites that are rapidly excreted”
      It is still worth to buy those rices? They are 2 times more expensive than brown rice where I live.

      1. I think I remember hearing that the bacteria in are intestines feed on polyphenols or flavanoids are some type of antioxidants so maybe they have health benefits that way.

      1. Thanks for the link, but I’m not following. It talks about how refining flour makes it lose nutrients, but doesn’t specifically talk about rice (though yes, I assume it loses nutrients too).

        The part about the plaque building up, it still says you need to go on a plant based diet to actually stop or reverse the disease. Are there any studies on vegans eating white rice? From what I’ve read, I just don’t really see anything proving that white rice is bad.

        This site even seems to suggest brown rice has more arsenic in it, which is not desirable. And other things I’ve read say that brown rice absorbs more water from your body, so it fills you up quicker. Does that basically mean it dehydrates you?

        I’m just trying to learn more, so please enlighten me. :)

        1. These are all good questions,

          The “Great Grain Robbery” can be applied to white rice as well because it is in fact the bran that holds the great majority of the nutrients. Similarly to eating an oil, which is all fat and little to no nutrients. White rice is all carb, and an insignificant amount of nutrients. To eat empty calories is never beneficial.

          We should strive to eat as close to the whole plant food as possible for optimum health. This is what is meant whenever you see or hear the words “plant based” said by Dr. Greger. Check out this link Dr. Greger mentions in the comments “[White rice] actually resulted in millions of deaths from a vitamin deficiency called beri-beri, Louise. A very dark time in nutrition history.” Here is the medical review link

          Whenever you eat brown rice, similarly to whole wheat pasta, it already contains water in it since it was boiled. Therefore, to absorb even more water within your body doesn’t make a lot of sense. What is meant by the statement you quoted is that you are taking into account water weight when you eat brown rice so you will get full quicker because it takes up more space due to the liquid absorption from boiling. This is a good thing!

          In regards to the arsenic issue, I agree, it makes me uneasy that a healthy food can contain arsenic, so that is up to you to whether or not to eat rice. But if you do, choose US grown, and always brown rice.

          1. Thank you for the detailed response! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

            Ok, so brown rice has more nutrition than white rice… but isn’t it still a “good” carb? I know what you mean by empty calories, but comparing oils and white rice is a stretch in my opinion. Much better to eat 500 calories worth of white rice than oil, right? Not all empty cals are the same. Even 500 calories of white rice compared to processed white bread… the white rice is still way better, correct?

            And does white rice not digest and get assimilated into the body more easily than brown rice, which could be important for athletes who need to fuel up on carbs?

            Looking forward to your responses! :)

            1. I don’t think white rice is bad because as the China Study and McDougall mention, Asian countries thrive on a diet with white rice. Although brown rice may have more nutrients, but I wouldn’t say that white rice is bad.

          2. I would assume European grown rice would have less arsenic since they banned arsenic based food-stocks. Not that I know how to buy whole grain European rice…

        2. You are correct, oil and rice have different health values but i was just going for the analogy here. I would also agree with you that white rice is better than white bread because more of the whole plant is intact. I will say though, that brown rice will keep you full longer, providing more energy, and will also satiate your vitamin needs better, as you well know. White rice is in fact more easily digested because their is less bran to it but again, this is considered empty calories. I highly encourage you to view the world health organization’s view on white rice vs brown.

          If you have a choice between the two, choose brown rice. I myself am a sponsored rock climber and brown rice really keeps me full for a long time. I don’t feel sluggish either, its consistent energy.

  1. Is there any danger to NOT washing black or red rice before cooking? It seems like a substantial proportion of the pigment washes away in the wash water.

    1. DebRichards: Great question and I hope that someone answers it!

      To add to the discussion: I don’t bother washing my rice, and I still see a lot of pigment come out in the method that I use to cook the rice: casserole method in a pressure cooker. When I see that red-tinted water at the bottom of the pan, I wince, thinking that I must be loosing a lot of nutrients. But if so, those nutrients are rising with the steam over the edge of a glass bowl and then falling to the bottom of the pan.

