Rice isn’t quite the diet-derailer it’s popularly believed to be, especially when had with legumes such as kala chana (Bengal gram) or rajma (red kidney beans), shows a comparison of south Asian food staples on the glycaemic index (GI).
GI is drawn up by comparing the digestion rate of food items to that of glucose, which is 100 on the index.
High GI foods (over 70 on the index), such as sugar and refined foods, get rapidly converted into glucose and push blood sugar up, making one feel hungry quickly and increasing the risk of diabetes.Foods below 55 on GI (whole grains, nuts, legumes) break down slowly and keep hunger away. Most non-starchy vegetables and fruits, too, score low on the index. So do foods with fat content, such as peanuts, as fats slow down digestion.
“Diabetics and people trying to lose weight tend to replace rice with bread or chapattis. A mistake because most readymade flour is highly refined. ‘Brown’ bread is caramelised,” said Dr Sashank Joshi, endocrinologist at Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital.
The glycaemic ranking of rice varies according to its variety.
"Short-grain rice has high amylopectin, a complex starch component that slows down digestion and absorption. Varieties like basmati and
long-grain brown rice are high in amylase - an enzyme that helps in starch digestion - and are low to medium in GI," said Priyanka Rohatgi, nutritionist, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore.
Brown rice is 50 on GI, basmati 57 and medium grain white rice 69. Potatoes too, if boiled and not baked or fried, do well on the glycaemic scale.
Joshi said people can make healthy eating choices if GI is included in food labels wherever possible.