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Choosing the healthiest rice – Glycemic Index

Posted on | June 18, 2010 | 5 Comments


Types of rice

Types of rice

And so the debate begins.  What’s healthiest? White rice.  Brown rice.  Long-grain rice.  Medium-grain rice.  Short-grain rice.  Basmati rice.  Thai Jasmine Rice.  Sweet rice. Fragrant Rice. Arborio Rice.  Isn’t rice just rice?  The simple answer is no. The nutrition content and impact on the body can vary greatly depending on the type of rice you choose and how much you eat.


When rice (carbohydrate) is digested it is converted to glucose and enters the blood stream.  Glucose travels throughout the body and is used by the cells for energy.  All excess glucose that isn’t used up is converted and stored as body fat.

The glycemic index (GI) rates carbohydrate foods on how quickly blood sugar / glucose levels increase in the 2 – 3 hours after eating them. Eating higher GI foods produces a rapid increase in blood glucose levels, triggering the pancreas to produces insulin. Insulin causes the body’s muscle & liver cells to attempt to store the excess glucose. Eating lower GI foods produces slower glucose rise, little insulin & fat storage, even if you have eaten high fat content foods.  Low GI foods are digested much more slowly and therefore will keep you feeling full for longer.

The index is classified as:

Low GI:   55 or less

Medium GI:  56 – 69

High GI:  70 and above

Note:  Pure sugar has an Glycemic index of 100.

There are literally thousands of types of rice grown throughout the world so I’ve loosely thrown them into a few categories. Let’s have a look:

Brown Rice:  110 Calories in ½ cup, cooked.    Glycemic Index: 55

White Rice (long grain): 105 Calories in ½ cup, cooked.  Glycemic Index:  56

Basmati Rice:  105 Calories in ½ cup, cooked.  Glycemic Index: 58

Arborio Rice: 125 Calories in ½ cup, cooked.  Glycemic Index: 69

White Rice (short grain): 110 Calories in ½ cup, cooked.  Glycemic Index: 72

White (pre-cooked/instant):  140 Calories in ½ cup, cooked.  Glycemic Index: 87

Wild Rice:  115 Calories in ½ cup, cooked.  Glycemic Index: 87

Sticky (Glutinous):  180 Calories in ½ cup, cooked.  Glycemic Index: 98

Basically – the calories vary minimally for the same portion of cooked rice.  However the Glycemic index varies greatly.  That means, that if you choose a lower GI rice you should feel full for longer and have a lowered insulin response due to the more stable rise of blood glucose.  Therefore brown rice is best, however if you can’t give up white rice then please choose long grain or basmati rice as it is the best option. 

The biggest take home message is PORTION SIZE.  Adults only need ½ cup cooked rice per serve.  Just because you choose brown rice doesn’t give you a free ticket to eat as much as you want, after all it’s still a carbohydrate and still provides the body with energy – and if you take in too much energy you will store body fat.

Remember – You are what you eat!

What are the Benefits of the Glycemic Index?

  • Low GI diets help people lose and manage weight
  • Low GI diets increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin
  • Low GI carbs improve diabetes management
  • Low GI carbs reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Low GI carbs improve blood cholesterol levels
  • Low GI carbs reduce hunger and keep you fuller for longer
  • Low GI carbs prolong physical endurance
  • High GI carbs help re-fuel carbohydrate stores after exercise

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5 Responses to “Choosing the healthiest rice – Glycemic Index”

  1. Benefits of a Low GI Diet for Diabetics | Food to Lower Cholesterol
    June 18th, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

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  2. Heart Healthy Living - Effective Healthy Diets
    June 18th, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

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  3. Shuyi000
    June 19th, 2010 @ 1:13 am

    Hmmm… then what about red cargo rice… i’ve been eating them for years…

    So between Brown rice and red cargo rice… which one is better…!?

  4. Vitamin B6 101 | Better Health Online
    June 19th, 2010 @ 6:12 am

    […] Choosing t&#1211&#1077 healthiest rice – Glycemic Index : T&#1211&#1077 Health Guru […]

  5. Health Guru
    June 21st, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

    Hi! Thanks for your question. You’ll have to excuse me – the research on Red Cargo rice is quite limited – however what I could find was that it is a type of non-glutinous long grain rice (similar properties to brown rice) Only the husks of the rice grains are removed during the milling process (bran and germ layer intact) and is rich in nutrients, vitamins – Thiamin B1, Riboflavin B2, minerals, fibre, iron and calcium. Because it’s a long grain and similar to brown rice I estimate the GI to range from 55 – 60 making it a very nutritious option. Well done and keep up the good work!

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