This article will explain how to count carbohydrates, how to incorporate rice into the diet, and what the healthy alternatives to rice are.
Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases where the body does not adequately produce insulin, use insulin properly, or both. Insulin plays a crucial role in allowing blood sugar to enter the cells and be used for energy. There are two main types: type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Staying healthy by exercising and eating well is recommended for people with diabetes.
People with diabetes have abnormally high levels of blood sugar. This can damage many organs in the body if left untreated. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommend the following steps to manage diabetes:
- making healthy choices in eating
- engaging in regular physical activity or exercise
- taking medications, if required
A nutritious diet is important in keeping blood sugar levels at a healthy level. The healthy range is 80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter mg/dL before meals or below 180 mg/dL after meals, according to the American Diabetes Association.
People with type 1 diabetes require insulin. Various insulin delivery systems and protocols are used to manage blood sugar levels both between and at meal times.
People with type 2 diabetes often manage their condition with diet and exercise, and with medications as needed to keep their blood sugar levels within the target range. These medications vary in how they work.
People with diabetes will have different treatment plans, and they will respond to food, exercise, and medication differently.
It is important that people consult with a doctor to get personalized recommendations on target blood sugar levels, medications, diet, and exercise.
Carbohydrates and diabetes
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for the body. They are found in foods that contain starches and natural or added sugars. Examples are grains, vegetables and legumes, fruit, dairy products, and sweets.
Carbohydrates are broken down by the digestive system into sugar. When the digested sugar enters the blood, the body produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps the sugar enter cells. Once the cells absorb the sugar, blood sugar levels fall.
People with diabetes have an impaired ability to produce insulin, use insulin, or both.
People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, so they take insulin to make sure the cells can get the sugar they need for energy.
People with type 2 diabetes are often insulin resistant. They also often have difficulty producing enough insulin to keep their blood sugar in the normal range.
Carbohydrate counting allows a person with diabetes to keep track of the amount of carbohydrates they eat throughout the day.
Bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes are all sources of carbohydrates.
The American Diabetes Association suggest a target of about 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal. This recommendation may vary depending on other factors such as a person's gender, weight goals, and blood sugar target goals.
The three different types of carbohydrates are starch, sugar, and fiber.
Starches are complex carbohydrates that are found in starchy vegetables such as peas, potatoes, and corn. Beans and whole grains are also complex carbohydrates.
Fiber comes from plants and cannot be digested. Fiber is found in foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
Unlike other carbohydrates, fiber does not raise blood sugar levels, and it can help to slow the digestion of meals. Eating fiber helps to minimize spikes in blood sugar and it is recommended that people with diabetes eat between 20-35 grams of fiber per day.
Sugar is a carbohydrate that is generally absorbed into the body more quickly. Natural sugars can be found in milk and fruit. There may also be added sugars in canned fruits, baked goods, and processed foods.
There are also carbohydrates in non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce, peppers, cucumber, mushrooms, and many others. These vegetables contain fewer carbohydrates because they have a high water content. For example, a half cup of cucumber has around 2 grams of carbohydrate.
The type and amount of carbohydrate will affect post-meal blood sugar levels.
Eating mixed meals that contain a lot of fiber will help food digest more slowly and can help to prevent post-meal spikes in blood sugar. However, eating large amounts of carbohydrates eaten in one sitting will raise blood sugar more than smaller amounts.
Is eating rice healthy with diabetes?
High-carbohydrate foods, such as grains, cereals, pasta, rice, and starchy vegetables are not forbidden, but they should be eaten in moderation.
Rice is a grain that is high in carbohydrates, but it can be incorporated into meals in appropriate amounts.
One-third of a cup of rice has 15 grams of carbohydrate. That accounts for one-fourth to one-third of the amount of carbohydrate recommended for a single meal, if the target is 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal.
Meals that also include healthy proteins and fats can help to slow the impact of the rice on blood sugar levels.
Are some types of rice healthier than others?
Some grains are better than others for managing diabetes.
A scale called the glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly food is digested into sugar and absorbed in the blood. High glycemic foods raise blood sugar faster and should be eaten in limited portions, or eaten with lower GI foods.
White rice is more processed and it has a higher GI than brown rice, although the index of brown rice can vary with type and brand.
Different varieties of rice have different glycemic indexes. Some long grain rice varieties, converted rice, and basmati rice varieties are lower on the GI scale than white rice.
Puffed rice cereal and rice cakes are sometimes thought of as diet foods, but they have a high GI and they are not ideal for healthy meals.
Foods that are high in fiber offer many health benefits. They help with blood sugar control, they promote bowel health, and they may lower cholesterol.
Whole grains have more fiber than other grains. It is important to check the label to check the fiber content.
Tips for preparing rice
Some brown rice varieties are unprocessed and have more fiber. They can be part of a balanced meal when eaten in proper portions. Mixing brown rice with other foods can help to balance blood sugar levels. Examples include legumes, such as red beans, or protein and healthy fats.
Brown rice may have a lower glycemic index than white rice.
Brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice, but the cooking process is simple. People can cook brown rice in a pot or rice cooker at a ratio of 1.5 cups of water per 1 cup of rice.
The instructions are as follows:
- bring rice and water to a boil in an uncovered pot
- cover the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes
- turn off heat and let the covered pot sit for at least 10 minutes.
Rice can be mixed with seasonings, herbs, vegetables, and nuts such as slivered almonds.
Brown rice can be stored in a refrigerator and used for leftovers. People can reheat brown rice on the stove or microwave and serve with beans and salsa for a quick meal.
Because rice is high in carbohydrates, it should be accompanied by other foods.
Vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. Vegetables are made of carbohydrates, but at a much lower level than grains.
Eating foods that are lower in carbohydrates and higher in fiber can make meals more satisfying. For example, a half cup of rice has 22 grams of carbohydrate. In contrast, 1 cup of squash only contains 8 grams of carbohydrate.
Many foods can serve as substitutes for rice.
Examples include cauliflower, mushrooms, and eggplant. Quinoa contains the same amount of carbohydrates as rice, but it has more protein, and some types of quinoa also have more fiber.
Recipes for rice substitutes
A number of recipes are available for rice substitutes. Here are two examples:
Pulse the florets of a cauliflower in the food processor. Then heat the cauliflower in a pan with oil and onions. Sauté until the onions are golden brown and the cauliflower is soft for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and herbs.
Full recipe from the Food Network.
Cilantro lime quinoa
- canola oil
- low-sodium chicken broth
- juice of limes
- fresh cilantro
Sauté the onion and garlic with oil in a skillet. Reduce the heat and stir in the quinoa. Stir quinoa and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and lime juice and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in more lime juice and add chopped cilantro.
Full recipe from the American Diabetes Association.