Rice and Diabetes?

If you consider the nutritional profile of rice, you would understand why rice should be a part of your diet for diabetes.

For people with diabetes, it is important to choose rice varieties that have a lower glycemic index (GI) and a higher content of fiber and nutrients. Here I’ll talk about some rice varieties that are considered beneficial for individuals with diabetes.

Due to the starch and carbohydrate content, it is thought that eating rice increases your blood sugar levels and so it should not be included in a diabetes diet plan. This is not true. You can eat rice. If you consider the nutritional profile of rice, you would understand why rice should be a part of your diet for diabetes.

Nutritional Profile of Rice
  • It is loaded with calories containing around 345 calories for every 100 grams.
  • It is cholesterol free
  • It’s rich in vitamins and minerals
  • It is good for promoting good gut bacteria
  • Rice contains less sodium and so is better for people with hypertension
  • It’s full of calcium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus
  • Rice contains riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, and other vitamins that prevent certain forms of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system that measures how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food (usually glucose or white bread). The GI assigns a numerical value to each food, indicating its potential to increase blood glucose levels.

Foods with a high GI (above 70) are rapidly digested and cause a sharp increase in blood sugar levels, while foods with a low GI (below 55) are digested more slowly, resulting in a slower and more gradual increase in blood sugar.

The GI can be a useful tool for individuals with diabetes in managing their blood sugar levels and making informed dietary choices. It is important to note that the GI of a food can be influenced by various factors such as cooking methods, processing, ripeness, and the presence of other nutrients or fiber. Consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider is recommended for personalized advice on using the glycemic index. Generally, we consume white rice.

This rice variety has a very high glycemic index value which means after digestion, it will release sugars at a rapid rate into the bloodstream causing a tremendous rise in blood sugar levels. But the scenario is opposite to low GI foods or low GI rice. They will release the sugars slowly after digestion keeping levels to the moderate zone.

Why Diabetics should stay away from White Rice
  • It has a high glycemic index value (75)
  • It is loaded with high carbohydrates and calories
  • The healthy bran layer is separated away for making white rice
  • Can raise blood sugar levels to a disastrous extent

Billions of people around the world eat it every single day, for multiple meals a day – and it’s a primary food for many populations, with research showing that it provides about 20% of the world’s calorie intake. From beans and rice to stir fry with rice, from sushi to risotto to sweet rice desserts, this simple ingredient is a staple across the globe and across cultures.

Brown rice and wild rice are whole-grain foods. Whole grains are a healthy food option, containing vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates. In addition, they contain more fiber, which has the benefit of slowing the uptake of carbs in the body. If you’re going to eat rice – white rice or brown rice – an important modification is to try eating a smaller portion.

Simply eating fewer carbs means that there is also less glucose that goes into your bloodstream. When you do this, try adding more vegetables or protein to your plate, and less rice.

Type of riceAboutProsCons
Brown ricePopular in Korea and Japan. Brown rice is germinated with prolonged soaking.As it is less processed, contains high fiber, and retains maximum nutrients.Difficult to digest,   Take time to cook,   Chewy in texture   Less shelf life compared to white rice  
Germinated brown riceGermination improves the texture & nutrient availability.   Rice becomes soft and less chewy than brown rice.    Brown rice is taken for further little more processing. When it is half milled or half processed called semi-polished or single-polished rice.   
Yellow/ parboiled riceBrown rice is soaked in hot water and then boiled & dried. Then the outer coat (bran) is removed. These rice grains are translucent and yellowish in color.  Nutrients from the bran (outer layer) get into the inner space.   Nutritive value is close to brown rice.The outer coating (bran) is removed so contains less fiber than brown rice.
Semi polished riceBrown rice is taken for further complete processing and polishing. The edible brown inner layer (bran) is removed. The rice is shiny and white in color.  Contain better nutrition compared to polished white rice.   Moderate in fiber content so easy to digest.  Contain fewer nutrients compared to brown rice
White riceBrown rice is taken for further complete processing and polishing. The edible brown inner layer (bran) is removed. The rice is shiny white in color.  Easy to digest.   Take less time to cook.Lack of fiber and other nutrients.   Comparatively high on the glycemic index.
Red riceRed in color due to the presence of the pigment anthocyanin. Generally eaten without or after partially removing the outer coating (hull). It has a nutty flavor.  High in fiber Low on the glycemic indexHas a typical nutty flavor, may not be acceptable for everyone.   Difficult to digest   Takes time to cook  
Black riceContain the highest amount of anthocyanin, thus the color is black. There are various types of black rice. It has a mild nutty taste.  High in fiber Low on the glycemic indexHas a typical nutty flavor, black in color, which may not be acceptable for everyone.   Difficult to digest   Takes time to cook
Wild riceIt is not actually rice. It is the seed of a specific grass.  High in fiber Low on the glycemic indexHas a typical nutty flavor, may not be acceptable for everyone.   Difficult to digest   Takes time to cook

