A varied, well-balanced diet is crucial for staying healthy, especially if you have Type 2 diabetes. The nutritional benefits of basmati rice for diabetes management are subject to debate. This grain can be a healthy addition to your meal plan — just remember to enjoy it in moderation.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a global epidemic, with more than 80 percent of sufferers living in developing countries, according to a March 2016 article published in Diabetes Care. It is estimated that over 200 million people will have diabetes by 2035. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases in the U.S. are Type 2.
This condition causes your body to improperly store or regulate blood sugar, also known as glucose. Your liver and kidneys produce sugar too in addition to what you get from food. Normally, your body regulates the amount of glucose circulating in the bloodstream through a system that centers on a hormone called insulin, which secreted by the pancreas, according to the University of California, San Francisco.
When you have diabetes, blood sugar may rise quickly and then drop, disrupting your body's ability to produce insulin. Resistance to the action of insulin can be mild or severe and results in less glucose uptake by muscles and fat cells.
Diabetes treatment typically requires controlling blood glucose and maintaining normal blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. If you're obese or overweight, you may benefit from losing the extra pounds.
Basmati Rice Carbs and Diabetes
The glucose in your body comes from foods that contain carbohydrates, so you may wonder whether you should eat high-carb foods, such as rice, if you have diabetes. The type and amount of carbs you consume can make a difference when it comes to your blood glucose levels and diabetes management.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) states that whole grains should account for at least half of your grains for the day if you have diabetes. Most people need about 3 to 8 ounces of grains daily, depending on their body weight and activity levels.
Whole grains are rich in fiber and minimally processed, offering steady energy. Refined grains, on the other hand, contain little or no fiber, so the sugar goes straight to your bloodstream, causing blood glucose spikes. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health warns that processed and refined foods may significantly increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and weight gain.
Rice is one of the most important grains worldwide and a staple in many Asian countries. Among the many varieties of rice, long-grain basmati — grown in India and Pakistan — is famous for its fragrant, delicate texture and nutty flavor. Basmati rice is available in white and brown varieties and can be organic or conventionally grown.
Read more: Basmati Rice Diet
Brown basmati rice is unmilled, so it retains its fibrous bran layer and nutrient-rich germ. Therefore, it can help you meet the NIDDK's recommendations. Plus, it has no cholesterol, fat or sugar. Brown, or whole grain, organic basmati rice provides fewer carbs and provides more nutrients than its white counterpart.
Here is a comparison of the carb content per quarter-cup serving of uncooked rice, according to USDA:
Fiber May Improve Glycemic Control
Weight management is paramount for people with diabetes. There is strong and consistent evidence that weight loss can delay the progression of prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes.
If you practice portion control, rice won't add too many calories to your diet. Per quarter-cup, both white basmati rice and brown rice provide 170 calories, as reported by the USDA. Brown rice is significantly higher in fiber (4 grams per quarter-cup), which may help lower blood glucose levels. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body cannot digest, so it doesn't contribute to your calorie count.
Foods that contain fiber act as a bulking agent in your digestive tract, giving you a feeling of fullness that helps prevent overeating and weight gain. Losing even a small amount of weight may improve insulin sensitivity, according to the Calorie Control Council.
As mentioned earlier, dietary fiber slows the absorption of glucose into your system and helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. Refined carbs, which contain little fiber, may cause insulin and blood sugar spikes.
When undigested fiber passes through to the large intestines, it is fermented by bacteria, which creates short-chain fatty acids. These compounds have beneficial effects on your blood glucose levels by signaling your body to become more responsive to insulin and suppress glucose production in the liver, states the Calorie Control Council.
Read more: Does Fiber Cancel Out Other Carbohydrates?
Using the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating carbohydrate-containing foods. High GI foods are quickly digested, absorbed and metabolized. This may result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates with a low GI are digested slower and produce smaller fluctuations in your blood glucose and insulin levels.
The American Diabetes Association recommends choosing foods with a medium or low GI when planning your meals. Basmati rice carbs have a medium glycemic index of 56 to 69, according to Diabetes Canada. Therefore, this grain is suitable for those living with diabetes as long as you watch your portions.
A systematic review published in Nutrients in March 2018 assessed the effect of low-glycemic index diets on patients with Type 2 diabetes. These dietary plans resulted in significant improvements in blood sugar levels and glycemic control compared to either higher-GI diets or control diets. Further research is needed to analyze their long-term effectiveness.
The Effects of White Rice
Milling and polishing remove the majority of naturally occurring B vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber in rice. However, this grain still is the principal contributor to energy intake in the diet of many countries, such as China.
Due to the rising rates of Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance in China, researchers conducted a study to assess the association between rice consumption and diabetes. With attention to regional variations in rice consumption, data was collected from 228 communities in nine provinces throughout China and published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism in June 2015.
As the scientists note, previous research found no association between white rice and diabetes in Australia, Sweden, Finland or the U.S., whereas one U.S. study showed a positive association.
The Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism study revealed some inconsistencies among the geographic regions of China. Its findings suggest that a diet rich in white rice is associated with lower rates of diabetes and elevated LDL (the "bad") cholesterol in some regions in China. The results are conflicting, though.
Like with all foods, moderation is the key. If you have diabetes, consider switching to brown or wild rice as it's higher in fiber. Keep an eye on serving sizes and try not to go overboard. Eat a diverse diet and get your daily calories from whole foods.
Read more: How Is White Rice Healthy for Our Body?
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Care: "Diabetes in Asia and the Pacific: Implications for the Global Epidemic"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017"
- University of California, San Francisco: Diabetes Education Online: "What Is Diabetes Mellitus?"
- University of California, San Francisco: Diabetes Education Online: "What Is Type 2 Diabetes?"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: "Carbohydrates"
- International Journal of Computer Applications: "Quality Analysis of Indian Basmati Rice Grains Using Top-Hat Transformation"
- USDA FoodData Central: "White Basmati Rice"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Organic Basmati Rice"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Lifestyle Management: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2019"
- Calorie Control Council: "Fiber and Diabetes Awareness Month: How Fiber Is Connected to Your Diabetes Management"
- American Diabetes Association: "Glycemic Index and Diabetes"
- Diabetes Canada: "Glycemic Index Food Guide "
- Nutrients: "The Effect of Dietary Glycaemic Index on Glycaemia in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism: "White Rice Intake Varies in its Association With Metabolic Markers of Diabetes and Dyslipidemia Across Region Among Chinese Adults"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Brown Basmati"
- USDA ChooseMyPlate: "What Foods Are in the Grains Group?"