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Is that right? Uncle Ben's whole-grain white rice is really brown?

Uncle Ben's newest rice product looks white but is technically brown.

Uncle Ben's Whole Grain White Rice is being marketed as "the first and only whole grain rice that looks and tastes like white rice." The product description on the company's Web site says the rice "gives you all the goodness of whole grains with the taste and texture of white rice you love." And the TV ad promises the rice delivers "The goodness of brown. Now available in white."

The box front notes that the whole-grain white rice inside has twice the fiber of brown rice and 45 grams of whole grains per serving. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans call for consuming about 48 grams of whole grains daily.

The whole-grain white rice has 170 calories, 10 of them from fat, per cooked cup. It has 4 grams of protein and 4 grams, or 16 percent of the Daily Value, of fiber. It provides 20 percent of the DV for thiamin, 20 percent of the DV for niacin, 10 percent of the DV for iron and 25 percent of the DV for folate. In addition to rice, the package contains inulin from chicory-root fiber. Inulin is added to many food products to increase their fiber content. And -- and this is a big "and" -- the ingredients list notes that the product is enriched -- with thiamin, niacin, iron and folate.

For comparison's sake, let's take a look at Uncle Ben's Natural Whole Grain Brown Rice. It has 170 calories, 15 of them from fat, per cooked cup. It delivers 48 grams of whole grain and 2 grams of dietary fiber, or 8 percent of the DV. It provides 10 percent of the DV for thiamin, 20 percent of the DV for niacin, 2 percent of the DV for iron, and 6 percent of the DV for folate. The only ingredient listed is whole- grain parboiled brown rice.

A 4.4-ounce box of Uncle Ben's Whole Grain White Rice costs about $2.79. You can get
a two-pound bag of Uncle Ben's Natural Whole Grain Brown Rice for $2.58.

I know that some folks don't care for the taste or texture of brown rice, which makes a white-looking and -tasting whole-grain rice an appealing option, especially for those trying to work more whole grains and fiber into their diets. But given that the valuable nutrients, including the fiber, offered by the new product don't appear to be inherent in the grains but are added via enrichment, and given the huge price disparity, I'd just as soon work on getting used to the taste of brown rice. Those vitamins and minerals that are added to the white brown rice are easily available through other foods -- or from a multivitamin.

(To ease my family into eating brown rice, I have mixed half brown, half white rice in the rice steamer and cooked it with low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth in place of water. It's yummy and relatively cheap.)

If you do choose to buy the new white brown rice, at least stick with the unflavored varieties, as the flavored versions have lots of sodium. The broccoli-chicken flavor, for instance, has 25 percent of your Daily Value in a single serving.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | October 8, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right?, Nutrition and Fitness  
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Um, I'm confused. Why would someone not like brown rice? Do people prefer bland food that much?

Posted by: cassander | October 8, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I agree with cassander, brown rice is a lot tastier than white rice and that's what I though the first time I tried it. So, it's not that I got used to it. I will concede that white rice's blandness makes it more suitable to be the basis of some dishes. Now, I also believe that any kind of whole grain bread tastes better than white bread and that dark chocolate tastes a lot better than milk chocolate, so may be it's just me.

Posted by: ogs123 | October 8, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I've been mixing brown and white rice for years. I keep a canister of it in the cabinet. I bake mine in a covered casserole dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and it comes out perfect every time.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | October 8, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Anybody with sense will recognize that this is a marketing gimmick born of the food processing industry. To make white rice, processors strip the outer shell from brown rice, eliminating the fiber and a lot nutrients. All Uncle Ben's is doing is putting a bunch of additives back into the processed white rice to make it look healthier. White rice isn't unhealthy, but it certainly isn't as well rounded as brown rice is, and dumping a lot of fiber, iron, and vitamins back into the white rice is really just an artificial solution.

Posted by: blert | October 8, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Um, I'm confused. Why would someone not like brown rice? Do people prefer bland food that much?

Posted by: cassander


Tree pulp isn't bland, and I don't care to eat that either. It really isn't subtle when you have to come up with subtle ways to get your family to eat brown rice.

I don't care for brown rice. I like wild rice, I like Basmati rice. I like to mix white rice with lentils.

If brown rice appealed to the general population we wouldn't be eating white rice. Brown rice would be the norm.

Posted by: James10 | October 9, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

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