Dr Alan Barclay
Rice - enjoy it, but don't overdo it and opt for lower GI varieties
The Chinese were the first to cultivate rice more than 8000 years ago, and over the millenia, it has spread all around the world. It is such a success story as a crop that today it is considered to be the staple food for over half the world’s population and is the second most cultivated cereal crop in the world. Perhaps fittingly, rice is one of our main symbols of life and fertility: the tradition of throwing rice at weddings (now more commonly symbolised by confetti) stems from this belief. In many parts of the world, people eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner (in fact it can be around 20% or more of their daily calories), so perhaps unsurprisingly, in a number of languages the word for rice is the same as the word for food: “have you had rice?” in some cultures literally means “have you eaten?”
What about nutrition? Rice is a carbohydrate-rich food and is also a moderate source of protein (not complete, so it needs to be complemented with other sources like beans and lentils, dairy or meat). Brown rice in addition is a good source of fibre, B group vitamins (niacin and thiamin) and a source of minerals like magnesium, zinc and iron. To produce white rice, the bran layer is removed by milling, and this unfortunately reduces the amounts of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Believe it or not, white rice does not contain sufficient thiamine to enable the body to use the carbohydrate as a source of energy, leading to the development of beriberi if the diet doesn’t contain alternative sources. All rice is gluten free, and the current popularity of gluten free diets may be increasing sales of rice – at least in Australia where sales are up by nearly 4% over the past year.
What about your BGLs? While there are very good reasons to consume brown rice rather than white, managing your blood glucose isn’t necessarily one of them. This is because it is the kind of starch in rice that is the main factor that affects the GI – not the size or colour of the grain – and the starch is found in the endosperm, not the bran. So polishing a grain of rice will not necessarily make it high GI; and brown rice is not necessarily low GI. What we now know is that the low or lower GI rices have a high proportion of amylose – a kind of starch that resists gelatinisation.
Over the years, many varieties of rice have been GI tested and low or lower GI varieties are being identified and becoming increasingly available. One such variety is Doongara, a high amylose long grain rice developed and grown in Australia.
How much? Remember to keep portions moderate, because even when you choose a low GI rice, eating too much can have a marked effect on your blood glucose. Remember, 1 cup of cooked rice is equivalent to around 45g carbs or 3 exchanges.
- SunRice Low GI White (formerly Doongara Clever) rice (GI53) is a versatile rice suitable for many dishes. Because it is hard to overcook, as it is a more forgiving grain, allowing you to overcook the rice for up to 5 minutes beyond the ideal cook time of 12 minutes, resulting in fluffy rice every time. However, we suggest you stick to the cooking times recommended!
- SunRice Low GI Brown rice (GI54) is a specially developed Doongara long grain rice with a delicious nutty flavour and a chewy texture. It can be used across a wide range of dishes including salads, stir fries, casseroles, curries or as a side dish.
Cauliflower and chickpea curry
2 tsp vegetable oil •1 onion, finely chopped • 2 tbs rogan josh curry paste or other medium-hot curry paste • 400g/14oz canned chopped tomatoes • 1½ cups vegetable stock • 1 cauliflower medium size, cut into florets • 400g/14oz can chickpeas, rinsed, drained • ½ bunch coriander, chopped • ½ cup natural yoghurt
To serve: 2 cups cooked SunRice Low GI Brown Rice
In a saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook gently until soft (about 5 minutes). Add curry paste, stir while cooking for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and stock then simmer for 5 minutes. Add cauliflower and chickpeas and simmer until cauliflower is just cooked. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix the yoghurt and coriander. Place in a large bowl and spoon the yoghurt mixture on top. Serve with rice. Serves 4
The GI Symbol, making healthy low GI choices easy choices
For more information about the GI Symbol Program
Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037