Sprouted, or pre-germinated, brown rice is an emerging healthfood. Although people around the world have probably been eating it for thousands of years, pre-germinated brown rice was 'discovered' in 2004, the United Nation's Year of Rice, as part of their research into rice. To produce it, brown rice is soaked in warm water and allowed to germinate before cooking. The warm bath induces sprouting that, in turn, stimulates rice enzymes to produce more nutrients, including many times more gamma-aminobutyric acid(GABA ).
The consumption of GABA is credited with important health benefits which range from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, improving cognitive function, controlling diabetes, boosting the immune system, improving sleep, and inhibiting cancer cells.
The active compounds which are key to the health benefits of pre-germinated brown rice are a set of sterol-like molecules known as acylated steryl-beta-glucosides (ASGs). Since the ASGs were concentrated in rice bran (outer layer) and not the seed, they would not be found in white rice.
If you don't have time to soak, you can buy sprouted brown rice (Annie Chung makes a version you can heat in the microwave for 2 minutes). It's pretty expensive, and I prefer not to nuke my rice. So what I do is try to soak my brown rice, overnight at least, before cooking. The soak water develops a sweet aroma, so I figure something good is happening. Once the sweet aroma develops, I refresh the water and set the rice cooker. For the soaked brown rice, using the white rice setting on the rice cooker gives me al dente brown rice with a delicious, complex flavor.