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Embracing Health: The Growing Popularity of Parboiled Brown Rice in Southeast Asian Diets

parboiled brown rice good

In recent years, there’s been a noticeable shift in the dietary habits of our older and younger Southeast Asian generation – a move from the traditional white rice to the more nutritious parboiled brown rice. But is it better and healthier?  

As a southeast asian registered dietitian who grew up in a household where rice was a staple, I find this shift from white rice to parboiled brown rice promising. It is gaining recognition not just as a healthier alternative to white rice but also as a blood-sugar-friendly ally in managing diabetes. 

In this article, we’ll uncover what parboiled brown rice is, explore the health benefits of what this grain offers, and why it is a better rice choice.  

What is Parboiled Brown Rice? 

Parboiled brown rice isn’t your average white rice or brown rice. It’s brown rice that undergoes unique processing where it’s soaked, steamed, and dried before milling. This method allows the nutrients, especially B vitamins, from the outer layers, called the husk and bran to soak into the rice kernel.  

Then the milling process is like peeling an apple. Just like you remove the apple’s skin, milling removes the outer layers of the rice kernel. After milling, what’s left is the whiter part of the rice, which is like the inside of an apple. 

As a result, this rice has more nutrients than white rice and tastes more acceptable compared to brown rice.   

parboiled brown rice process

Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits 

To compare macro and micronutrients between the 3 types of rice, refer to the chart that contrasts them on a cup-for-cup basis. This comparison uses “cup” as a measurement unit for ease, allowing direct serving-to-serving comparison.

parboiled brown rice nutrient

How Does it Affect Blood Sugar Levels

parboiled brown rice gi gl

Nutrient Comparison: White Rice vs. Parboiled Brown Rice

When we compare the two types of rice, there’s a big difference in their nutrients. Processing removes most of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals from white rice, leaving it with very little of these nutrients.

On the other hand, parboiled brown rice keeps more of its natural nutrients. During parboiling, the process pushes the goodness from the outer layers into the grain, enriching it with vitamins such as B vitamins for energy, and important minerals like magnesium for our health.

Additionally, the resistant starch and prebiotic compounds are great for our digestion and help control blood sugar, making parboiled brown rice a much better choice for people with diabetes or anyone wanting a healthier diet. Also, parboiled brown rice doesn’t cause a quick spike in blood sugar like white rice can, which is another reason it’s a healthier option.

What about Brown Rice? 

Overall brown rice has more nutrients than white or parboiled rice due to its unprocessed nature. 

So in comparison, brown rice is overall higher in nutrients but also higher in arsenic. However, brown rice’s palatability is not as tasty as parboiled rice. Parboiled rice wins in palatability over brown rice and outperforms white rice in nutrients.  

Especially when trying to convince someone who prefers white rice to switch to brown rice, it can be challenging.  A more practical approach might be to suggest transitioning to parboiled rice instead. Parboiled rice not only offers more nutrients, similar to brown rice, but it also has a taste and texture that might be more appealing and familiar to a white rice lover.

Incorporating Parboiled Brown Rice in Southeast Asian Diets

Switching can be a fairly easy transition. Here are some tips to make the switch: 

  1. Store cold and reheat.
    • A study that measured freshly cooked white, freshly cooked parboiled rice, and cold stored and reheated parboiled rice found that the parboiled rice that was stored cold and reheated took longer to chew but was tastier and more visually attractive than freshly cooked rice (6).
    • So if freshly cooked parboiled rice is not to your liking, consider storing it cold and reheating it later to be more appealing.
  1. Go ½ and ½.
    • Start with making ½ white rice and ½ parboiled rice in the rice cooker. You’ll need more water than usual since it takes more water to cook parboiled rice. Refer to this guide for further details here.
  1. Substitute one meal at a time.
    • Try one meal per day gradually reducing white rice with meals and replace white rice with parboiled rice. 
  1. Check your blood sugars after eating the different types of rice.
    • Maybe the lower blood sugar alone after eating parboiled rice compared to white rice may change your mind and help you make the switch much faster.
parboiled brown rice



In conclusion, as we’ve uncovered the numerous benefits of parboiled brown rice, especially for those in the Southeast Asian community managing diabetes, it’s clear that this grain is a valuable addition. Its ability to manage blood sugar levels more efficiently than white rice, coupled with its richer nutrients, makes it a better choice for a healthier lifestyle.


For those accustomed to the taste and texture of white rice, transitioning to parboiled brown rice will be surprisingly easy. The parboiling process not only enhances the nutritional value of the rice but also helps make it a more tasteful option, making it more palatable than traditional brown rice. This makes it an ideal substitute for white rice lovers looking to make a healthier choice without sacrificing taste too much.

If you’re skeptical about making the switch, I encourage you to try it for yourself and experience the difference. You can start by mixing it with white rice or using it in your favorite dishes. Pay attention to how your body feels, especially if you’re managing diabetes – many find that the lower blood sugar spike post-meal with parboiled rice is a convincing factor in making the switch.

Do it!

Remember, small dietary changes can lead to significant health improvements over time. Give parboiled brown rice a chance, and it just might become your new staple grain, offering a balance of taste, texture, and nutrition.

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