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Can diabetics enjoy eating rice? Resistant starch may help

You should avoid all starchy foods, including rice if you are a diabetic. But what if we tell you that there's a way to enjoy rice without causing your insulin to spike. Know more about the use of resistant starch for diabetics.
A bowl of rice
Jasmine rice is a favourite when it comes to Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Adobe stock
Avanti Deshpande Updated: 17 Oct 2023, 18:28 pm IST
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Consuming carbohydrates in the diet is always a hot topic of debate, especially when we talk about diabetics. The moment you are diagnosed with diabetes, it is recommended to steer clear of rice, potatoes and everything starch. But is it ideal for diabetics to avoid carbs completely? Ideally, around half of our calories should be consumed in the form of carbs. However, there is no persistent evidence recommending the exact amount of consuming these. Typically, the quality, as well as the quantity, is what matters when one, especially a diabetic has to consume carbohydrates. One such type of carbohydrate is resistant starch (RS).

They are a type of starch that are resistant to gastric enzymes and take a long time to get digested and absorbed. They escape digestion in the stomach and small intestine and enter the large intestine, usually the colon, where they are acted by local resident bacteria. Thus, in this respect, they somewhat work similarly to dietary fibre.

starch for diabetes
Know how resistant starch is good for diabetics. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Glucose vs starch

Glucose is basically a single sugar molecule that the body can directly absorb from the intestine. Starch, on the other hand, is massive and is formed by two or more types of sugars bonded together. They must be broken down into simpler molecules in the gastrointestinal tract before absorption. Based on this property, starch usually takes a long time to digest unlike glucose, and aid in delaying the insulin spike and/or postprandial hyperglycemia in diabetic individuals.
Resistant starches are naturally present in some foods and there are some ways that can be followed to cook, store and prepare our foods in such a way that they become starch resistant.

Foods with naturally occurring starch includes:

  • Whole cereals
  • Legumes
  • Millets
  • Raw banana
  • Plantain
  • Root vegetables
  • Fruits

Also Read: Stop noshing on starchy snacks as study says it can lead to heart problems

Resistant starch and its effect on blood glucose levels

Resistant starch is beneficial, but how does it help in controlling glucose levels? Will it make it possible for a diabetic to enjoy eating rice? Isn’t that something that is contraindicated from the day you are diagnosed with diabetes? Let’s find out!

Well, resistant starch, because of its complex structure, delays the gastric emptying time, preventing insulin spikes and postprandial hyperglycemia. Since resistant starch has a low glycemic index, it can be substituted for conventional starches like maize, wheat, rice, potato and tapioca in foods. RS contributes to the total carbohydrate (CHO) in a meal, but not the available CHO thereby causing energy dilution.

RS has also been shown to reduce the glycemic response to a forthcoming meal, a phenomenon known as the “second meal effect” which is of prime importance in managing diabetes.

resistant starch
Resistant starch is good for diabetics. Courtesy: Freepik

June Zhou et al. studied the association between resistant starch and the regulation of Incretins like GIP, and GLP. They are the hormones that regulate the amount of insulin to be secreted by the pancreas and are secreted by the enteroendocrine cells of the GI tract. Research has shown that chronic consumption of RS upregulates the GLP-1 synthesis, which can improve glycemic control and insulin sensitivity in diabetic individuals and helping maintain plasma glucose homeostasis.

Resistant starch has been shown to have probiotic effects as well. As they reach the colon, the local resident bacteria (good gut bacteria) ferment them to liberate SCFA (Short chain fatty acids). These SCFAs are nothing but the food for healthy bacteria which facilitates their growth.

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The research found that the participants with insulin resistance who consumed supplements with 66 gram of resistant starch (type 2) per day for 2 weeks, improved their insulin sensitivity and their ratio of ‘good’ bowel bacteria also increased.

How to increase resistant starch in foods?

There are some ways in which we can increase the amount of resistant starch in the foods. This greatly depends upon how the food is prepared, cooked and whether it is reheated.

One such method is retrogradation, a process of cooking and then cooling down the food which enables the molecules of cooked starch to get recrystallised in an aligned manner. For example, by cooking rice in water, the starch molecules gelatinize. The rice grain swells by absorbing water. After refrigerating it, the water molecules seep out of them and starch molecules rearrange into a crystalline structure and can no longer be broken by the enzymes thus can simply escape the digestion.

Retrogradation thus can be done on various starchy foods such as rice, potato, legumes, cereals and peas by simply cooking followed by cooling.

diabetes diet
Diabetics can enjoy rice without worrying about their blood sugar levels spiking. Image courtesy: Adobe stock


Resistant starch is the type of carbohydrate that escapes digestion in the maximum part of our GI tract. Starchy foods should be retrograded (cooked and then cooled at low temperatures) so as to reduce their digestibility across most of the GI tract. This helps avoid insulin spikes, and postprandial hyperglycemia, improving insulin sensitivity and thereby aiding in the management of diabetes. In this way, a diabetic individual can freely enjoy eating this modified version of rice without any stress. A positive correlation was also seen between the consumption of Resistant Starch and the growth of a healthy gut microbiome in individuals with Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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About the Author

Avanti Deshpande is a nutritionist, author, speaker, and entrepreneur with over 20 years in the field. She has completed her bachelor's in Food science and quality control and master's in food science and nutrition, with additional qualifications as a nutrigenomic counselor and a gut microbiome specialist. Avanti has worked all the verticals of food science and nutrition. As a food technologist, she has worked in the food industry for 10 years followed by a faculty member in various nutrition and food tech colleges. Currently, she has a private practice as a consultant nutritionist and specializes in PCOS, diabetes, and gut health. She also provides a wide range of services in the field of corporate wellness, recipe, menu analysis and product development.She has a very versatile portfolio with clients from varied business verticals such as pharmaceutical, education, catering, gym and fitness, and NGO groups. She is also an author of the recently launched Recipe book ‘Learn the Art to Eat Smart’ and the founder of an e-store where she provides amazing healthy food products. ...Read More

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