One simple step in the right direction

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health surveyed over 200,000 people’s dietary habits, say simply replacing white rice with brown rice could cut the risk of diabetes by one-third. The people who ate white rice most of the time had a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

More than 70 per cent of rice eaten in Western developed countries is white. The refining process removes the outer bran and germ portions from the brown rice to leave a white starchy endosperm, or the inside of the seed. The fibre in the outer bran of brown rice is healthier because it releases sugar more gradually. It also contains vital B vitamins needed for the proper metabolism of starchy foods.

Dr Gary Deed from Diabetes Australia says the study confirms what has long been suspected. “Brown rice has a very different composition to white rice, having up to almost 350 times a percentage of fibre compared to white rice. Brown rice also has higher rates of minerals and vitamins compared to milled white rice.

Brown rice has a lower glycaemic index of 55, compared to white rice of around 70, meaning it doesn’t raise the blood sugar as high as the white rice.

Of course, you can’t blame white rice alone for causing diabetes, but white rice is one in a list of refined grains that are habitually eaten. Refined grains that include white bread, white flour used in baking and white pasta, have very little nutrition compared to the wholemeal versions.

Brown rice change improves the amount of nutrition, fibre, and flavour, in a meal. It does take longer to cook than white rice – but not that much longer. There is no extra labour involved – it just needs to be cooked about 20 minutes earlier than you would white rice.

A compromise to eating brown rice alone, is to add some white rice to the brown rice you’re cooking, part of the way through. This may help to gradually change the habit of choosing white rice. Buy brown rice next time, and leave white rice just for special occasions.