Good News About Rice
If you're like me, you probably gave up all white rice for brown rice in the name of health years ago. After all, brown rice has more fiber and more nutrients. But, according to new research from the journal Rice (who knew there was a whole journal on rice?), it might be time to switch your rice options up a bit.
Researchers studied 235 types of rice from around the world and found that each type's glycemic index (GI)-which measures how greatly carbohydrates affect your blood sugar levels-can vary from type of type, but that almost all kinds of rice have a low to medium GI rating. The study found that rice ranges from a low of 48 to a high of 92 GI rating, with an average of 64.
According to ScienceDaily, low GI foods are those measured 55 and less, medium GI are those measured between 56 and 69, and high GI measures 70 and above. A high GI means the food is easily digested and absorbed by the body, which often results in fluctuations in blood sugar levels that can increase chances of getting diabetes, and make management of Type 2 diabetes difficult. Not to mention it makes you hungry! Foods with low GI have a slower digestion and absorption rate in your body, causing a more gradual and sustained release of sugar into the blood, which has been proven beneficial to health, including reducing the chances of developing diabetes and keeping you energized.Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for Oldways/The Whole Grains Council isn't surprised by the research. Many in the nutrition community erroneously think that all white rice has a very high glycemic index, and all brown rice has a very low GI, she says. "This study seems like a good reminder that it's not that simple-and a good reminder to all of us that food is a dynamic, living thing that differs in its many varieties and according to where and how it's grown," Harriman says. "Rice isn't just rice-it's a classification for a wide range of cereal grasses that differ in many ways."
When it comes to choosing what kind of rice to eat, Harriman recommends a lower-GI variety that's widely available, such as basmati rice. You may want to check out an Asian specialty market for more variety, too.
"And I would recommend brown basmati over white since brown rice contains more nutrients than white," she says. "I would also recommend looking for sprouted brown rice when available."
But low GI is just one part of a healthy diet, Harriman says. In fact, you can still eat unhealthy if you only look at glycemic index. For example, Peanut M&Ms have a glycemic index of 33, but that doesn't make them a healthier choice for dinner than pasta served with chili con carne, which has a GI of 40, she says.
Instead of just looking at GI, you should look at the full glycemic load of a meal. This number takes all the foods you're eating together into consideration instead of each type of food on its own. "If you're hungry within two hours of eating a meal, you've probably picked foods that have a high GI-and nothing else," she says. "Look for foods low on the glycemic index, and pair them with healthy fats and lean sources of protein such as fish, beans, nuts, and seeds for a meal that sticks with you."That way you have a glycemic load that's healthy and fills you up! Tell us, do you eat rice? What are your favorite kinds? Will you try brown basmati over plain brown rice next time?
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.