Many people are still confused about whether or not white rice is good for you. For one, we are often told that the Asian way of eating is a healthy one, and we know they eat a lot of white rice. Also, we know grains are important for health and rice is very clearly a grain. The nitty-gritty can be found in the difference between a refined grain and a whole grain. White rice is a grain that has been refined—which means the nutrient-dense parts of it have been stripped away, leaving only the sticky, starchy center. This center, or endosperm, is essentially the nutritional equivalent of table sugar, and it has a similarly high impact on blood glucose.
The obvious better choice is brown rice, which is a whole grain rich in beneficial phytochemicals and fiber. A diet rich in whole grains is linked to decreased insulin resistance and increased insulin sensitivity, as well as an overall decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
However, brown rice isn’t the only choice. When brown rice doesn’t fit your needs––or if you just aren’t a fan of its texture and flavor––other great whole-grain options abound. Try barley, buckwheat (kasha), bulgur, or quinoa. Each of these grains has a slightly different texture and flavor, but all can be substituted for rice. They can be cooked on the stovetop in boiling water (or better yet, use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth). Read package directions for amounts and time. Always test in the last five to ten minutes to make sure the grains don’t become mushy. And be sure to keep portion sizes modest—one-half cup or less per meal.