Black rice and Glycemic Index : Implications for diabetes management

Dr Angam Raleng / Dr Ng Iboyaima Singh / Dr Ng Joykumar Singh *


Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, primarily due to the body’s inability to produce or utilize insulin effectively. It is a growing global health concern, affecting millions of people. Effective diabetes management often involves dietary choices, and one food that has garnered attention in this regard is black rice.

Black rice, also known as “forbidden rice”, is a type of whole grain rice with a deep purple-black colour. It has been a staple item in various Asian cuisines for centuries and are gaining popularity in other parts of the world due to its potential health benefits.

One of the key aspects of black rice that makes it interesting in the context of diabetes management is its low glycemic index (GI). In this essay, we will delve into the glycemic index, the impact of black rice on blood sugar, and how it can be incorporated into the diets of individual with diabetes.

Black Rice: A Nutrient-Packed Superfood

Black rice has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. It is initially cultivated in Asia, particularly in region like China and India. Black rice is a variety of rice that is typically black or deep purple in color. It is native to Asia and has been a part of traditional Asian diets for centuries.

In Manipur, black rice is known as “Chak-Hao” in the local language, and the two varieties viz., Chak hao “Poireiton” and Chak hao “Amubi” has been traditionally cultivated and consumed by the indigenous communities for generations. Chak-hao, or black rice, is distinct for its deep purple-black color, which is attributed to its high anthocyanin content.

It has a nutty flavor and a slightly chewy texture, making it a unique and flavourful rice variety. Black rice is not only a staple food but also holds cultural and traditional significance in Manipur. It is used in various traditional dishes, desserts, and rituals. One of the popular dishes made with black rice in Manipur is “Chak-hao Kheer,” a rice pudding prepared with milk, sugar, and sometimes cardamom or other flavourings.

Unlike white rice, which is heavily processed and stripped of many of its nutrients, black rice retains its outer bran layer, where much of its nutritional value is concentrated. This gives black rice its distinct color and makes it a rich source of essential nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in black rice due to its potential health benefits and its uniqueness. It has gained popularity beyond Manipur and is now available in some specialty stores and health food markets in different parts of the world.

Understanding Glycemic Index (GI)

The Glycemic Index is a scale that ranks carbohydrates-containing foods based on how they affect blood sugar levels. The glycemic index ranks foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with pure glucose having a GI of 100. Foods with a GI below 55 are considered low, those with a GI between 55 and 70 are considered medium, and those with a GI above 70 are considered high.

Black rice falls into the low-GI category, typically having a GI of around 42-50, making it a favourable choice for individuals with diabetes. Foods with a high Glycemic Index are rapidly digested and cause a sharp increase in blood sugar, while those with low GI are digested more slowly, leading to a gradual rise in blood sugar.

This slow release of energy can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar more effectively and avoid sudden spikes and crashes.

Understanding the GI of foods is vital for individuals with diabetes, can help them make informed dietary choices to manage their blood glucose levels effectively. High-GI foods can lead to spikes in blood sugar, which, over time, can worsen diabetes control and increase the risk of complications.

Glycemic Index of Black Rice

When assessing black rice’s suitability for people with diabetes, its GI is crucial factor to consider. Research indicates that black rice has a low to moderate GI, making it a potential favourable choice for individuals seeking to control their blood sugar levels. The GI of black rice can vary depending on factors such as the rice variety, cooking method, and individual metabolism.

In general, the GI of black rice falls in the range of 42 to 50, which is considerably lower than that of white rice of around 70 or even higher. The lower GI of black rice can be attributed to its composition.

It contains a higher proportion of amylose, a type of starch that takes longer to digest and leads to a slower, more stable increase in blood sugar. Additionally, black rice is rich in fiber, which further contributes to its slower digestion and adsorption.

Benefits of Black Rice for Diabetes Management

The relationship between Black rice and diabetes is of particular interest to individual looking for alternatives to high-GI foods. Here are some ways in which black rice can be beneficial for those with diabetes:

1. Steady Blood Sugar Control: Black rice’s low glycemic index means it has a milder impact on blood sugar levels compared to high-GI foods. Consuming black rice as part of a balanced meal can help individuals with diabetes maintain stable blood glucose levels.
2. High Fiber Content: Black rice is a good source of dietary fiber, including both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber helps slow down the absorption of sugars in the bloodstream and can aid in managing blood sugar levels. It also promotes a feeling of fullness, which can assist in weight management, a crucial aspect of diabetes care.

3. Rich in Antioxidant Properties: Black rice contains anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants responsible for its dark color. These antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are often associated with diabetes and its complications.

4. Nutrient Density: In addition to being low in GI, black rice is a nutrient-dense food, providing essential vitamins and minerals. This can be especially beneficial for people with diabetes, as they may be at an increased risk of nutrient deficiencies.

5. Potential Insulin Sensitivity: Some studies suggest that the antioxidants and bioactive compounds in black rice may have a positive impact on insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for individuals with type 2 diabetes.

6. Heart Health Benefits: Managing diabetes involves considering cardiovascular health, as people with diabetes are at higher risk of heart disease. Black rice’s antioxidants and fiber may contribute to heart health.

Incorporating Black Rice into a Diabetes-Friendly Diet

If one is interested in reaping the benefits of black rice in managing diabetes, the tips for incorporating in into diabetes-friendly diet can be considered:

1. Substitute for white rice: White rice can be substituted with black rice in meals. It can be used in various dishes, such as stir-fries, rice bowls, sushi, or a side dish.

2. Balance Your Meals: Pair black rice with lean proteins and a variety of non-starchy vegetables for a well-rounded meal that stabilizes blood sugar levels.

3. Portion Control: As with any carbohydrate-containing food, portion control is key. Be mindful of the amount of black rice you consume in one sitting.

4. Experiment with Recipes: Get creative with black rice by trying out new or different recipes. It can be used in salads, stir-fries, risottos, or even black rice pudding for unique and nutritious twist on traditional dishes.

5. Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: Always monitor your blood sugar levels when trying new foods to understand how they affect your individual response.

6. Consult a Dietician: For those suffering with diabetes, it is advisable to consult a registered dietitian who can help create a personalised meal plan that incorporates black rice and aligns with dietary needs.


Black rice is more than just a visually striking grain, if offers a range of health benefits, particularly for individual with diabetes. Its low glycemic Index, high fiber content, powerful antioxidant properties, and numerous health benefits, make it a valuable addition to diabetes-friendly diet.

However, it’s important to remember that individual responses to foods may vary, so it’s crucial for those with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar levels and work with healthcare professionals to create a personalized dietary plan. Incorporating black rice into diet can be a flavourful way to support one’s journey towards better blood sugar control and overall wellbeing.

With its historical significance and modern appeal, black rice deserves a place on palate, both for its unique taste and potential health advantages which can contribute to better blood sugar control and overall diabetes management.

* Dr Angam Raleng / Dr Ng Iboyaima Singh / Dr Ng Joykumar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writers are from
College of Food Technology,
Central Agricultural University,
This article was webcasted on April 14 2024.

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