Dishing out brown rice instead of white

Are the health benefits that come with brown rice enough for us to make changes to our diet?

Christopher Parwani

Published: 13 May 2016, 12:00 AM

The two foods most people would associate Asians with are, no doubt, noodles and rice. However, a recent study has shown that the latter staple, particularly white rice, may be harmful to our health.

While brown rice is a common alternative for white rice, not everyone is keen on hopping into the healthier shopping cart.

What’s going on?

On May 6, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has revealed that starchy white rice is more potent than two cans of soda drinks in causing diabetes. Regular consumption of a plate of white rice can also raise the risk of diabetes by 11 per cent in the overall population.

HPB chief executive Zee Yoong Kang, who shared these findings based on a meta-analysis of four major studies, suggested adding 20 per cent of brown rice to their white rice. This could help reduce the risk of diabetes by 16 per cent.

While he didn’t push for Singaporeans to switch to brown rice completely, the findings have made Singaporeans reconsider their choice of staple food.

Some youths, too, have expressed mixed feelings towards the latest study. Many are hesitant about switching to brown rice, due to its acquired taste.

“I’ll probably only eat brown rice when I’m dying,” said, broadcast intern Charmaine Jacob, 19.

“I don’t like the taste of it [brown rice] and I don’t believe in depriving myself of the carbohydrate goodness that is white rice since the increase in risk isn’t that prominent,” she added firmly.


A quick search on Google showed negative reviews of brown rice.


However, some youths felt that the whole grain is not only the healthier but tastier dish.

“In terms of taste and texture, I prefer brown rice,” said journalist Ryan Ho.

“It’s not only healthier, but it has a fuller flavour. I think the only reason why most Singaporeans choose white rice over brown is because it’s slightly pricier,” said the 18-year-old.

While the taste between the two grains might be subjective, brown rice usually costs twice as much as white rice. In schools, opting for brown rice can cost you 50 cents to a dollar for a bowl. Every month, youths could be spending up to $20 on brown rice, and that’s just for one meal alone.

This probably explains why youths are sticking to the affordable, albeit less healthier, option.


Expect to pay more for brown rice for same amount of white rice.
Photo credit: Fairprice catalogue


While he acknowledges the harmful effects that come with white rice, Hasif Hasny, 19, felt that moderation is key.

“I will never make the change to brown rice because it’s too expensive. But for my health, I’ll just consume less white rice to lower the risk of diabetes,” said the public relations intern.

On the other side of the fence, some like 18-year-old Iskandar Rossali, felt that it is worth the money.

“Wholemeal bread and brown rice might cost more, but I feel better knowing that what I’m consuming is good for my body. It may cost [an additional] 50 cents in school for a plate of brown rice, but it’s worth every penny. It is a small price to pay to prevent health complications later,” said the third year Republic Polytechnic student.


In Singapore, restaurants like Maki-san offer brown rice without any additional cost.
Photo credit:


Price, taste, accessibility and health benefits are crucial factors that may help youths decide if they are ready to let go of their comfort food. But, one can only tell if a nationwide movement will take place any time soon.

What’s your take?

  1. Would you include brown rice in your diet? Why?
  2. Are you willing to spend more on brown rice as a healthier option?
  3. What else can be done to encourage people to include more brown rice in their diet?

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