Is Brown Rice Good for Diabetics? Types and Other Benefits


Medical reviewed by Lauren Ann Teeter, CNS, LCSW

Functional & Integrative Approach To Mental Health, Functional Nutrition, Functional & Integrative Medicine, Psychotherapy, Mental Health

Are you seeking a healthier alternative to white rice? Well, let’s talk about brown rice. Brown rice is a powerhouse of nutrition that can benefit everyone. The germ and bran layers usually ripped off in the white rice make brown rice a healthy choice. It is also enriched with minerals like potassium, manganese, niacin, and phosphorus. 

These minerals boost the immune system. You might be wondering if brown rice is beneficial for diabetic individuals. Is brown rice good for diabetics? What is the glycemic index of brown rice? Does scientific research back the benefits of brown rice? 

This article will take a transparent look into all these questions and address benefits, side effects, and research backing to help users make informed decisions about consuming brown rice for those with diabetes.

Nutritional profile of brown rice 

Based on our diligent research and rigorous study of various authentic sources, including a report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1). We have presented the nutritional breakdown of one cup of cooked brown rice as follows:

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Brown rice also contains antioxidants that nullify free radicals, thus inhibiting damage (2). Brown rice can even help in managing diabetic problems. A study published in the Antioxidants Journal found that brown rice contains phytochemicals and other components like phenolic acids, γ-oryzanol, and flavonoids. These compounds impact the functioning of genes associated with inflammation, the metabolism of lipids, and the defense mechanisms of antioxidants, which are crucial pathways in type 2 diabetes (3). 

Why is Glycemic Index Important?

Understanding the glycemic index goes beyond identifying the food on your plate and recognizing the potential impact on the plate. The glycemic index determines the levels of food absorption in your body at low, fast, or moderate rates. It analyzes how much blood sugar levels increase after the intake of high-carb meals in those with diabetes (4). Different foods that contain carbohydrates can elevate your blood sugar levels at varying speeds. 

Brown rice Glycemic Index

The glycemic index of brown rice is 50, which is in the low range. This is beneficial for treating diabetes, leading to lower postprandial glucose response (5). On the other hand, glycemic load is a number that identifies the level of blood sugar raised by carb-containing food. The brown rice glycemic load for one cup of cooked brown rice is approximately 36.5. But how will you determine the glycemic load?

It is high if the glycemic load (GL) is 20 or above. A GL between 11 and 19 is intermediate, and if it is less than 10, it will be low (6). 

GI x the amount of carbohydrates (in grams) in a serving of food) ÷ 100.

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Does brown rice spike blood sugar levels?

Brown rice has a low chance of spiking blood sugar levels compared to white rice. Its large amount of fiber reduces glucose absorption, leading to a gradual increase in blood sugar levels. 

According to a study published by Stanford Medicine, one cup of cooked white and brown rice contains 45 grams of carbohydrates. However, brown rice has more fiber (4 grams) compared to white rice (1 gram). This high fiber content slows down the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream (7).

Types of brown rice 

While there are many varieties of brown rice available in the market, we’ll look at quite a few of them:

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Can brown rice help to control type 2 diabetes?

Thanks to its high fiber content, brown rice can be beneficial for diabetic patients. While we have covered the nutritional aspects of brown rice earlier, it is important to be mindful of the specific portion size and analyze how rice impacts blood sugar levels. 

According to a study published in 2011, U.S. adults who consumed the smallest of two servings of brown rice for diabetics per week experienced a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. While the exact mechanism is quite unclear, it may be due to the presence of fiber content (12). 

Another study trial published in Diabetic Medicine related to brown rice for diabetics reported that after five years, 257 out of 867 participants, around 30 percent, reversed their diabetes (13). Regarding the impact of diet quality on type 2 diabetes, a study highlighted the importance of improving diet quality to manage blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes (14). 

General health benefits of brown rice 

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Brown rice is beneficial due to the presence of germ and bran layers. It offers several nutritional benefits, such as:

Weight management

Brown rice contains more fiber than white rice. The high fiber content makes you feel full for prolonged periods, which leads to low-calorie consumption (15). If you are looking to manage weight, switching to brown rice would be a better option. 

Good cardiovascular health

It contains a lot of fiber, which can lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Besides this, it has high amounts of magnesium, which can prevent heart stroke (16). 

Does brown rice spike blood sugar?

Due to the low glycemic index, brown rice doesn’t cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels. It can help to reduce weight. A study published in Peer J Life and Environment combined the data from many randomized controlled trials and concluded that brown rice can help in weight reduction by 2.2 kg as compared to white rice. Yet, this finding derived from a specific trial (17). 

Brown rice can even help regulate blood sugar levels. Another study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that brown rice digests slowly due to its lower glycemic index, leading to lower blood sugar levels (18). 

It can elevate the nutritional value of daily diet. A research study led by Geng Zhang and his colleagues provided exciting insights into the study of Chinese adults who perceived brown rice as inferior to white rice. After tasting the brown rice, they liked the taste. Brown rice can also add nutritional value to the diet of diabetic patients (19). 

