Better Brown Than White; Moving Towards a Healthier Form of Rice

The "unli-rice" phenomenon is proof that rice is the most commonly consumed food item of Filipinos.

Rice is the staple food among Filipinos which contributes about 35.7 percent of the average daily individual food intake, making it the major source of carbohydrates in the Filipino diet. The Food Consumption Survey (FCS) by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) showed that the daily rice intake per person has risen from 272 grams in 1993 to 291 grams in 2003 and 307 grams 2008.

Looking back, Filipinos ate only brown rice until Westerners introduced the modern milling process that produced white, polished rice which soon dominated the market and eventually changed our cultural tradition on rice preference.

Bringing back the tradition of eating brown rice can help achieve the government's goal of rice self-sufficiency in the near future while addressing the country's nutritional and health problems.

Rice has several types, varieties and forms. Its type is usually based on grain size, thus we have, long grain, medium grain, short grain or waxy. Its varieties usually depend of the source or area where rice is grown. In the Philippines, common varieties include Dinorado, Sinandomeng, Milagrosa, Maharlika, Angelika, Malagkit, Wagwag, Ifugao or mountain rice, among others.

Rice forms include rough or paddy rice which still includes the hull, brown rice where only the hull is removed, and regular milled rice which is often referred to as white or polished rice.

Brown rice, the unmilled form of rice, is gaining popularity today primarily due to its nutritional benefits. The bran layer of brown rice is known to be rich in dietary fiber, minerals and B vitamins.

Brown rice has higher nutrient, vitamin and mineral content despite poor acceptability and shelf life in comparison to milled rice. Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice in terms of niacin, thiamin, phosphorus and calcium. Moreover, it provides all the necessary carbohydrate requirements of an individual just like white rice. The dietary fiber it contributes is attributed to the prevention of risk of obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases and some forms of cancer.

Brown rice is a healthier alternative that will hopefully reduce the demand for white rice while increasing the intake for micronutrients and dietary fiber. These nutrients has been associated with the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies and lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes and some forms of cancer.

The DOST, through the FNRI, is leading the research and development on brown rice to determine the various aspects of improving the stability and shelf-life of brown rice. With this, brown rice can be stored at a longer period with no significant changes in nutrient composition and sensory qualities. Longer shelf-life provides ample time for developing value-added products that can provide healthier options for consumers.

Related to this, the FNRI-DOST has successfully determined in 2012 the optimum conditions for extending the shelf-life of brown rice so that it can now be stored from 5-9 months instead of only 1-4 months.

At present, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) has successfully developed the technology for extending the shelf-life of brown rice so that now, we can store it at a much longer time. The Institute is also currently undertaking studies on characterization and bioavailability to support the growing interest about this food.

Thus, bringing back the tradition of eating brown rice not only improves every Filipino's health and nutrition, but also helps the economy at large by reducing our rice importation requirement on the agricultural side, and the problems of malnutrition on the health side.

For more information on food and nutrition, contact: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Ave., Bicutan, Taguig City, Philippines.

Tel/Fax Number: 837-2934 and 837-3164; e-mail:,; FNRI-DOST website: (Charina A. Javier, FNRI-DOST S&T Media Service/PIA-Caraga)

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