Here’s how to eat rice and maintain balanced blood glucose.
Rice is a staple food for over 50% of the world’s population. It is the primary source of carbohydrates in China and many other Asian countries. Rice is considered a high-glycaemic food, which means it can raise blood glucose quickly. High-glycaemic foods have generally been found to increase diabetes risk, and past studies show a link between white rice intake, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, particularly in Asians.
You may think rice is off-limits if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, but that thought is incorrect. All rice is different; some raise your blood glucose more than others. Your cooking style and how you eat it also determine its effects on your blood glucose. Keep reading to learn how to eat rice and maintain balanced blood glucose with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Rice: Types and Nutritional Value
Over 40,000 rice varieties exist, but Oryza sativa (Asian rice) and Oryza glaberrima (African rice)are the most widely grown. Asian rice is grown worldwide, while African rice is grown only in Africa1. On harvest, rice is enclosed in an inedible hull, which is removed to reveal a wholegrain with three layers – the bran (outer layer), endosperm (innermost layer) and germ (middle layer).
The bran layer contains B vitamins, fibre, and trace minerals, including phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, while the endosperm contains starch and the germ, antioxidants, B vitamins and vitamin E2.
White rice is made by removing the bran and germ layer of the intact whole grain, leaving the starchy endosperm behind. Many nutrients are lost in this process, including 85% of fat, 15% of protein, 75% of phosphorus, 90% of calcium, and 70% of B vitamins (including B1, B2 and B33.
Types of rice
Rice is categorised by the size and method used to process it. Short-, medium- and long-grain rice are the three main types.
- Short-grain: This rice is high in starch and usually becomes sticky and glutinous when cooked. Arborio and sushi rice are short-grain rice.
- Long-grain: This rice is less glutinous and starchy and often aromatic. The grains stay separate, firm and fluffy once cooked. Basmati is a long-grain rice.
- Medium-grain: Its characteristics are in between short- and long-grain. Once cooked, the grains are plump and often stick together, but not as much as short-grain rice. Red and Calrose rise are medium-grain rice.
Popular Varieties of Rice
Arborio rice is a short-to-medium grain rice native to the Italian region of Piedmont. It is creamy, firm and chewy in texture once cooked and traditionally used to make risotto.
Brown rice has a distinct nutty flavour with a chewy texture. It is rich in manganese and a source of magnesium, fibre, phosphorus, selenium and vitamins B1, B3 and B61. Long-grain brown rice, such as brown basmati and Thai fragrant, have long, slender grains that remain separate when cooked. Medium-grain brown rice has more starch clings together slightly more when cooked. Short-grain brown rice is very starchy is stickier, making a good base for sushi or Asian rice dishes that are traditionally eaten with chopsticks or hands.
Red rice has a nutty flavour and chewy texture with a similar nutritional profile to brown rice. It is grown mainly in the Himalayan, Bhutan, parts of India, and the wetland region of Camargue, France1. Its red colour comes from anthocyanins, an antioxidant in the bran layer, known to reduce inflammation and support blood glucose control1.
The most popular varieties of rice include:
Black rice is considered healthier than brown and red rice. Its colour comes from the anthocyanins present in the bran and can range from dark purple to black.1 Black rice grains are usually short or medium with a white centre. The short-grained variety is common in Eastern Asia; it is glutinous and often cooked with coconut milk to make sweet and savoury dishes. The other type of black rice is the Italian variety, medium-grained rice, sometimes called ‘Nerone’, which has a nuttier flavour, similar to brown rice.
Jasmine rice is a long-grain fragrant rice that is moist and soft in texture with a slightly sweet flavour. It is sticky compared to other long-grain varieties but not as sticky as short-grain rice. Jasmine rice is available as wholegrain (brown) or polished (white) and is grown in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and southern Vietnam.
Parboiled rice is also known as easy-cook, converted, and sella rice. It is rice that has been partially boiled in the husk to increase its shelf-life and make it resistant to insects. The parboiling process consists of soaking, pressure steaming and drying. It makes the rice more nutritious than conventional white rice because it drives nutrients, especially B vitamins, from the bran to the inner layers of the rice grain. After the parboiling process, the bran and germ layers are removed to reveal a light-yellow grain (Petroni et al., 2017)4.
Ofada rice is a medium-grain, fragrant rice believed to be a blend of Oryza glaberrima (African rice) and Oryza sativa. It was first cultivated in a town called “Ofada” in Ogun state, southwest Nigeria. The grains stay separate and become plump once cooked5.
|Nutritional Value of Some Rice Varieties (Per 100g, Uncooked)|
|Arborio6||Basmati (White)||Black8||Brown9 (Long)||Ofada10||Red11||White7 (Long)|
|Energy (kcal) Carbohydrate (g)|
|356 82.2 |
Magnesium (mg) Phosphorus (mg) Potassium (mg)
| 3 |
| 9 |
| * |
Vitamin B-6 (mg)
| 0.56 |
Glycaemic Index of Rice Varieties
The glycaemic index (GI) ranks how quickly carbohydrate foods raise blood glucose on a scale of 0-10012. Carbohydrates that raise blood glucose slowly are low-glycaemic (0-55), those that raise it moderately are medium-glycaemic (56-69), and those that raise it fast are high-glycaemic (>70)12.
