Low-Glycemic Index Foods: Rice

Different rice varieties
Different rice varieties (Image: Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If you are following a low-glycemic diet, aim to include more foods with a low-GI number. The GI measures how rapidly carbohydrates affect blood glucose levels within two hours of intake. Think of it as a ranking system for carbohydrates; the lower the value, the lesser the effect on glucose levels. When it comes to rice and the GI, you may have misconceptions about whether it should be classified as a low, medium or high-GI food.

Low, Medium or High GI?

Rice can vary in GI values depending on its carbohydrate content and the way it is prepared. In clinical studies, rice has ranged from as low as 54 to as high as 121 on the GI. Much of the variation is due to differences in the proportion of starch present as amylose. Varieties that contain a higher amount of amylose have a slower rate of digestion and produce lower glycemic and insulin responses.

Types of Low-GI Rice

The GI classifies food as "low" if it has a value of 55 or less. The Glycemic Index Database provides an extensive list of rice and categorizes it according to region, brand, variety and preparation. Low-GI rice varieties found in the database include Bangladeshi rice -- 37, American steamed brown rice – 50 and Uncle Ben's Cajun-style rice -- 51.

White rice is usually higher on the GI, but Japonica, a white, short-grained rice, comes in at a low 48.

Rice bran, a byproduct of milled rice, has a value of only 19, which makes it the rice product with the lowest GI score. Rice bran is a nutritious, gluten-free alternative to wheat bran that you can incorporate into many cooking and baking recipes.

Long-grain brown rice is a low-GI food
Long-grain brown rice is a low-GI food (Image: Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Types of Medium-GI Rice

Rice with a GI value between 56 and 69 is medium-GI. Types of rice in this range include Basmati rice – 58, Canadian wild rice -- 57, Chinese vermicelli – 58, American long-grain boiled rice – 61 and risotto rice – 69.

Risotto rice
Risotto rice (Image: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Types of High-GI Rice

Rice with values of 70 or higher are high-GI, the category to avoid if you are trying to follow a low-GI diet. Most white rice varieties are high on the GI. Types of rice in this category includes instant white rice -- 87; jasmine rice – 89, American parboiled white rice – 72 and short-grain white rice -- 83.

Bowl of white rice
Bowl of white rice (Image: Dynamic Graphics/Dynamic Graphics Group/Getty Images)

Tips for a Low-GI Meal With Rice

When including rice with a meal, include other low-GI foods to complement it, such as vegetables and poultry. By including these complementary foods, you'll balance out the higher-GI rice and keep your blood sugar levels more stable verses eating rice by itself or complementing with a high-GI food. A low-GI diet is not only beneficial for your general health but can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Rice with meal
Rice with meal (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

When to Avoid Eating Rice

If you are diabetic, at risk for diabetes or glucose intolerant, stay away from white rice completely because of the stress it puts on your blood sugar-regulating mechanisms. If you do consume rice, choose a low-GI rice variety, keep the portions small and consume it with complementary foods.

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