    2. I wouldn’t worry so much about the loss of nutrients which in itself would not be dangerous. However washing is a good idea as it can avoid contaminants and food borne illnesses that might have been introduced by harvesting and packaging. Obviously buying organic is better see and avoiding animal products substantially reduce pollutants compared to plant based but organic foods can still be contaminated. So I would continue washing.

  2. I just purchased a Zojirushi rice cooker that has a GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) setting to cook brown rice (add two hours at 104 degrees to activate the rice) that claims to increase to 150% of the amount of GABA contained in non-activated brown rice, which it further claims to lower blood pressure and relieve stress.

    It seems to be a pretty lofty claim, but I cannot seem to find any scientific information to support it.

    I wanted to know whether it is worthwhile to cook brown rice on this setting, given the additional cooking time, and use of energy.

    1. It might depend on whether you just want to live a healthy lifestyle or whether you need to bring cholesterol down quickly. My assumption is that you don’t need optimal, but only enough to make steady progress on reducing atherosclerosis. But I don’t have any personal knowledge on the biochemistry.

  3. I won’t weigh in on the issues of GABA except to say I haven’t seen any studies to support their claims and until I see credible evidence I will remain skeptical. You did ask about how to minimize the reactions to folks when you “come out of the closet” as a person following a plant based diet… I prefer to vegan after my biking buddies starting accusing me of being from the planet, Vegan!. The best approach is the one recommended by Doug Lisle PhD. You can order his DVD, The Pleasure Trap, from the John McDougall website. It is very entertaining and contains three talks. The last one, Getting Along Without Going Along, is the best approach I’ve come across. It involves the importance of status within groups. I could try and explain but really couldn’t do it justice. It is practical and effective.

  4. Hi Dr. Greger,
    I just had a question about the red rice. I took a quick look at the studies you cited and was wondering where it says that the red rice is higher in antioxidants? I couldn’t find that study. It looked like they all reference black rice. Am I looking at the wrong stuff? Thanks!
    Emily :)

  5. I keep finding Chinese black and red rice, but i know that this should have higher arsenic levels because it was shipped from China. Does this rule apply to black and red rice like i know it does for brown?

  6. I just got back from a dinner with Dr Greger. Someone noted there are many varieties of red rice and asked what kind of red rice to buy? His reply was it didn’t matter and to buy whatever is cheapest. He also confirmed in answer to another question that “Red yeast rice” is different than “Red rice” and is not what he was talking about here.

  7. btw, Ayurveda’s Caraka Samhita said red rice (raktasali) was best thousands of years ago. :) worth checking out other grains, like barley for “general equilibrium” and job’s tears “nothing more reducing/slimming.”

  8. Can you somehow raise the volume on these older topics? People can turn it down, but I’ve everything up and can barely hear this one and some of the other older ones.

  9. My son is asthmatic from a very young age and has problems with his immune system. He ask has allergies to nuts dairy and sesame. Any advice would be appreciated

  10. thanks for posting this informative vid; i am surprised that black rice has fewer anti-oxidants, by such a substantial margin

    i do find the red varieties easier to eat, as the black can be quite hard even after cooking, whereas the red fluffs up nicely and has a softer texture and is very versatile as a salad ingredient or to accompany cooked dishes such as stews and curries

    here in europe there are some great varieties of red rice grown in italy and france and while i was in auroville, an intentional community in india, they produce their own lovely red rice, organically grown

    the next part of the conversation i am interested in is rice vs quinoa – which also has red and black varieties

    blessings of good health

  11. Enjoy both the healthiest lentil ( and healthiest rice with my version of sloppy joes.

    Tidy Joes

    -1 cup red rice
    -2 cups uncooked red lentils
    -5 cups water/homemade vegetable broth
    -1 large red onion, diced
    -5 cloves garlic, minced
    -Jar organic salsa
    -2 tbsp chili powder
    -2 tsp oregano
    -2 tsp marjoram
    -2 tsp basil
    -1 tsp cilantro
    -¼ tsp white pepper
    -Pinch cayenne pepper
    -Pinch Ceylon cinnamon
    -Black pepper to taste
    -1 organic* red bell pepper, diced

    Cook rice in 2 cups water for 40-45 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile, in a large pot with a splash of water, sauté onion until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add remaining 3 cups of water, lentils, garlic, spices, and salsa. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for about 10 minutes to allow flavours to meld. Serve over red rice and top with raw (bell
    peppers lose up to 75% of their antioxidants when cooked bell pepper.

