Rice and Diabetes

Basmati rice, particularly wholegrain Basmati rice can and should be a regular addition to the diets of people who suffer from diabetes. Basmati rice is a naturally low energy food but as with all carbohydrate foods, it’s the portion size that is important: an average serving of boiled rice is 150-180g providing 207-248 calories; a small serving (100g) provides approximately 138 calories. By contrast a typical takeaway portion of fried rice is 300g providing 558 calories, so it’s important not to assume all rice types are the same.

Wholegrain Basmati rice has the lowest GI (glycaemic index) of all rice types, which means once digested it releases its energy slowly keeping blood sugar levels more stable, which is a crucial part of diabetes management. On the other hand, sticky and risotto type rices have much higher GIs, so less suitable in a diabetic diet. The varying GIs of rice depends on the type of carbohydrate present in the grains. Basmati rice has the greatest amount of a type known as amylose which does not gelatinize during cooking and results in fluffy, separate grains. Whereas grains with more amylopectin burst on cooking resulting in sticky rice that can be eaten with chopsticks. The more intact the structure of a grain of rice the lower the GI because once consumed the particle size maintains intact for longer, slowing the digestive process. The higher quality brands of rice like Tilda have the technology to reject broken grains from their products, further guaranteeing the low GI of the rice. Steaming rice helps to better maintain the structure of the grain compared with boiled rice so generally steamed rice has a lower GI than boiled.

Wholegrain Basmati rice is also a good source of fibre which is important for gut health and improves bowel function. High fibre intakes have also been associated with a lower risk of bowel cancer, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes complications, increased satiety and weight management. A high intake of wholegrain foods has been associated with lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Both wholegrain and white Basmati rice contains a type of fibre known as resistant starch. This has a prebiotic effect in the bowel, which means it can help to increase the number of ‘friendly’ bacteria. This in turn, protects the bowel and keeps it healthy and boosts the body’s immunity. Resistant starch also increases satiety, helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer, so including Basmati rice in a meal can help regulate appetite and prevent cravings for sugary drinks and snacks between meals.

Finally, both wholegrain and white Basmati rice has a superior nutrient content compared with other rice types. They contain higher amounts of B vitamins and minerals such as copper and magnesium. The higher magnesium content found in Basmati can help with blood sugar control. These properties combined together with the antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties of numerous compounds found in rice, especially those found in the bran and germ (minerals, trace elements, vitamins, polyphenols), means rice can make a valuable contribution to the diets of people with diabetes.