Diabetes and Rice: What Is The Impact On Your Health?
Rice is a staple of many diets around the world, some people eating it every single day. When you have diabetes, you are most likely forced to reevaluate your dietary choices, and so of course a food as common, inexpensive, and versatile as rice will come up in your options.
The short answer as to whether rice is good for people with diabetes or not is that it is best in moderation and in smaller portions. Though, the longer answer is a bit more complicated and nuanced than that.
This article will outline the advantages and potential disadvantages of eating rice while trying to manage your diabetes, so you can make the best decisions for your body and live your healthiest life.
Diabetes and Rice
Rice is an excellent source of carbohydrates. Since 100% of the carbohydrates we eat are converted into glucose in the body, rice is guaranteed to become glucose. Glucose is the main source of energy for the tissue, muscle, brain, and almost every other cell, so it is absolutely crucial to eat enough carbohydrates to power these parts.
Certain carbohydrates are high in fiber, so they will be digested more slowly and allow for more stable blood glucose levels over time. Starchy and sugary carbohydrates, on the other hand, will be digested much more quickly, about 1-2 hours after eating. This can cause a spike in your blood sugar.
The unfortunate thing about rice is that it more closely falls into the latter category. While it is a great boost of energy for the body, it also can have a relatively high glycemic index value. This means that it will increase your blood sugar, potentially into dangerous territory. One study found that eating too much white rice increased a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes. As a result of this, people with prediabetes should be particularly cautious when consuming rice.
The exact glycemic index value varies depending on the type of rice, and certain types are inevitably healthier than others. Please note that there is no set standard for the glycemic index, so different sources may use different numbers for the same food source. Glycemic load, on the other hand, takes serving size into account and is generally considered more accurate. Whether you are looking at the glycemic index or glycemic load, rice falls into the medium-high categories regardless.
In general, longer-grain rice has lower glycemic index and glycemic load values than short-grain white rice, which is likely to have a GI value of 70 or higher (for reference, the value 100 refers to the max effect glucose has on the body). Longer-grain rice includes brown rice, basmati rice, and wild 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 longer-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 should balance out the consumption of rice with nutritional foods that have low glycemic index values, and if appropriate, make sure to measure your insulin shot accordingly depending on the type of rice you’re eating.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the perfect diabetes-friendly plate should contain 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% carbohydrates, and 25% protein. Some studies are looking into the benefits of a low carb diet for people with diabetes, in order to minimize the risk of blood glucose spikes. This type of diet may also aid in weight loss, which can help stabilize blood sugar and reduce insulin resistance. Be sure to consult a doctor and/or dietitian when making any significant changes to your diet.
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 Rice
The following carbohydrates all have lower glycemic index values than rice:
- Rolled and steel-cut oats
- Whole-grain bread
- Non-starchy vegetables
In addition, soybeans, green peas, parsnips, and carrots are all examples of foods that have low glycemic load values.
It is unrealistic to believe that people will be ready to suddenly cut out foods they eat a lot of, so there are also some ways to eat rice in a more diabetes friendly way. For one, cauliflower rice has become increasingly popular and fits well into classic rice dishes. Another option is going half and half — split any serving of rice in half and balance it out with an equal serving of lentils.
Lentils are high in protein and fiber, meaning they will keep you fuller longer and will not significantly affect your blood sugar. They are also readily available, affordable, nutritious, delicious, and easier to make than other kinds of beans. If you are struggling to make changes to your diet, such as minimizing rice consumption, try mixing in lentils for a healthier meal.
The American Diabetes Association compiled a list of diabetes superfoods, i.e. foods that are nutritious, diabetes friendly, and immensely beneficial, especially to people with diabetes.
Below are each of these foods, along with the essential vitamins and minerals that these foods contain:
- Beans (black beans, lentils, legumes, etc.): folate; iron; potassium; magnesium; calcium
- Dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, etc.): vitamins A, C, E, and K; iron; calcium; potassium
- Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, etc.): vitamin C; fiber; folate; potassium
- Sweet potato: vitamins A and C; fiber; potassium
- Berries: vitamins C and K; fiber; antioxidants; manganese; potassium
- Tomatoes: vitamins C and E; potassium
- Fatty fish (salmon, albacore tuna, etc.): healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids
- Nuts/seeds (walnuts, flax seeds, etc): healthy fats; magnesium; fiber; omega-3 fatty acids
- Whole grains: vitamin B; magnesium; chromium; iron; folate; fiber
- Milk and yogurt: calcium; may be fortified with vitamin D
In order to build a diabetes friendly diet, aim to include as many of these foods as possible in your everyday life.
How To Manage Your Diabetes
While having diabetes may require you to make certain lifestyle changes, you can manage your diabetes and follow a self-treatment routine to live a happy, healthy life.
Firstly, your doctor will likely prescribe you some form of medication depending on your specific diabetes needs, such as insulin or metformin. Be sure to follow any directions your primary care physician and/or pharmacist have given you regarding taking this medication, and do not stop taking your medication at any time unless specifically told by your doctor.
Insulin has gained a lot of attention for its increasingly exorbitant cost. Frederick Banting, the scientist responsible for modern-day insulin, sold the patent for insulin for just one dollar, stating expressly that insulin should be accessible to the whole world. Nowadays, Banting’s values have been disregarded in favor of profit. Here at Banting, our very name shows that we want to keep the principles of Frederick Banting alive by offering accessible and affordable insulin.
Banting is easy to use — just send your prescription to us and we will handle the rest. Because our vetted pharmacy partners are able to use Canadian insulin prices, we can help you save up to 80% on your medication. We then mail you your prescription in thermal-controlled packaging, in order to ensure your medication reaches you safely. Don’t worry about insurance — you will have access to the same medications and prices regardless!
In addition to diabetes medication regimens, your doctor may advise that you make certain lifestyle changes in order to lessen your risk of diabetes-related complications, such as heart disease.
Exercising regularly can help build insulin sensitivity and promote better heart health. Along with a healthy diet, it can also help you manage your weight. As high amounts of fat tissue increase insulin resistance, a healthy weight will help you better manage diabetes.
In addition, you will likely need to adjust your diet, at least by cutting out high-carb and sugary foods that are sure to spike your blood glucose. Though it can be extremely difficult to change your diet, and even more difficult to maintain those changes, cutting out refined and processed foods, as well as foods high in sodium and unhealthy fats, will greatly benefit your body and help you manage your blood sugar. Whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats should be central to any diet.
Rice is an excellent source of carbohydrates, but it has a higher glycemic index value than whole wheat alternatives. Accordingly, you should only eat rice in moderation, and prioritize carbohydrates that are less likely to spike your blood sugar.