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Brown Food Vs White Food: Which is Better For Your Health?

Should one shun all white foods completely? Let’s weigh in.

Updated
Chew On This
4 min read
Brown Food Vs White Food: Which is Better For Your Health?
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This brown versus white debate has been stretched to exhaustion. And I am talking foods here.

These days the easiest way out for people (and often experts) is to label all white food (refined) as bad and all brown (whole) food as good for us.

But is that so? Should one shun all white foods completely? Let’s weigh in.

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Demerara Sugar vs White Sugar

It’s best to keep consumption of all sugars as low as possible.
It’s best to keep consumption of all sugars as low as possible.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

The Difference

Demerara sugar is a kind of natural brown sugar, which is light brown in colour, large-grained, chunky and raw, and contains residual molasses.

It is marginally less refined (compared to regular sugar) and is made during the first pressing of the sugarcane.

The Truth

1 teaspoon of these sugars contains the same amount of calories - 4 grams of sugar contains 15 calories.

The difference though is that while white sugar has been refined to remove all of the minerals needed by the body to digest sugars (including: chromium, cobalt, magnesium, manganese and zinc), demerara still contain these minerals, even if in minute quantities.

So demerara is a better bet.

Verdict

Ideally it’s best to keep consumption of all sugars as low as possible.

White Rice vs Brown Rice

Both can be optimal choices depending on how you eat them and how much!
Both can be optimal choices depending on how you eat them and how much!
(Photo: iStockphoto)

The Difference

White rice is brown rice that has had the bran and germ removed.

The Truth

White rice thanks to refining lacks some antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, fats, fibre, and a small amount of protein that brown rice provides.

Brown rice also scores in terms of having a lower glycemic index or GI (it is digested slower) as compared to white rice. But the truth is not that clear and simple.

  • First, the nutrients found in brown rice are minuscule.
  • Second, the GI does not really matter than much because rice (either brown or white) is never eaten alone, and is always eaten with some vegetables or lentils so that balances the GI.
  • Also, the phytate content of brown rice acts as an anti-nutrient, reducing the bio-availability of the micro-nutrients it contains.
  • Brown rice takes a bit longer to cook than white rice because of the bran layer, has a nuttier flavor and chewy texture that takes a little getting used to.
  • Also, often some people find digesting brown rice difficult, and white rice does not tax the intestines much.

Verdict

So it is not as simple as brown rice is the good, clean, healthy choice, and white rice is the bad, dirty, unhealthy choice. The answer lies in between.

And both can be optimal choices depending on how you eat them and how much!

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White Bread vs Brown Bread

Keep your bread consumption low, unless you are sure of the source.
Keep your bread consumption low, unless you are sure of the source.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

The Difference

All bread is made from wheat flour.

The flour in white bread is more highly processed and that in whole wheat bread includes the germ and bran of the wheat grain.

The Truth

The bran in whole wheat flour provides fibre and the germ provides protein and vitamin E, B-vitamins, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and a phytonutrient called plant lignans.

White bread is mostly just empty calories.

But speaking of calories - a standard sized slice of brown bread will have more calories than a slice of white bread. So keep that in mind while choosing!

Verdict

All commercial prepared breads (whether white or brown) contain additives and preservatives, so not good to eat in excess.

Besides most so called brown breads tend to have only brown colour added, and very little extra fibre and nutrients, so are not a better deal anyway!

Keep your bread consumption low, unless you are sure of the source.

White Eggs vs Brown Eggs

You should select eggs based on the diets of the hens that produced them.
You should select eggs based on the diets of the hens that produced them.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

The Difference

White eggs are laid by white-feathered chickens with white or light coloured earlobes while the brown ones are laid by brown-feathered chickens with red earlobes.

The Truth

While the brown and white eggs taste different yet their nutritional profile is very similar: about 70 calories, 6 grams of protein, and a generous helping of B vitamins, except the fact that brown eggs do have a little extra omega 3 but the difference is miniscule.

Brown eggs are tastier though.

Verdict

You should select eggs based on the diets of the hens that produced them.

The hen should be hormone-free and antibiotic-free and the colour of the eggshell does not matter. Better feed plays a major role in the taste and colour of the yolk.

Ideally opt for eggs from pasture raised hens (where chickens are allowed to roam free, eating plants and insects (their natural food) along with some non-GMO (genetically modified organism) commercial feed).

(The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).)

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