    *Sweet bell peppers rank number three in the “dirty dozen: 12 foods to eat organic” so try to purchase organic (

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan

  12. It’s great to know that red rice is super with antioxidant. What about other minerals like zinc, iron, manganese, Vitamins, Carbs, sugar, protein, fat and fiber contents amongst the 3 type of rice?

    1. With a good Japanese rice cooker like Panasonic, Tiger, or Zojirushi, or other brands, you can cook rice on the “quick-cooking” cycle in a about 20 minutes. I personally prefer this to any processed, packaged rices marked “quick” or “easy”, though this doesn’t sound too bad.

  13. Is distilled water safe? I have a water distiller and i want to know the safest way to get electrolytes. You should do a video on the healthiest water because there is so much conflicting information out there. Thanks a bunch love your videos!!!! Will Read

    1. I’ve been drinking distilled water, the purest water in the world, for over 40 years. I’ve been told all kinds of horrendous horror stories of how damaging it would be to my body including my nails wrinkling and other horrible things. It turns out it is all lies. Dr. Paul Bragg, the Father of Health in America, got it right like so many other things.

  14. Hello Doc,

    Thanks for all your wonderfully informative (& often entertaining) video”s.

    Question regarding the “Red rice”… what kind is it? Found some at a Indian grocery store… are there different kinds? You said you switched to red rice…where do you get yours?


    1. RK: Thought I would share my experience with red rice: I can get it really cheap at our local Asian store. But I can’t get it organic there. I can also get it at our “health food”? grocery store, Market of Choice. But at Market of Choice, it is very expensive. On the plus side, it is organic and one brand is even fair trade.

      As for different kinds: I’ve used both long and short grain red rice. The short grain red rice is like typical brown rice in texture, where “typical” is what I grew up with anyway. The long grain red rice is like brown basmatti rice – at least I think so. The point is that there are different varieties and textures.

      Hope that helps.

      1. Thanks for the info!
        I understand that it is recommended to get organic for fruits and veggies because of pesticides and gmo… but is that recommended for rice too?

      2. I have been tempted by the Red Rice on sale at Chinese markets. However I find myself worrying about additives, dyes, and heck even lead paint. By now we’ve just heard it all about products coming from some parts of the world. The news is replete with goods like plastic seaweed (like shredded garbage bag) in soups, city-caught pigeons sold in restaurants as “quail” all over the US east coast in Chinese restaurants, etc. And I’m too cheap to buy it at a pricey organic grocer. That’s why I personally don’t eat it.

  15. Hello Doc,

    Have a question on cooking methods of rice versus it’s nutrition value!

    A relative told me that cooking rice with excess water and then filter/throwing out the excess water, is healthier option since it will drain excess starch!
    Is there any truth to this?

    Does cooking method affect nutrition in rice?


    1. If you don’t want to waste your starchy rice wash: 1) Asian women use rice wash as a facial wash/treatment for beautiful skin. It is the same pH as the human skin. 2) It can also be left overnight for 1-4 nights and is great for your garden or houseplants. It is slightly alkaline especially after the first washout which is slightly acidic. 3) by adding a small amount of yogurt or kefir you can let it sit for 2 days while lactobacillus colonizes the starch. This is great for pets or gardens. Some people say they do this and drink it as a probiotic, but I would never do that myself or advise it for human consumption.

  16. Hi. I was told that Basmati rice is whole grain rice. I haven’t been able to find any documentation that supports that and I was wondering if you know the answer? I LOVE Basmati rice.

    1. ellie: I am not an authority on this topic, but I can tell you that a couple years ago, I bought a package of “brown basmati rice”. Because there can be a brown one and a white one, that says to me that unless the basmati is labeled as “brown”, you are not really getting what people typically mean by whole grain.

