White rice. Brown rice. Long-grain rice. Medium-grain rice. Short-grain rice. Basmati rice. Sweet rice. Geez… with so many rice options, how are you expected to pick the best one or the one with the lowest glycemic index? Well, that’s what I’m here for.
Allow me to help you quickly and easily make sense of the different rice varieties.
Four Basic Types of Rice
Let’s begin to make sense of rice by looking at the four basic types:
- Long-grain Rice
- Medium-grain Rice
- Short-grain Rice
- Sweet Rice (a.k.a. sticky rice or waxy rice)
Long-grain rice is called that simply because it is longer and more slender than the rather round, short-grain rice. Of course medium-grain rice lies somewhere between the long and short versions.
The important thing for you to note is that, all other things being equal, long-grain rice tends to have a lower glycemic index than the other varieties. Sweet or sticky rice, on the other hand (the type most often used in Asian restaurants), has the highest glycemic index of the four basic types of rice.
Brown Rice vs White Rice
Brown rice is less processed than its white counterpart. Therefore it retains more of the brand and germ of the grain which gives it slightly more fiber, more nutrition value, and causes brown rice to have a lower glycemic index than white rice. So as a general rule, if all other things are equal, choose brown over white rice.
Glycemic Index of Various Rice Varieties
Dozens of studies have been done which measured the glycemic index of various types of rice. However, the data can be a bit confusing because of the wide variation in results. Some of this has to do with the fact that the exact glycemic response of any given food can, and does, vary a bit from person to person.
That’s why it’s important not to split hairs over the “reported” glycemic index of the different rice varieties. Instead, just be familiar with the overall trends in glycemic response among the different types of rice.
To illustrate, here are a few types of rice and their glycemic index.
- Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice………44
- Basmati Rice………………………58
- Brown Rice………………………..55
- White Rice (long grain)…………..56
- White Rice (short grain)………….72
What’s Up with Basmati Rice?!
You may have noticed in the above chart that there is a type of rice that I haven’t mentioned, and it happens to have a fairly low glycemic index. That’s right, basmati rice does tend to have a lower glycemic index because of its higher amylose content. (Note: amylose is a type of carbohydrate that is more resistant to digestion, thus giving it a lower glycemic index.)
For the record, basmati is actually a long grain rice.
The Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice Mystery
As for the Uncle Ben’s converted rice in the above chart, it does have the lowest glycemic index of all rice… for some mysterious reason. Some people suspect that they use a secret process which gives the rice a lower glycemic index. Who knows? However, until I know more about this mystery process, I prefer to opt for something more natural or less ‘fake’ like basmati rice.
As I mentioned earlier, do not concern yourself with splitting hairs between a glycemic index of 55 and 56. There is essentially no difference. In fact, there is really not going to be a significant physiological difference between brown rice which has a glycemic index of 55 and basmati rice which has a glycemic index of 58.
Besides, other studies have reported variations in these numbers, so it’s not like these glycemic indices are set in stone. You should just use them as guidelines.
Here are some important notes to keep in mind about rice:
- Basmati Rice is a great, low-glycemic option.
- Brown Rice is better than White Rice
- Long-grain Rice is better than Short-grain Rice
In case you’re thinking, “But what type of rice do you eat, Dr. Clay?” I personally consume white basmati rice. Sure, one could argue that regular brown rice might be slightly better (and it does have slightly more fiber), but I REALLY enjoy the taste of white basmati rice over brown rice, and the glycemic index is practically the same.
However, when my huge 10 pound bag of white basmati rice runs out, I’m going to be a wild man (I’m just crazy like that) and try BROWN basmati rice, which can be rather hard to find for some reason. Although there doesn’t seem to be any data on the exact glycemic index of brown basmati rice, it’s safe to say that it is at least slightly lower than the white version.
I hope this article helps to shed some light on the different varieties of rice and which ones are healthier and better options for your physique.
Yours in health,