Is Brown Rice Okay If You Have Diabetes? Tips To Managing Your Diet
Some of the biggest and hardest changes you will have to make to properly manage your diabetes will be to your diet. This means substituting junky foods that have a higher probability of disrupting your blood sugar with nutrient-rich, well-balanced meals instead. Unfortunately, this may also mean giving up foods that you really enjoy.
But as you will hopefully find out from this article, while dietary changes are necessary for people with diabetes, this does not mean your diet will no longer be enjoyable! In fact, if you click through the Banting blog, you’ll see that there is tons of delicious stuff you can still eat with just a couple modifications.
So where does brown rice fall into this discussion? And how do you design your diet to best manage your diabetes? For all this and more, keep reading!
Is Brown Rice Diabetes-Friendly?
When we think of rice, we think of energy. This is because rice is made of carbohydrates, and 100% of the carbohydrates we eat are converted into glucose once in the body. Glucose is the brain’s main source of fuel and most of the other cells in your body such as tissue and muscle cells, all of them using it to perform their necessary tasks. Carbohydrates are also digested quickly, so you will feel their effect on your body within 1-2 hours after eating.
It is this last part that causes issues for people with diabetes, as such a quick digestive turnover time translates to quick raises in blood sugar levels as well. Carbohydrates that are rich in fiber will be digested slower and therefore have less of an effect on blood sugar. But carbs like brown rice, which have relatively lower fiber contents than a food like quinoa, can destabilize blood glucose levels rapidly.
All types of rice have medium-high glycemic index values, meaning they will affect your blood sugar quicker and more drastically than foods with lower values. Short-grain white rice has a higher glycemic index value than long-grain rice, such as brown rice, basmati rice, and wild rice. So in general, long-grain rice is better for people with diabetes than white rice.
As a rule, people with diabetes should avoid short-grain white rice entirely to avoid a quick release of glucose in the body. And while brown/long-grain rice is healthier, it should still be eaten in moderation and in smaller portions. A half a cup of rice has a whopping 15 grams of carbohydrates, so there is little need to go beyond that serving size. In addition, you’ll need to balance out the consumption of rice with nutritional foods that have low glycemic index values.
However you choose to adjust your diet, there are plenty of other foods that are rich in carbohydrates and that also have low glycemic index values. A person with diabetes should eat rice in moderation and get most of their carbohydrates from these healthier sources.
Alternatives To Brown Rice
The following carbohydrates all have lower glycemic index values and contain more fiber than rice:
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Whole-grain bread
- Rolled and steel-cut oats
- Cauliflower rice
One study found that when people with diabetes mixed in lentils with rice or potatoes, they were more motivated to eat both. It is not realistic to expect people to easily give up foods like rice, which they may eat multiple times a week, so creative solutions such as this one will make a dietary transition more simple.
Split any serving of rice or potatoes in half and then balance it out with the same serving size of protein- and fiber-rich lentils. You will feel fuller for longer, and the meal will help you control your blood sugar. And the best part is, lentils are affordable, tasty, and easy to make!
Tips For Managing Your Diet
Build a treatment plan with your doctor. If you realize you are going to have to make significant changes to your diet, or even if you just want extra help making dietary decisions, you may want to consult a registered dietician nutritionist. They can help you design a diet that works for you and takes into account your specific needs.
Ignore fad diets. The dietary changes you have to make as a result of your diabetes will likely need to be permanent, but fad diets are often unsustainable and increase the risk of cravings and overeating. Instead of following trends, make a slow but steady transition to your target diet.
There is no universal diabetes diet, just your specific diet. Certain foods are better for people with diabetes than others, and the glycemic index is definitely a valuable resource. However, every human is different and every diet should be personalized, especially since there are commonly differences in how people react to their food.
Be mindful of blood sugar spikes. You will learn through experience which foods and drinks (including alcohol) trigger a significant increase in your blood sugar. If you notice any food in particular has led to a blood glucose spike, cut it out of your diet as much as possible.
Be adaptive. It is hard to make changes to your diet, especially when it involves removing foods you love. Ultimately, though, these changes will be so beneficial to your wellness, and will help you manage your diabetes much easier. Rather than thinking about the foods you will miss, think about how much you will gain as a result of eating a healthier diet. And again, there’s almost always substitutes and modifications you can make so you can still eat a version of your favorite dishes! That being said…
Healthy food does not have to be boring. Desserts can still be healthy, and you can adjust the recipes of your favorite foods to make them diabetes friendly. Assuming you have to cut out all foods that taste good (but are, of course, the most unhealthy) will create an air of negativity around your eating experiences, but in reality, a diabetes diet is more about portion control, balance, and knowing how to calculate your carbs/insulin (if needed) than cutting certain foods entirely. For help making your favorite recipe diabetes-friendly, consult a nutritionist or…
Use the resources at your disposal. One of the positive things about diabetes being so common is that there are plenty of people in the same boat, looking for creative and fun ways to eat a diabetes friendly diet. The Diabetes Food Hub, run by the American Diabetes Association, is a great resource for these types of recipes. A quick Google search for “diabetes-friendly [insert your favorite food] recipe” will offer you a multitude of healthy and delicious recipes to choose from, and we’re always adding new food info to the Banting blog, too.
Being mindful of portions can go a long way in managing your diet. Many foods become a threat to our blood sugar levels because we tend to eat them in portions that are larger than the recommended serving size. As a rule, most foods should be eaten in moderation, and you’ll find you can still include a lot of your favorite ingredients in your meals.
There is no “official” amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fats you should be eating everyday, however the American Diabetes Association recommends filling each plate with 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% carbohydrates, and 25% protein. These numbers may vary slightly from person to person, but in general this is a good model to follow when designing your meals.
Make like-for-like swaps. For example, you can switch out red meat with fish or another lean protein source, even just for some meals and not all. Instead of saturated and trans fats, prioritize unsaturated, healthy fats. This can be as simple as using olive oil in place of butter.
Healthy foods don’t have to break the bank — grocery shop wisely! However, this really is not the case! Keep track of which fruits and vegetables are in season, as that is when their prices will be lowest. Frozen fruits, vegetables, and fish are all great options that are relatively inexpensive. Whole grains, beans, and low-fat, low-sodium canned goods are also very affordable.
Be smart about your carbs. Carbohydrates are what people with diabetes keep on their radar, just in terms of carbs’ abilities for raising blood sugar quickly and drastically. Most carbohydrates are either high in fiber, sugar, or starch, and the latter two should be avoided as much as possible in favor of the former.
Foods you should eat more of (according to the American Diabetes Association): beans, dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, sweet potato, berries, tomatoes, fatty fish (such as salmon), nuts, whole grains, and low-fat milk and yogurt.
Foods/drinks you should eat less of: sugary snacks/desserts, refined grains, processed foods, high-sodium or high-fat foods, soda and other sugary drinks (like fruit juices), baked goods, and alcohol. You should also try to quit smoking if applicable–ask your doctor for help and support in doing so.
In addition to diet, you can manage your diabetes by taking the diabetes medication your doctor has prescribed (and getting it for an actually fair, low price from Banting!), checking your blood glucose levels as often as directed, and exercising regularly to help improve insulin sensitivity.
Long-grain rices like brown, basmati, and wild rice are all better than white rice when it comes to maintaining stable blood sugar. However, carbohydrates that are rich in fiber are still better for people with diabetes, and rice of any kind should be eaten in moderation.
You can eat better by talking to a nutritionist, watching your portions, eating fiber-rich foods, and thinking creatively.