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- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar
- Harvard Health Publications: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
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All carbohydrate foods have some sort of effect on your blood sugar -- some more than others. Both white and brown rice flour will raise your blood sugar, but white rice is likely to have a larger effect because it has been refined and is lower in fiber 4. If you're managing diabetes or trying to stabilize your blood sugar for all-day energy, it's helpful to know exactly how rice flour will affect it.
Carbs and Blood Sugar
Of all three macronutrients -- protein, fat and carbohydrates -- carbs are the one with the biggest effect on blood sugar 2. Carbs come from foods like bread, pasta, rice, beans, milk and fruits and vegetables. After you eat carbs, your body breaks them down in to sugars, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream and supply your body with energy. Simple carbohydrates in foods like cake, candy and cookies, as well as fruit, milk and refined grains, are broken down quickly and have a more immediate effect on blood sugar; complex carbs from whole grains and vegetables are digested more slowly and have a more mild impact on blood sugar 2.
Brown Rice vs. White Rice
Whole grains have a lesser effect on blood sugar than refined grains because they have more fiber and are digested more slowly. Brown rice is a whole grain, while white rice is not. During processing, the bran and germ -- and most of the fiber -- are removed from white rice, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Brown rice, on the other hand, retains all parts of the grain and is a good source of fiber. This difference is key to understanding the different effects of white and brown rice flour on blood sugar 4.
Rice and the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index is a measurement of how a particular carbohydrate food affects blood sugar. The higher the rating, the more the food spikes your blood sugar. On a scale of one to 100, foods with a glycemic index below 55 are considered low glycemic; foods with a glycemic index of 56 to 69 are medium glycemic, and those with a rating of 70 to 100 are high glycemic. Brown rice has a glycemic index of 50, while white rice has a much higher glycemic index of 89.
Using Rice Flour
If you follow a gluten-free diet, rice flour is a handy alternative to wheat flour. Choose brown rice flour whenever possible to minimize blood sugar fluctuations, which can lead to low energy and moodiness 4. You can use brown rice flour as a substitute for wheat flour in baked goods and pasta, as a thickener for sauces and as a coating for fish and chicken 4.
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