Guide to eating well: 5 delicious and healthy alternatives to white rice for Indians



Rice, a staple in almost all Indian diets, is plentiful, readily available, and a common grain that can be paired with curries, fries, legumes, etc. However, rice, white rice to be precise, does not provide any essential nutrition except glucose and empty calories. Polished white rice is made up of refined carbohydrates and lacks essential nutrients, making it a poor choice for most Indians trying to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes and other noncommunicable disorders by eating less. of carbohydrates or calories.

India should eat better carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates raise blood glucose and triglyceride levels and increase the risk of insulin resistance. All of these factors collectively increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In 2020, the EAT-Lancet study reported that rural Indians eat around 432g of carbohydrate while urban Indians consume around 347g of carbohydrate per day, which is well over 282g of carbohydrate per day, as recommended. by the expert committee.

A low-carb diet that includes unrefined whole grains and is high in fiber is expected to be the new normal in India, given that the country is home to the second-highest number of people with diabetes in the world after China. According to 2019 data from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 77 million Indians were living with diabetes in 2019, which is expected to reach 134 million people by 2045. This IDF report also indicated that 57 % of Indians have undiagnosed diabetes and 50.5 percent. 100 people under the age of 60 have died of complications from diabetes. In recent times, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and obesity have been shown to be among the biggest risk factors for severe COVID 19 disease progression and death.

5 healthy alternatives

Whole grains are rich in healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them a superior choice over refined white rice for preventing and / or managing obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. However, the total carbohydrate content of most whole grains is as high as that of white rice and therefore should be consumed in moderation. Good old-fashioned whole grains such as broken wheat, barley, millets as well as plant-based quinoa and rice are the best alternatives to white rice.


Jowar dalia upma (file photo)

Dalia or broken wheat or bulgur wheat is a great substitute for rice with a familiar texture and flavor. It is a great choice for making khichdi, upma or porridge. Dalia only contains 76 calories in 1/2 cup (91 g), about 25% fewer calories than an equal serving of white rice. Bulgur is a good source of manganese, magnesium and iron, folate, vitamin B6, B5, and fiber. Bulgur wheat is cooked by boiling with water until tender.


barley Barley contains potential antioxidants. (Source: pixabay)

Barley resembles oats with a chewy texture and earthy taste. A 1/2 cup or 91 g of cooked barley contains about the same number of calories as an equal serving of white rice with more protein and fiber. Barley contains essential nutrients, providing a significant percentage of the Daily Value (DV) for B vitamins, zinc, selenium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, potassium, folate , etc. Barley fiber is classified as beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar levels. Additionally, barley contains potential antioxidants such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which protect against damage from oxidative stress and repair cell damage. The blood sugar lowering property of barley is well documented. A comprehensive review of 232 scientific studies linked the consumption of whole grain breakfast cereals like barley to a lower risk of diabetes.


ragi Ragi or finger millet contains the greatest amount of calcium. (File photo)

Mils have been part of the human diet for over 8,000 years until the Green Revolution took over the food system by producing refined polished grains that claimed to be tastier. Common millets in India include jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet), ragi (millet), jhangora (backyard millet), barri (proso or common millet), kangni (foxtail / common millet) Italian), kodra (mil Kodo), etc. 1/2 cup of cooked millet provides only 22g of carbohydrate and contains more essential amino acids than other grains. Ragi contains the highest amount of calcium providing 13 percent DV per 100 g. Millet is rich in ferulic acid and catechins, two anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that prevent oxidative stress. Darker colored millets such as finger, proso, and foxtail contain more antioxidants than their white or yellow counterparts. Plus, millets are gluten-free, rich in essential nutrients that have been shown to help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.


quinoa Quinoa is a great choice for vegetarians and vegans. (Source: Pixabay)

Quinoa is a popular rice substitute, contains twice the amount of protein as white rice, and is gluten-free. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans to ensure optimal protein intake. It is a good source of essential micronutrients like magnesium and copper which help with energy metabolism and bone health. It is not genetically modified and organically grown. In fact, scientists at NASA ( are planning to grow this grain out of space due to its high nutrient content and no-shaking cultivation technique. . Quinoa is rich in quercetin and kaempferol, two phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anticancer, and antidepressant effects in animal studies.

Cauliflower and Broccoli in Rice

broccoli Broccoli in rice provides 25 percent of your daily value in vitamin C. (Source: pixabay)

These are popular alternatives for people on a super low carb diet or ketogenic diet. 1/2 cup of cauliflower rice and broccoli rice provide only 17 and 15 calories, respectively. Plus, broccoli in rice provides 25% of your daily value of vitamin C. Both can be prepared by grating with a can grater or chopping in a food processor, then cooking while boiling.

A considerable body of research has reported negative health effects from refined carbohydrates, including white rice. There are several alternatives to white rice that can help you achieve overall positive results for your health. Whole grains are the source of essential nutrients including protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can replace white rice while providing you with a slow supply of energy throughout the day. Work with a trained nutritionist to opt for a low-carb diet that includes healthy carbs and is in line with your personal goal.

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