Is Brown Rice Safe if You Have Diabetes?

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 7/13/2022

Brown rice nutrition facts

Brown rice is widely considered a healthy food since it's less processed and also preserves the germ and bran layers that are considered to be rich in nutrients. If you have diabetes, brown rice consumed in moderation could be a safer option than white rice.
Brown rice is widely considered a healthy food since it’s less processed and also preserves the germ and bran layers that are considered to be rich in nutrients. If you have diabetes, brown rice consumed in moderation could be a safer option than white rice.

While rice is usually high in carbohydrates, brown rice is considered a whole grain and is a better option for people who have diabetes.

Whole grains such as brown rice contain complex carbohydrates that the body takes longer to break down. This prevents a sudden spike in blood sugar levels due to the gradual breakdown of carbohydrates.

That said, it’s still critical to understand the carbohydrate content of the rice that you choose. Read on to know whether it’s safe to eat brown rice if you have diabetes.

Brown rice is widely considered a healthy food since it’s less processed and also preserves the germ and bran layers that are considered to be rich in nutrients. On the other hand, white rice only contains the endosperm (the innermost layer that remains after the outer layers have been peeled) that is rich in starch.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recommends that you should get at least half of your daily grains from whole grains.

One of the most widely available types of brown rice is long-grain rice. Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 100 grams of this type of brown rice contains the following nutrients.

Calories: 123

Fat: 0.97 grams

Carbs: 25.6 grams

Fiber: 1.6 grams

Protein: 2.7 grams

Calcium: 3 milligrams

Iron: 0.56 milligrams

Magnesium: 39 milligrams

Phosphorus: 103 milligrams

Potassium: 86 milligrams

Zinc: 0.71 milligrams

Copper: 0.106 milligrams

Manganese: 0.974 milligrams

Thiamin (Vitamin B1): 0.178 milligrams

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 0.069 milligrams

Niacin (Vitamin B3): 2.56 milligrams

Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5): 0.38 milligrams

Choline: 9.2 milligrams

Selenium: 5.8 micrograms

Benefits of brown rice for people with diabetes

Replacing white rice with brown rice in your diet is a healthy choice due to the nutrients that it contains.

The high fiber content of brown rice considerably lowers the blood sugar level after you’ve had a meal. This is especially helpful for people with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

A study carried out on 16 adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes showed that eating two servings of brown rice for eight weeks led to a considerable reduction in post-meal blood sugar levels and hemoglobin.

Another study that involved 28 adults with type 2 diabetes showed that eating brown rice ten times a week resulted in noticeable improvements in blood sugar levels and endothelial function, which is an important indicator of heart health.

A sustained regulation of blood sugar levels also helps prevent diabetes as well and slow down the advancement of diabetes in people who have already been diagnosed with this condition.

A separate study involving 40 women who were overweight or obese found that eating around 150 grams of brown rice every day led to a considerable loss in weight, circumference, and body mass index (BMI).

This is critical because of the outcome of another independent study carried out on 867 adults with type 2 diabetes. This study found that those who lost at least 10% of their weight within five years of diagnosis were twice as likely to experience remission (decrease or disappearance of symptoms).

Eating brown rice is also known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. A study involving more than 197,000 adults found that having just two servings of brown rice in a week considerably lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, replacing just 50 grams of white rice with brown rice reduced the chances of getting type 2 diabetes by 16%.

How to cook brown rice

Brown rice is typically found in three forms:

  • Short-grain rice is round and has a higher starch content. This variety of rice tends to stick together after it’s cooked.
  • Long-grain rice is the longest variety of brown rice and has low starch content. The grains are easily separable after they’ve been cooked.
  • The third variety of brown rice is medium-grain rice. Its size is between the long and short-grain varieties.

Brown rice typically takes longer to cook than white rice, roughly 45 minutes. You can prepare a larger quantity of rice to serve with more than one meal, though, as it can be stored easily.

The easiest way to cook rice is using a rice cooker, which consists of an inner pan that is placed on a heating element. You need to add specific proportions of rice and water into the rice cooker, after which point it’s covered for a specific duration as the rice is cooked. Check the manual that comes along with the cooker to know how long it takes to cook rice.

Many rice cookers come with handy features such as a glass lid through which you can view the status of the cooked rice and an indicator that displays a green light once the rice is cooked. You can then turn off the rice cooker and check whether you wish to cook the rice further or if it’s soft enough to be eaten.

Once the rice is cooked, it can be included in several dishes such as salads and stews. Brown rice can also be used to make healthy puddings, along with palatable toppings like apples, pears, apricots, peaches, or cherries.

It can also be fried along with other vegetables such as carrots, peas, corn, onion, and garlic to prepare vegetable fried rice that could become a meal in itself.

The bottom line

If you have diabetes, brown rice consumed in moderation could be a safer option than white rice. Although brown rice does contain carbohydrates, other important nutrients such as antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins may support the regulation of blood sugar levels.

Still, you should be aware of how much rice you include in your diet. Check with your doctor if you intend to eat rice to know how much is a safe quantity.


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Medically Reviewed on 7/13/2022

Current Medical Research and Opinion: "Progress in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: new pharmacologic approaches to improve glycemic control."

Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics: "Effect of Brown Rice, White Rice, and Brown Rice with Legumes on Blood Glucose and Insulin Responses in Overweight Asian Indians: A Randomized Controlled Trial."

Diabetic Medicine: "Behaviour change, weight loss and remission of Type 2 diabetes: a community-based prospective cohort study."

International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: "Blood glucose lowering effects of brown rice in normal and diabetic subjects."

International Journal of Preventive Medicine: "Effect of Brown Rice Consumption on Inflammatory Marker and Cardiovascular Risk Factors among Overweight and Obese Non-menopausal Female Adults."

JAMA Internal Medicine: "White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity."

Nutrition & Diabetes: "Eating glutinous brown rice twice a day for 8 weeks improves glycemic control in Japanese patients with diabetes mellitus."

Obesity Research and Clinical Practice: "Natural food science based novel approach toward prevention and treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes: recent studies on brown rice and ?-oryzanol."

Public Library of Science One: "Fiber-rich diet with brown rice improves endothelial function in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A randomized controlled trial."

University of Minnesota: "Creamy brown rice pudding," "Vegetable fried rice."

University of Nebraska-Lincoln: "Now, You're Cooking with Brown Rice!"

U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked."