Harvard Medical School says white rice has ‘same effect as eating pure table sugar’

New information from Harvard Medical School has likened the health detriments of a serving of white rice to white sugar, but how true is this? A dietitian weighs in…

Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population, which includes 640 million undernourished people living in Asia.

It’s easily accessible and cheap, transports easily and has a longer shelf life compared to brown rice. But despite its convenience, research has proven it’s impacting our health negatively, too.

According to Harvard Medical School, a single serving of white rice provides a quick blood sugar spike, which “has almost the same effect as eating pure table sugar.” This is because it has a high glycemic index (GI), which result in a quick spike in insulin and blood sugar.

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The research places white rice in the same GI category as corn, couscous, sugary breakfast cereals, and white and sweet potatoes.

While this news may send off alarm bells, dietitian Melissa Meier wants you to take it with a tiny grain of salt.

“I would not equate white rice to table sugar by any stretch of the imagination,” Meier tells Body+Soul.

She explains that the food staple isn’t inherently bad for you even though it is less healthy when compared to other carb-based grains such as brown rice.

“It’s true that white rice is more refined than brown, and unless it’s long grain it can have a high glycaemic index, but white rice still offers some nutrition and can easily be a part of a well-balanced, healthy meal.”

It also doesn’t mean you should cut rice out of your diet entirely – even if you eat it daily.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with rice being a staple in your diet. Choosing long-grain rice is a good idea, and if it’s wholegrain, that’s even better.”

In fact, she even admits to eating white rice “all the time”.

But of course, variety is key and Meier encourages you to “choose a wholegrain variety of rice most of the time and have white rice only every now and then.”

Her healthier swaps? “Brown basmati rice is a super nutritious choice and what I recommend as a pantry staple. Any other type of wholegrain (think: soba noodles, buckwheat, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal couscous, quinoa, corn) is a good substitute for rice to get a little more variety into your diet.”