There is said to be more than 40,000 types of cultivated rice around the world. However, not all of them are created equal, especially when it comes to nutritional value. With this staggering number of varieties, however, it may be difficult to determine which is the healthiest of them all. 

There are also various factors that affect the number and amount of nutrients in rice, such as its species, the soil it is grown in, how it is enriched after milling, and how it is cooked.

Among the most popular varieties of rice around the world is white rice. And while it does taste good in various dishes like sushi, risotto, and paella, it has significantly lower amounts of nutrients and fiber. If you want more nutritious options, then you should try its colored cousins: brown, black, and red. Here’s a look at their various health benefits.

Brown Rice
If you want to be technical about it, brown rice is just unrefined white rice. However, whereas white rice is milled to have its husk, bran, and germ removed, brown rice only has its outer husk removed which helps it retain all the nutrients contained in the bran and germ. These nutrients include minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Brown rice is also rich in B vitamins like thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), and pyridoxine (B6), as well as dietary fiber. 

Some people may quickly adapt to the nuttier taste and grittier texture of brown rice, especially if they’re already used to the well-milled white variety. However, there are products like Elmhurst’s brown rice milk which is also packed with the same nutrients but comes in an easy-to-consume form. It can also be used as an ingredient in recipes that call for milk. You can also try mixing brown rice with white rice to slowly condition your palate and stomach to its taste and texture. Start with a 40-60 proportion of brown to white, increasing the amount of brown rice weekly, until you can eat brown rice by itself.

Black Rice (or Purple Rice)
Just like brown rice, black rice is also a whole grain. Its color, which usually turns into a deep purple when cooked, is due to a vast amounts of anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant, found in the inner portion of the bran. In fact, black rice is one of the foods with the highest amounts of anthocyanin, a phytochemical that is believed to be effective against cancer and heart disease.

The anthocyanin black rice also comes with the benefit of more fiber and less sugar, compared to fruits like blueberries and raspberries. Black rice is also rich in iron and vitamin E, and has been proven to help lower triglycerides, a type of “bad fat.”

Black rice can be used in most recipes that use rice; however, certain adjustments should be made since, like brown rice, it has a nutty taste and a chewier texture.

Red Rice
This special variety of rice also contains anthocyanins, giving the grain a rich red color as well as antioxidant properties. In fact, compared to brown rice, red rice has ten times more antioxidants. Red rice is also packed with magnesium, which helps increase energy, and phosphorus, which helps build and repair bones and teeth. It also contains high amounts of molybdenum, an essential nutrient in fighting inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Molybdenum also acts as a catalyst, helping the body’s enzymes metabolize fats and carbohydrates and break down amino acids.

Apart from the nutty flavor common in whole grains, red rice also has an earthy flavor akin to potatoes. This makes red rice a perfect candidate for recipes like pilafs and risottos, since it holds various flavors well.

All of this doesn’t mean that white rice doesn’t have its benefits, however. In fact, the milling and polishing processes that white rice undergoes strips it of phytic acid, a substance that affects the body’s absorption of minerals. White rice is also easier to digest, which is beneficial for people with chronic digestive issues. Finally white rice stores longer than brown, black, or red rice, making it less prone to wastage.

When it all boils down to it, your choice of rice is dependent on your palate. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for healthy and flavorful options, then you should definitely consider brown, black, and red rice. It may take some time to get used to them, but the benefits are worth it.