      Now, I don’t know if that is really true. Maybe all basmati rice is really brown and they just added that to the package I bought for marketing purposes? The issue of brown vs non-labeled basmati is worth investigating if you eat a lot of basmati rice, and I’m thinking this post will give you a clue on how to search.

      Good luck.

      1. Basmati rice is a fragrant long-grain rice similar to Jasmine rice. Both are typically polished and neither are whole grain if they aren’t “brown”. I eat them anyway, because they are so delicious. I am pairing them with highly nutritious Thai and Indian veggie dishes with lots of beneficial spices. Considering all my old bad habits, I don’t think a cup of white rice a couple of times per week is a big deal.

        1. Jennifer: I have always felt that a healthy diet is a whole thing to be evaluated in context/in whole–not something to be judged by a single ingredient, especially without regard to quantity.
          That said, if you ever wanted to take another step to getting that much healthier, you could try a brown rice and see how you like it. Of course, you don’t have to. I’m just saying, you may love it, especially if you haven’t tried it in a long time after eating healthier or haven’t tried long grain brown rice. And if you do decide you love it, then why not go that extra bit even healthier. It’s just an option for the future some time…
          Your dishes sound very tasty! Good luck.

  17. What about red quinoa is it better than black & White quinoa? Which type of quinoa is lower in fodmaps,I can’t find anything on it after a google search.

  18. Also if you can’t eat much fibre,parboilled rice is a better option than White rice because the process(soaking & steaming) keeps some of the b vitamins

  19. What has more anthocyanins? Black rice or Red Rice. It looks to me that black rice might have more anthocyanins. Can someone clarify? What is more important when fighting cancer, anthocyanins or antioxidants?

    1. Anthocyanins are one specific type of antioxidant, of which there are many types. It’s like a Sea Bass is just one type of many types of fish.

      The Japanese tend to combine red, black, millet, and several brown rices together and sell as a health food rice. They are probably on to something, providing a broad array of minerals and antioxidants with each serving.

      I personally mix my rices and cook with a Zojirushi rice cooker, using its timer function to soak/germinate the rices for about 10 hours (to get real “GABA rice” you need to use the timer to give a long germination period- the standard GABA default setting is a silly 2 hours + 1 hour cook cycle), followed by the slow-cooked/low-temp “GABA” setting to preserve nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants as much as possible.

  20. Hello!

    Unfortunately, I am one of those people who prefer white rice over brown rice just because I think white rice tastes better. But, recently, I have been using brown rice to make my vegan sushi. But I was wondering, and I did not find the answer on this website, if sushi vinegar is a healty option to flavor the rice?

  21. You say we already know white rice is bad for us. But do we? There are lots of websites saying brown rice inhibits the absorption of vitamins and minerals and has other shortcomings. What are your thoughts?

  22. With the new evidence you posted linking rice to arsenic, do you think that the benefits of red and black rice outweigh the harms? Or would you recommend avoiding them, as you do for brown rice?

      1. He states in that blog post that ” these pigmented rice varieties have everything that brown rice has, *plus five times more antioxidants and a variety of extra benefits*.
        That’s why I, or rather my rice cooker, has always cooked red, black, or purple rice…If you see below to my arsenic in rice series you’ll note I’ve since diversified my grains.”

        He doesn’t specifically say that he avoids red and black rice altogether (he states that for brown rice in the arsenic series, but doesn’t specifically mention red or black rice). Given the “*five times more antioxidants and a variety of extra benefits*” that red and black rice, I was curious if he thought those “extra benefits” would outweigh the harms of arsenic.

        Could you please ask him if he thinks if red and black rice benefits outweigh the harms of low chronic arsenic?

    1. Hello Francise,

      Vitamin B12 is made from bacteria in the soil and water. However, because of the way we wash our food and treat our water, we no longer get B12 from these sources. Because of this, unless B12 is added to black rice, then it would not contain any B12. The most reliable source for those eating plant-based diets is a supplement, which is why Dr. Greger recommends 250mcg/day or 2500mcg/week of cyanocobalamin (B12).

      I hope this helps,
      Matt, Health Support

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