Making Rice Nice for Diabetes

best rice recipes for diabetesGuest Post from Sally Marchini – Dietitian and person with type 1 diabetes

Rice is one of those grains that can be problematic for people with diabetes, so I thought it might help if we explain a little of why that is, why different rices have varying effects on our BGLs and ways to make rice more diabetes friendly.

You may know that, generally speaking, a quarter of a cup of cooked rice is one carb serve. CalorieKing shows half a cup of boiled rice = 28.8g carb (or 2 carb serves).

You may also know that, particularly for us with diabetes, we’re better having rice that breaks down more slowly to glucose in our bloodstream, or low-GI rice.  The main types in Australia of low GI rices are long grain rices including Basmati and Doongara.  Even when choosing brown rice for the extra fibre, we’re best to choose brown Basmati or Doongara.

This mini-table gives you a feel for the glycemic indexes of various rice products.

Source: Low GI Diet Shoppers Guide 2014

Rice type Glycemic Index Glycemic Index rating
Aborio/risotto rice, boiled, SunRice 69 Medium
Basmati white rice, boiled, SunRice 59 Medium
Basmati white rice, SunRice, microwave pouch 52 Low
Calrose rice, brown, medium-grain, boiled 76 High
Calrose rice, white, medium-grain, boiled 87 High
Japanese style sushi rice, SunRice 89 High
Jasmine fragrant rice, SunRice 73 High
Long-grain rice, white, boiled 15 mins, Mahatma 50 Low
Low-GI Long-Grain rice, Brown, SunRice 54 Low

This is only a snapshot, but it indicates that there’s quite a difference in how quickly the different rice types break down to glucose in our bloodstream. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the longer you cook any rice the higher it’s GI rating will become, so try to keep it tender, not mushy.

What makes these rices different in GI is the type of starches they contain combined with the shape of the grains. The two main starches found in rice varieties are amylose and amylopectin. Wikipedia explains that high-amylose varieties of rice, the less sticky long-grain rice, have a much lower glycemic load. It’s to do with the chemical structure of the starches.

Nutritionally rice is mostly starch (80-90%) and doesn’t add a whole lot of nutrients to our meals other than carbohydrate. By keeping your portion sizes reasonable, consuming protein foods and vegetables with your rice meal will add nutrients and lower the overall GI of the meal.

And dishes that you’ve previously always used rice in can be nutritionally enhanced by swapping in other forms of more nutritious grains such as barley, quinoa and cracked wheat. Why not do an experiment and try some swaps out for yourself? One of my dietitian colleagues makes her sushi with quinoa, and barley risotto is amazing! Here’s a recipe from for it.

One trick with rice is to combine it with other grains for added fibre and nutrients and to further lower the glycemic index and improve that nutritional profile.

Fortunately more and more options are available to us.

The Australian company, SunRice, has a great range of ‘Health & Wellbeing’ rices and rice blends that you may like to consider trying.

And Coles also has recently launched some similar products that are all high in fibre and have a low glycemic index too. The varieties available are:

  • Brown Rice and Quinoa
  • Brown Rice and Chia seeds
  • 7 Ancient Grains – a combination of brown rice, green lentils, millet, quinoa, sorghum, amaranth and chia seeds (the highest fibre variety).


These microwaveable packs usually contain 2 serves per pack. You should check the Total Carb per Serve column to check how many carb serves a ‘serve’ contains. It’s usually about two. They’re very convenient quality carb options to keep in your pantry.

Resistant starch

Just a reminder while we’re on the subject of starches, that cooked and cooled starches develop a crystalline structure which makes them resistant to digestion (hence their name) which lowers their glycemic index. So adding cooked and cooled rice to your salads is a great way of adding a serve or two of low-GI carbs to your meal to help manage your blood glucose levels and provide the many benefits associated with including low-GI carbs in each meal. The theory of resistant starch goes that if the starch resists digestion it will end up in the large bowel to feed the good bacteria which in turn improve our immunity and overall wellbeing. You can read more in the blog on fibre if you’re interested.

So I hope you learned how to make rice work better for you. Please let us know if you have any questions. Sally 🙂

Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too. 


  1. Heidi solanki on May 10, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    I often make a basmati white dish for company. I will boil it until almost done, take it off the stove . …drain the rice and then let it steam in its pot. I put it in the fridge and then microwave reheat it the next day. Does this mean its crystalline structure remains or is it altered during reheating.

    • Helen-Edwards on May 14, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      Hi Heide – sorry I missed this. I am no expert in this sorry! You would need to chat with a nutrionist 🙂