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If you miss eating rice, here’s some good news!

September 4, 2012 in News

If you are trying to choose foods with a low glycemic index (GI) to help you control your blood sugar, you may have been advised to avoid white rice. White rice is often mentioned in lists of high GI foods, along with white potatoes, pasta, and white breads.

For those unfamiliar with the term “glycemic index,” this is basically a measure of the relative ability of the carbohydrates in a particular food to raise your blood sugar levels after you eat. Foods with a “high” GI are easily digested and absorbed by your body, which can lead to spikes in your blood sugar. Diets rich in foods with a low GI have been found to help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar; there is also evidence that eating a low GI diet can help reduce the risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes. Low GI foods are slowly digested, which means that they gradually release sugar into the bloodstream at a steady rate over time.

Foods with a GI of 55 or less are considered to have a low GI – food in this range include most fruits and vegetables, along with nuts and legumes. Medium GI foods range between 56 and 69. Some common examples of medium GI foods are whole wheat breads or pastas, raisins, and cranberry juice. High GI foods have values 70 or above; examples include corn flakes, glucose, white potatoes, pretzels, and white breads.

Rice is an extremely important staple in many parts of the world; so many people depend on one or more of the multiple varieties of the grain that there is an international research institute dedicated to it. This institute, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), recently partnered with CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship to look deeper into how rice ranks on measures of glycemic index. They found good news for rice lovers.

The study looked at 235 different types of rice from all over the world. They found that the GI of rice is highly variable. The average of the varieties studied is 64, which is right in the medium GI range. However, the range was very wide. The lowest GI found was 48; the highest 92.

This means that lovers of rice don’t have to dramatically minimize their consumption if they are adhering to a low-GI diet. It’s not whether or not you eat rice that makes the impact; it’s the type of rice you choose. Study author Dr. Tony Bird hopes that diabetics will be able to use the new information to select the type of rice that fits into their healthy, low GI diet plan.

Although a comprehensive list is not yet available, the authors mentioned that the most commonly grown rice in India, Swarna, has a low GI value. Doongara and Basmati rice both have a medium GI range. Basmatic rice in particular is available in many national grocery chains in the United States.

In addition to looking at the GI values of the different types of rice, the researchers also looked into the grain’s genetic makeup. They were able to identify the key gene that determines the GI of rice. This new information will allow rice breeders to opportunity to develop new varieties of rice that will be low in GI levels, making more diabetic-friendly rice and rice-based foods available on the market.

You can read the original news release on CSIRO’s website.

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