Experts from Harvard Medical School have said white rice has a similar effect as eating “pure table sugar.”
It’s estimated that more than half of the global populace lives off on rice as a primary dietary source. In 2018, the global production of rice reached 485 million metric tons.
White rice is far more common than brown rice. Compared to brown rice, white rice is more available, cheaper, and has a longer shelf life. Despite its convenience, studies show it affects our health negatively.
According to research from Harvard Medical School, white rice is as unhealthy as sugar. They stated that one dish of rice delivers a fast blood sugar spike, almost as good as pure table sugar. Its high glycemic index (GI) causes a rapid rise in insulin and blood sugar.
The glycemic index compares the effect of a food on blood sugar to that of pure glucose. A food with a GI of 28 raises blood sugar only 28% as much as glucose. Meanwhile, a GI of 95 is pure glucose.
The research places white rice in the same GI category as corn, couscous, sugary breakfast cereals, and white and sweet potatoes. It recommends substituting it with a lower glycemic index food such as brown or converted rice.
White rice linked to diabetes
A British Medical Journal study indicated an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in persons who eat a lot of white rice. The study noted that diabetes was 1.5 times more likely among those who ate the most rice—three to four servings per day—than in people who ate the least. The risk increased by 10% for every additional large bowl of it consumed daily. The link was stronger for Asians, who eat three to four servings of white rice per day. The average Westerner consumes one to two servings each week.
So, if you have pre-diabetes, watch your rice intake. If you have diabetes, you can eat rice in moderation. Make sure you know the carb count and GI score of the rice you want to eat. Aim for 45-60 grams of carbs every meal. Also, be aware of the food and beverages that you should avoid.
While both white and brown rice is abundant in carbohydrates, they are not the same. Brown rice has a lower glycemic index, which is beneficial in the prevention of diseases such as diabetes.
It does not mean that a person should never eat white rice. It’s all about eating in moderation. One of the researchers, Qi Sun, MD, explained, “Eating one to two times per week is fine.”
What types of rice you should eat?
Since rice is a staple food for many, choosing the right type is essential. It’s better to eat rice that has a higher nutritional value. Aside from brown rice, you can also choose wild rice, and long-grain white rice as healthier options. They pack more fiber, nutrients, and vitamins than short-grain white rice.
Basmati, brown, and wild rice have GI scores of 56 to 69. They are in the moderate range, which means they are generally safe to consume in moderation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Create Your Plate method ensures meals are properly portioned. Dinner plates should contain 25% protein, 25% grains and starches, and 50% non-starchy vegetables. Adding fruit or dairy to your meal is fine if you’re not counting carbs.
Choosing healthy carbs can help you manage your blood sugar and weight. Eating better carbohydrates can help prevent several chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.