The glycaemic index of rice depends on many factors, including its starch content, cooking length, and how it is processed.13
Amylose and amylopectin are the two types of starch in rice. Amylose is more difficult to digest than amylopectin; rice with high amylose content has a lower GI than those high in amylopectin14. For example, sticky or glutinous rice is high in amylopectin and low in amylose (0-2%), so it has a high GI (typical range of 92-105). In contrast, long-grain rice contains more amylose (20-25%) and has a low-medium GI (55-69)13.
Cooking rice for long periods in large volumes of water makes it easier to digest and increases its GI. Parastouei and colleagues showed in 2011 that white rice soaked for 35 minutes and then boiled for 10 minutes had a low GI of 55 but a medium GI of 66 when boiled for 5-8 minutes and then simmered for 30 minutes15.
|Type of Rice||Glycaemic Index (GI)|
Basmati, white, cooked 10 minutes
Jasmine rice steamed for 30 minutes
Thai glutinous rice, cooked for 10 minutes
Parboiled, long-grain rice
Brown rice, pressure cooked for 8 minutes
Brown rice, boiled in excess water for 25 minutes
Red rice (Sri Lanka)
Red rice (Thai, cooked for 25 minutes)
Waxy (pre-soaked for 12h, steamed for 30 minutes)
Cooked for 30 minutes
Fibre helps to slow digestion and prevent blood glucose from rising too quickly20. Even though wholegrain rice has more fibre than white rice, not all studies show it has a lower GI. This may partly be because people cook wholegrain rice longer than white rice, which makes it easier to digest and thus increases its GI. When wholegrain rice is cooked for a similar amount of time as white rice, it has a lower GI. However, this lower GI is attributed to its bran layer and the chemicals it contains that make it more difficult to digest rather than its fibre content13.
Parboiling increases the resistant starch in rice, which makes it more difficult to digest and lowers its GI. However, converting rice into flakes, puffs, or flours makes it easier to digest and increases its GI13. Pre-soaking rice before cooking may also increase its GI, but cooking and cooling before eating increases resistant starch and reduces GI13.
Europeans are more insulin-sensitive than Asians, suggesting that ethnicity affects GI21. Truong and colleagues showed in 2014 that Asian Americans have considerably higher blood glucose levels than Caucasians after eating the same amount of carbohydrates22.
The number of times rice is chewed also affects blood glucose; in one study, chewing rice 30 times raised blood glucose much more than chewing it 15 times23.
How to Eat Rice and Prevent Blood Glucose Spikes
The best type of rice to prevent blood glucose spikes is long-grain, wholegrain rice cooked minimally. However, eating this rice alone, especially in large quantities, can cause blood glucose spikes.
The best way to eat rice is to serve small portions (aim for around ¼ of a dinner-sized plate or about 30-50g uncooked), pair it with foods rich in fibre, such as pulses and vegetables, protein, such as beef, chicken, fish and beans, and healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds. These foods slow digestion and stabilise blood glucose levels. Drinking diluted vinegar just before or adding pickled (vinegared) foods to rice can stabilise blood glucose (Sugiyama et al., 2003; Gheflati et al., 2019)24,25.
Have a look at these well-balanced and low-glycaemic rice recipes.
- Jollof Rice with Balsamic Chicken
- Black Rice with Mixed Vegetable Stew
- Spicy Tahini Chicken with Basmati Rice, Spinach and Mushrooms
Now you know you can eat rice and maintain balanced blood glucose. If you have type 2 diabetes, checking your blood glucose before and after meals is crucial to confirm your blood glucose stays within targets. You may need to adjust your portions and meals to keep them in range. Work with a registered nutritionist/dietitian if you’re having trouble maintaining your blood glucose in range.
Try these tips
- Choose wholegrain and long-grain rice more often.
- Avoid over-cooking rice.
- Consider batch-cooking rice and then refrigerating or freezing it to increase resistant starch.
- Pair rice with healthy fats, protein and fibre-rich foods to lower the glycaemic load of meals and stabilise your blood glucose.
- Priya, R.T.S., Nelson, E., Ravichandran, K., and Antony U. (2019) Nutritional and functional properties of coloured rice varieties of South India: a review. Journal of Ethnic Foods, 6:
- Saleh, A.S.M., Wang, P., Wang, N., Yang, L., and Xiao, Z. (2019). Brown rice versus white rice: nutritional quality, potential health benefits, development of food products, and preservation technologies. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 8: 1070-1096.