The cumulative evidence obtained from such research studies supports the inclusion of brown rice in the diet of diabetics. It has significant nutritional value and associated health benefits that are helpful for people suffering from metabolic disorders like diabetes.

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Which rice is good for diabetic patients?

Some types of rice are better for people suffering from metabolic disorders due to low carbohydrates and high levels of fiber. We have handpicked a few of the best brown rice for diabetes. These include: 

Brown jasmine rice 

This variety of brown rice for diabetics mainly originated from Thailand. Compared to white jasmine rice, a small part of brown jasmine has more fiber and iron. The total serving of brown jasmine rice is 160 calories and includes 35 percent carbohydrates (20). It has a low glycemic index that makes it a good fit for diabetes patients.

How to cook?

  1. Rinse the brown jasmine rice under cold water until the dirt is completely removed.
  2. Transfer the 1 cup of washed rice to the saucepan and add double the amount of water.
  3. Bring it to a boil.
  4. After the rice has come to a boil, cover it with a lid and leave it for 40-45 minutes.
  5. The cooked rice needs to settle for 5 minutes and serve hot.

Brown basmati rice 

Incorporating brown rice into your diet can provide essential vitamins, fibers, omega-3, and minerals (21). This variety of rice also has a low GI, which makes it an ideal choice for diabetic individuals. 

How to cook?

  1. Wash uncooked basmati rice under tap water until it is completely clean.
  2. Add the 1 cup of washed rice to the saucepan with 2 cups of water.
  3. You may even add half a teaspoon of salt for taste.
  4. Allow it to boil for a few minutes.
  5. Cover it with a lid, simmer the heat, and cook for around 20 minutes.
  6. After water absorption, turn off the stove and let it cool for 5 minutes.
  7. The rice is ready to serve. 

Selecting brown rice varieties like jasmine and basmati can benefit diabetic patients. It is important to note that individual dietary needs may vary, and consistent use, along with a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, leads to optimal results. By making informed choices and selecting the best brown rice varieties for your daily meals, you can take positive steps towards better well-being.

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What to consider before buying brown rice?

Some factors are essential before buying brown rice. It includes:

Check expiry date

The brown rice has natural oils that can turn rancid with time (22). Make sure to check the expiry date before you buy brown rice.

Smell once 

If you are buying brown rice in bulk, check the smell of the rice. If it smells bad, don’t buy it from the store.

Read the label

Analyze the label before you buy the rice. Check for the presence of phytic acid or phytate, which slows down iron absorption in the body and causes difficulty in digestion (23).

Choose the right brand 

Brand quality is essential before purchasing brown rice. Different brands may offer brown rice from various places with varying lengths of grains and brown rice sustainability. These factors, along with the method of procession, can change the nutrition, taste, and texture of the rice. While selecting the brand, consider how brown rice is grown and processed.

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How to eat brown rice if you have diabetes?

Checking portion size is a must while eating brown rice for diabetes. If you aim for 30 grams of carbohydrates per meal, then limit your carbohydrates by consuming 100 grams of brown rice. A low-carb diet can lower blood sugar levels in diabetic individuals (24). It should be part of a nutrient-dense, holistic lifestyle. 

Four foods besides brown rice that help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes?

Apart from brown rice, foods like nuts, fish, green, and dairy products can manage Type 2 diabetes. Follow a healthy exercise regime along with such foods to get optimal results. 

Is brown rice good for weight loss?

Brown rice contains a large amount of dietary fiber that keeps you full for a longer time (25). As a result, you eat fewer calories and lose weight.

Is brown rice better than basmati rice for diabetics?

Brown Basmati Rice has more zinc, fiber, B vitamins, and phosphorus compared to white basmati rice (26). It also has a lower glycemic index. 

Does brown rice spike insulin?

Brown rice can spike insulin levels if not taken in the correct portion size for the individual. As per the insights shared by Dr. Devries in the American Medical Association report, “Eating a lot of whole grains, like brown rice, can still cause blood sugar levels to rise” (27).


Brown rice stands out as a nutritious food, especially beneficial for people managing diabetes. Brown rice’s glycemic index is low and high in fiber, which stabilizes blood sugar levels. It also offers a range of benefits, such as weight management and cardiovascular support. 

Choose the right type of brown rice for diabetics, like brown jasmine and basmati rice. When buying brown rice, it is important to check its glycemic load, quality, and nutritional value. Take a moment to check the end dates and give the rice a sniff to ensure freshness. Ensure that you read the labels which can provide insights into the additives and processing methods.

Moreover, understanding the origin of rice can help in making informed decisions about which brand to support. By prioritizing these considerations, you will gain nutritional benefits and ethical and sustainable practices in the food industry.

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Medical reviewed by Lauren Ann Teeter, CNS, LCSW

Functional & Integrative Approach To Mental Health, Functional Nutrition, Functional & Integrative Medicine, Psychotherapy, Mental Health

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