Which Rice is Best for People with Diabetes?
If you have type 2 diabetes, you may be familiar with the glycemic index and that foods with a low glycemic index are best for managing your disease. Knowing which foods have a low value can be confusing at times, but now a new study my help consumers make a choice concerning at least one food: rice. Which rice is best for people with diabetes?
People with diabetes can eat rice
The glycemic index is a tool to measure a food's effect on blood sugar. Generally, foods with a glycemic index of 55 or less are considered low (good), while values of 56 to 69 are medium and those 70 or higher are high (bad) glycemic index values.
Foods with a high glycemic index make a person's blood sugar levels rise and fluctuate, which can increase the chance of getting diabetes and also make managing type 2 diabetes a challenge. Some of the items typically placed in the high glycemic index category include white bread (see "Best and Worst Breads for Diabetes"), baked goods, pasta, and rice. However, not all rice has a high glycemic index value, and indeed some varieties fall into the low category.
Investigators from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship evaluated 235 varieties of rice and discovered that the glycemic index values ranged from 48 to 92. That means people with diabetes have healthful options when it comes to choosing rice as part of their diet.
Investigators also discovered that the main gene associated with glycemic index in all the varieties is the Waxy gene. This information will allow rice breeders to develop more varieties of rice with low glycemic index values and expand the options for people with type 2 diabetes.
According to Dr. Melissa Fitzgerald, who headed the IRRI group, "Rice varieties like India's most widely grown rice variety, Swarna, have a low GI and varieties like Doongara and Basmati from Australia have a medium GI."
A closer look at rice
Generally, brown rice has a lower glycemic index (55) than white rice, as well as slightly more fiber and more nutritional value. Brown, short-grain japonica rice reportedly has a value of 62.
But not all white rice is the same. Long grain white rice tends to have a lower glycemic index (56) than other white varieties, such as short grain (72). Basmati rice has a glycemic index of about 58. The rice with the highest glycemic index value (90s range) is sweet or sticky rice, which is the variety usually served in Asian restaurants.
Factors that have an impact on the glycemic index of rice are its dietary fiber level and amylose content. Amylose is a polysaccharide that makes up starch. In a study just published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, the authors reported on their evaluation of milled and brown rice and their glycemic index values.
They found that the glycemic index and glucose response of different varieties of rice depended on their fiber content and amylose content. Generally, the rice with the lowest amylose content had a high glycemic index (75) while rice with the highest amylose content had a low glycemic index (50). Low fiber was associated with a high glycemic index while rice with higher fiber had a lower glycemic index.
In the most recent study, Dr. Fitzgerald explained that "Understanding that different types of rice have different GI values allows rice consumers to make informed choices about the sort of rice they want to eat." For people with diabetes, knowing there are healthful choices of rice may expand their dietary options.
Read about other foods and diabetes:
Diabetes and pomegranates
Diabetes and mangoes
Fitzgerald M et al. Identification of a major genetic determinant of glycaemic index in rice. Rice 2012; 4(2): 66-74
Trinidad TP et al. The effect of apparent amylose content and dietary fibre on the glycemic response of different varieties of cooked milled and brown rice. International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition 2012 Jul 4
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Updated April 2, 2014