- Ravichanthiran, K., Ma, Z.F., Zhang, H., Cao, Y., Wang, C.W., Muhammad, S., Aglago, E.K., Zhang, Y., Jin, Y., and Pan, B. (2018) Phytochemical profile of brown rice and its nutrigenomic implications. Antioxidants, 7(6): 71.
- Petroni, K., Landoni, M., Tomay, F., Calvenzani, V., Simonelli, C., and Cormegna, M. (2017). Proximate composition, polyphenol content and anti-inflammatory properties of white and pigmented Italian rice varieties. Universal Journal of Agricultural Research, 5(5): 312-321.
- Ogunleke, A.O. and Baiyegunhi, L.J.S. (2019). Effect of households’ dietary knowledge on local (ofada) rice consumption in southwest Nigeria. Journal of Ethnic Foods, 6: 24.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Arborio rice. Available: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168881/nutrients. Last accessed: 22 August 2023.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rice, white, long grain, unenriched, raw. Available: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2512381/nutrients. Last accessed: 17 August 2023.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Black rice. Available: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2106513/nutrients. Last accessed: 22 August 2023.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Brown rice, long-grain, raw. Available: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169703/nutrients. Last accessed: 24 August 2023.
- Thomas, A.O., Olayinka, A., and Kayode, A. (2016) Comparative study of nutrient composition and retention of raw and cooked imported and local rice (Oryza sativa) varieties. British Journal of Applied Science & Technology, 16(2): 1-9.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Red rice. Available: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2106595/nutrients. Last accessed: 22 August 2023.
- Atkinson, F.S., Brand-Miller, J.C., Foster-Powell, K., Buyken, A.E., Goletzke, J. (2021) International tables of glycaemic index and glycemic load values 2021. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 114(5): 1625-1632.
- Kaur, B., Ranawana, V., and Henry, J. (2016) The glycaemic index of rice and rice products: A review, and table of GI values. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 56(2): 215-236.
- Boers, H.M., ten Hoorn, J.S., Mela, D.J. (2015). A systematic review of the influence of rice characteristics and processing methods on postprandial glycaemic and insulinemic responses. British Journal of Nutrition, 114: 1035-1045.
- Parastouei, K., Shahaboddin, M.E., Motalebi, M., Mirhashemi, S.M., Faraji, A.M., & Seyyedi, F. (2011). Glycaemic index of Iranian rice. Scientific Research and Essays; 6(25): 5302-5307.
- Rondanelli, M., Ferrario, R.A., Barrile, G.C., Guido, D., Gasparri, C., Ferraris, C., Cavioni,A., Mansueto, F., Mazzola, G., Patelli, Z., Peroni, G., Pirola, M., Razza, C., Tartara, A., and Perna, S. (2023) The glycaemic index of Indica and Japonica subspecies parboiled rice grown in Italy and the effect on glycemic index of different parboiling processes. Journal of Medicinal Food, 26(6): 422-427.
- Glycemic Index Research and GI News. Rice, black Adan. Available: https://glycemicindex.com/ginews/. Last accessed 24 August 2023.
- Glycemic Index Research and GI News. Rice, black waxy (Oryza sativa Linn. Spp.), pre-soaked at 4°C for 12h, steamed for 30 min. Available: https://glycemicindex.com/ginews/. Last accessed 24 August 2023.
- Adedayo, B.C., Adebyo, A.A., Nwanna, E.E., and Oboh, G. (2018) Effect of cooking on glycemic index, antioxidant activities, alpha-amylase, and alpha-glycosidase inhibitory properties of two rice varieties. Food Science & Nutrition; 6: 2301-2307.
- Lattimer, J.M., and Haub, M.D. (2010) Effects of dietary fibre and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients, 2: 1266-1289.
- Dickinson, S., Colaguiuri, S., Faramus, E., et al. (2002) Postprandial hyperglycaemia and insulin sensitivity differ among young adults of different ethnicities. Journal of Nutrition, 132: 2574-2579.
- Truong, T.H., Yuet, WC., and Hall, M.D. (2014) Glycaemic index of American-grown jasmine rice classified as high. International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, 65: 436-439.
- Ranawana, V., Leow, M.K-S., Henry, C.J.K. (2013) Mastication effects on the glycaemic index: impact on variability and practical implications. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 68: 137-139.
- Sugiyama, M., Tang, A.C., Wakaki, Y, and Koyama, W.W. (2003) Glycaemic index of single and mixed meal foods among common Japanese foods with white rice as a reference food. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57(6): 743-52.
- Gheflati, A., Bashiri, R., Ghadiri-Anari,A., Reza, J.Z., Kord, M.T., Nadjarzadeh, A. (2019) The effect of apple vingegar consumption on glycaemic indices, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and homocysteine in patients with type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia: a randomised controlled clinical trial. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, 33: 132-138.
- Ranawana, D.V., Henry, C.J.K., Lightowler, H.J., and Wang. D. (2009) Glycaemic index of some commercially available rice and rice products in Great Britain. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 60(S4): 99-110.
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