July 13, 2012
Healthy choice ... Basmati rice has a medium GI rating. Photo: Marina Oliphant
It's been shunned by those on low-carbohydrate diets but rice could experience a healthy resurgence after a study found that most varieties have a low to medium GI rating.
Researchers from the CSIRO and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) also identified the gene responsible for rice GI which would allow growers to develop varieties with lower levels to meet consumer demand.
GI, or glycaemic index, measures the ability of carbohydrates to raise blood sugar levels after eating.
Foods with a high GI are more easily absorbed by the body which can result in blood sugar fluctuations leading to an increased chance of conditions like diabetes.
Low GI foods are absorbed at a slower rate, causing a gradual release of sugar into the blood.
An analysis of more than 200 rice types from around the world by the CSIRO and the IRRI found that rice GI ranges from 48 to 92, with an average of 64.
Low GI foods are those 55 and less, medium GI are measured between 56 and 69 and high GI is 70 and above.
Melissa Fitzgerald from the IRRI said the widely grown Indian rice variety Swarna had a low GI while Australian varieties like Doongara and Basmati had a medium GI.
Dr Tony Bird, a CSIRO Food Futures Flagship researcher, said the results would allow people to make more informed choices about what type of rice to eat.
People aiming for a low-GI diet could swap high GI rice for lower GI rice, Bird said.
It would also enable growers to develop low-GI rice varieties and could assist people with conditions like diabetes, he said.
"This is good news for diabetics and people at risk of diabetes who are trying to control their condition through diet, as it means they can select the right rice to help maintain a healthy, low-GI diet," he said.