Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
Fact-checked by Aditya Nar, B.Pharm, MSc. Public Health and Health Economics
As a diabetic, one of the first foods you are asked to give up is rice (and sugar, of course!). Which, let’s face it, is not easy for most of us.
But why do you have to give up something that’s been part of your staple diet all your life? Do you have to eliminate it altogether? Are any healthier substitutes just as satisfying to the taste buds? Are all types of rice bad for you? Get all your diet queries solved and get one-on-one coaching to help reduce your blood sugar levels. Enrol for our Home-based Diabetes Management package, endorsed by Asia’s largest diabetes organization.
Let’s find out.
What makes rice risky for diabetics?
To understand how rice causes fluctuations in blood sugar levels, you first need to understand what glycemic index or GI score is.
GI is a score given to different food items (between 0-100) and indicates how they affect your blood sugar levels. For eg., refined sugar with a high GI of 100, instantly increases your blood sugar levels but a natural form like those found in fruits with a medium GI range increases it slowly. 
You must’ve figured out by now that you need to include food with a low or medium GI in your diet and try to avoid ones with a high GI. High GI foods fall in the range of 70 and above, medium GI foods in the range of 56 to 69, and low GI foods in the 55 or less range. The rice variety most of us eat unfortunately falls into the first category. However, you don’t have to give it up completely (but don’t start celebrating just yet).
Is there a way to continue eating rice safely?
- Try other varieties of rice: Brown rice, wild rice or wholegrain basmati rice. Brown rice is white rice that has not been stripped of its nutrients. It is rich in fibre and magnesium, that help regulate blood sugar levels. Wholegrain basmati rice such as those sold by brands such as Daawat, Kohinoor, and India Gate have a GI score of less than 55, making them a healthier option. Compared to eating white rice, these can considerably lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Here’s a quick comparison of the different types of rice:
|Type of rice||Glycemic index (glucose = 100)|
|White rice, boiled, type non-specified||72|
|Quick cooking white basmati||63|
|Brown rice, steamed||50|
|Wholegrain Basmati rice||< 55|
- Change the way you cook it: Instead of cooking rice in a pressure cooker, cook it in a pan with extra water. Once the rice is cooked, strain out the excess water. This will help to drain out the starch and reduce the carbohydrate level at least to some extent.
- Control your portion sizes and balance your meal: If you really want to eat rice, have a small portion and fill up the more substantial portion of your meal with healthier choices, such as legumes/dal, beans, leafy vegetables and so on. Rice and dal are the perfect combinations for a balanced meal.
But a word of caution, just because you’re reducing consumption of rice, doesn’t mean you load up on other foods that are unhealthy. As a diabetic, you have to monitor everything you eat and not just rice.
What about foods made with rice?
Foods made using rice such as idlis and dosas also have dal making it a balanced meal. Try substituting a portion of rice in your idli batter with oats (plain not processed) and reduce the amount of rice used. And for foods such as poha, you will have to balance it with protein. So have it with milk, curd or garnish it with sprouts instead of sev. Or better yet, go for red or brown poha.
Alternate grains that are safe:
Experiment with other grains that can help manage your diabetes and stick to a healthy diet. Try plain oats, millet (or ragi), barley (or jau) and buckwheat (or kuttu ka atta) that have a low GI score.
Healthy rice recipes you must try:
If all this talk about rice has made you crave it, here are a few healthy rice recipes you can try out!
- Brown rice pulao recipe
Who said brown rice cannot be delicious? Check out this very easy to make brown rice pulao recipe that we’re sure you will enjoy (just leave out the potatoes!).
Courtesy: YouTube/Rajshri Food
- Amaranth rice (Ramdana)
Amaranth can help in controlling hyperglycemia and prevent diabetes-related health complications .
Courtesy: YouTube/SasiRekhas Kitchen
- Chinese Fried Rice
Lots of vegetables, fibre-rich brown rice and very little oil make this chinese recipe a must-try for your next meal.
Courtesy: YouTube/Tarla Dalal
To conclude – No, you don’t have to give up rice completely. But yes, you have to be smart about it. The type of rice you eat, how much you eat and what you combine it with can determine the effect of rice on your blood sugar. So, be cautious and enjoy your meal!
Photo courtesy: Storyblocks
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