Three Rice Options for Diabetics

Sheik Md Jalal Uddin asks:

I am suffering from diabetes [sic].
Is rice ok for diabetes?
How do I measure it?

Thank you for asking, Sheik. You have at least three options to choose from. In my opinion, using the Glycemic Index (GI) is a simple tool to determine the type of rice that is best not only for people with diabetes, but also for individuals suffering from glucose intolerance, a symptom often overlooked that precedes a number of medical conditions including inflammatory diseases. To refresh your memory, GI measures how rapid carbohydrates affect the blood glucose (sugar) levels, within two hours of intake. Think of it as a ranking system for carbs; the lower the value, the lesser effect on glucose levels. If you have a very selective palate, may I recommend that you skip to the last choice, Basmati rice, otherwise, if you are after the best type for regulating glucose levels, not so much the taste, kindly continue to the next paragraph.

Brown Rice

Brown rice is a whole grain, hulled type of rice. It was traditionally used during the mid 1900s by the impoverished, it was the staple food in the early war era in Asia.

Brown rice is naturally more nutritious than white rice. What sets brown rice apart from white rice is the outer layer or the grain’s bran. If you remove the brown rice’s bran, you’ll have white rice (the endosperm part of a whole grain). The oil between the bran, and the endosperm is rich in Vitamin E, so consequently this nutritious micronutrient is likewise taken away from the refined white rice. Because of the bran’s high fiber content, brown rice has a rough nutty texture and somewhat bland taste compared to white rice. For the same reason, it is also used by the elderly and the ill to treat constipation.

However, thank goodness for technology and the effort exerted by rice researchers, we can enjoy some of the benefits we get from brown rice with white rice. Rice companies choose to overcompensate by putting back the stripped nutrients in white rice, fortifying their product with vitamins. Still, brown rice is a better source of fiber than white rice (but if only for fiber that you eat rice, taking Psyllium husks is the best bang for buck option, like Metamucil; although if you take fiber to clean the gut, Magnesium Oxide with Germanium is actually the most ideal route, but that’s another topic).

Bottom Line
Brown rice tastes horrible relative to white rice, has a Glycemic Index of 50 to 87, and more expensive due to low demand.

Parboiled (Converted) Rice

Parboiled rice (boiled in water for a short time) is a type of white rice that has been boiled in the husk, precooked, before being dried again. It is actually prepared from brown rice that has been soaked, steamed under pressure to force water-soluble nutrients into the starchy endosperm, then re-dried and eventually milled. For this reason, it is also called Converted Rice, converting brown rice to white without stripping off its nutrients. Parboiling makes rice easier to process by hand, improves its nutritional profile, and changes its texture. This method drives nutrients, especially thiamine, from the bran into the grain, so that parboiled white rice is nutritionally similar to brown rice. The practice of parboiling rice is more than two thousand years old, and may have started in the Persian Gulf. Today, it is the preferred rice of many in the southern parts of the Indian Subcontinent.

Since parboiled rice comes in many varieties, its Glycemic Index ranges from as low as 27 (Bangladeshi BR16) to 87 (Sungold brand, low-amylose). Uncle Ben’s®, a common brand of parboiled rice in the United States, has a GI of 68 per 150 grams of serving which has a 10 minute cooking time. Interestingly, the second Uncle Ben’s variety with a longer cooking time of 20 minutes, has a higher GI, 75, in the same amount of serving. More at the home of Glycemic Index

Bottom Line:
Decent taste, cooking takes longer than regular white rice but yields the lowest glycemic index, 27 – 87

White Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice
White Basmati Rice. It’s colored because earlier we cooked purple rice in the same casserole. And no, it’s not sweet LOL.

A native product of the Himalayan region and once again a common export product of the Indian Subcontinent, Basmati is probably my favorite among the three. It is a delicious long-grain rice that has a firm texture, and grows even longer and wider as they cook. Its aromatic flavour may be attributed to the locals’ cultivation practice, aging the rice for a year after harvesting. It is also available in brown.

White Basmati has a medium Glycemic Index. The microwaveable Uncle Ben’s Express® brand has a 57 GI, while an Indian Basmati exported to the UK has a 69 GI. These varieties are best served with piping hot meat with thick mild to spicy sauce.

Bottom Line:
Best tasting, fast cooking time, GI index between 57 and 69.


I would suggest that you go for either Basmati or Parboiled rice. Whichever is available in your local grocery should determine your decision. If both are in stock, then consult the Glycemic Index directory to compare specific brands and varieties. If you plan to include this in your regular diet, you may also consider buying in bulk to save money. Bulk Basmati Rice and bulk parboiled rice are available online and directly to the manufacturing companies.