Best Varieties of Rice for Diabetics
  • Basmati Rice: Basmati rice is a long-grain rice with a low to medium glycemic index, which means it raises blood sugar levels more slowly compared to other types of rice. It also contains a moderate amount of fiber and has a pleasant aroma and flavor. Basmati has a protein called amylose which maintains the core of basmati and prevents it from breaking up. All grains are fluffy and separate which ensures that the glycemic index is as low as possible.
  • Brown Rice: Brown rice is whole-grain rice that retains the bran and germ layers, making it a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It has a lower glycemic index compared to white rice and can help regulate blood sugar levels. Brown rice is high in flavonoids, which are plant compounds with powerful antioxidant effects. These help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, thanks to its high magnesium content, brown rice also helps develop bones and muscles.
  • Black Rice: Black rice, also known as forbidden rice, is a highly nutritious rice variety that is rich in antioxidants, fiber, and iron. It has a low glycemic index and can be beneficial for people with diabetes in managing blood sugar levels. Black rice, also known as purple rice, is a famous type of rice in Asia, especially in China and India. Not only that, black (glutinous variety) rice is a whole grain with the bran and endosperm intact, so it is rich in fiber, helping to release glucose in the blood slowly. This prevents blood sugar from rising suddenly. In addition, the consumption of this type of rice also promotes a feeling of fullness for a longer time, helping to reduce calorie intake. Thereby, it reduces the risk of obesity, a factor that increases the risk of diabetes.
  • Red Rice: Red rice is another whole-grain rice that is packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It has a lower glycemic index compared to white rice and can help control blood sugar levels. Red rice also contains anthocyanins, which are beneficial antioxidants. Red rice is also rich in antioxidants and magnesium which strengthen the body from the inside. So with a small change in your diet, you can protect yourself from massive diabetes.
  • Wild Rice: Although not technically rice, wild rice is a nutrient-dense grain that is a good option for individuals with diabetes. It has a low glycemic index and is rich in fiber, protein, and various vitamins and minerals. Most Native American tribes thrived on wild rice. But they do not cultivate it. They collected it from shallow ponds and rivers. Wild rice naturally grows in the natural and shallow collection of water like beside a slow river or a lake. It is considered holy amongst some Native American tribes.

Alternative to white riceGlycemic Index (boiled)
Brown rice50 to 55
Whole grain basmati rice50 to 52
Steamed brown riceAround 50
Red riceAround 55
Black rice42 to 45
Wild rice45

Cauliflower Rice?

Cauliflower rice is a popular low-carbohydrate alternative to traditional rice that offers several benefits for individuals with diabetes. It is made by finely chopping or processing cauliflower into small, rice-like grains. Compared to white rice, cauliflower rice has a significantly lower glycemic index, meaning it has a smaller impact on blood sugar levels.

It is also higher in fiber, which aids in slowing down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, leading to more stable blood glucose levels. Additionally, cauliflower rice is rich in essential nutrients, such as vitamins C and K, as well as antioxidants, which contribute to overall health and well-being. Incorporating cauliflower rice into meals can be a helpful strategy for managing blood sugar control in individuals with diabetes.

Jasmine Rice?

Both the glycemic index and the glycemic load are high for jasmine rice. Also, jasmine rice is rich in carbs. People suffering from diabetes are usually prevented from consuming foods with a higher glycemic index.

Hence to answer the question, ‘Is jasmine rice good for diabetes’, it is usually not preferable as it can lead to a spike in the blood sugar level. People with diabetes can always jasmine rice with other fractions of food which can cause a balance for the overall diet.

Tips for Preparing Rice
  • Cook rice slowly
  • Instead of a pressure cooker, use a pan and add more water
  • Increase fiber intake while consuming rice
  • Add lentils, legumes, leafy vegetables, and spices with rice
  • Control portion intake

When incorporating rice into a diabetes-friendly diet, it is essential to watch portion sizes and pair it with a balanced meal that includes protein, healthy fats, and vegetables. Additionally, cooking methods such as boiling, steaming, or using the absorption method can help maintain the nutritional benefits of the rice. Please note that it is always advisable for individuals with diabetes to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider for personalized dietary recommendations.

Further Reading


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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