Breaking Down Rice and Carbohydrates

Rice and carbohydrates are hot topics in the diabetes community. So, which rice is the lowest in carbs, and where do the different types of rice fit on the Glycemic Index?


Rice Can Be Part of a Healthy Eating Plan

Rice is a staple in many diets, cultures, and lives. For many countries of the world, rice constitutes 70% of calorie intake.

In the diabetes community, rice is often stigmatized because of its starch and carbohydrate content.

White rice has a high glycemic index (GI) of 73. As such, it rapidly releases sugar into the bloodstream, increasing post-meal blood sugar levels.

According to the American Diabetes Association, starchy foods like white rice can be part of a healthy meal plan, but strictly in moderationportion size is key.


Varieties of Rice and Carbohydrate Content

Still, rice comes in many shapes, colors, and sizes. Certain varieties of rice have a lower GI (ie, their ranking on the Glycemic Index is lower than others) and, therefore, take more time to release sugars into the bloodstream.

There are many different types of rice and their nutritional qualities vary. The grains listed below are better options for your diabetes diet plan:



Glycemic Index (GI)

Carbs Per 1 Cup (180 grams)

Wild rice 45 53 grams
Black rice 42 to 45 34 grams
Brown rice 50 to 55 52 grams
Red Rice Around 55 45 grams
White rice 73 53 grams



White Rice Vs Brown Rice

Interestingly, white rice is the same plant as brown rice, stripped down so that only the inner part remains.

Brown rice is less processed than white rice: it has the outer hull removed, while the underlying bran and germ layers are left on the grain. Therefore, brown rice has a greater nutritional value.

The bran contains vitamins, minerals, and oils; the fiber is beneficial for digestive health, regulating blood sugar levels.

Even as culinary preferences vary regionally, brown rice proves a versatile ingredient. It can be used in grain bowls, curries, salads, stir-fries, soups, and veggie burgers.

Wholegrain Basmati rice is also a fantastic option, being both low GI and highly nutritious.


How You Cook Your Rice Affects GI

In any case, it is important to remember that the method of cooking affects the GI drastically. A healthier cooked rice will have lower glycemic load. Here are some preparation tips:

  • Change the way you cook rice: Instead of cooking it in a pressure cooker, try using a pan with extra water. Once the rice is cooked, strain out the excess water, and let it sit for ten minutes. Draining the starch will reduce the carbohydrate level.
  • Control your portion sizes and balance your meal: Pair a small serving of rice with healthier choices (like lentil, legumes, or leafy vegetables) for a balanced meal. Try to increase fiber consumption with rice consumption.


Rice Storage Temperature Affects GI

One notable study compared the glycemic potency of hot- and cold-stored rice in widely available medium-grain white rice. (Check out this study too.)

It found that, for regular consumers, white rice cooled for 24 hours at 4°C then reheated lowered the dietary glycemic load and extended the chewing time, compared with freshly cooked white rice.

If rice is a staple part of your diet, try meal planning at the beginning of the week, so you can store cooked rice ahead of time. However, be sure to use it within 3–4 days.


Cauliflower Rice – The Low-Carb Rice Substitute

There are always substitutes for rice. Cauliflower rice, for example, is remarkably low in carbohydrates. To make this rice substitute:

  1. Pulse the florets of a large head of cauliflower in a food processor.
  2. Heat the cauliflower in a pan with a little oil.
  3. Sauté for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If making cauliflower rice is too much work, you can find it ready-to-go in many grocery stores or order it on Amazon.


Other Rice Substitutes

Quinoa, barley, and bulgur are also great substitutes for rice. They provide an earthy taste and chewy texture, while also supplying fiber, B-vitamins, protein, antioxidants, and other nutrients


Glycemic Index (GI)

Carbs Per 1 Cup (180 grams)

Cauliflower rice 15 8.3 grams
Barley 28 44.3 grams
Bulgur 48 43 grams
Quinoa 53 39.4


Brown Rice is a Great Option

Rice is a high-energy food, packed with nutrients. Given its high fiber content, brown rice may improve blood sugar control, benefiting people with diabetes – delicious and nutritious!

What’s your favorite rice or rice substitute? Let us know in the comments below!

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