San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

More beans, less rice can help prevent diabetes

Rice and beans are the staples in the comida típica of Costa Rica. But according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a high consumption of white rice is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

People who ate more white rice over time had higher blood pressure, elevated levels of sugar and harmful fats in their blood, as well as lower levels of “good” cholesterol.

The study monitored the diet of approximately 2,000 Costa Rican men and women. It found that those who added an extra helping of beans instead of white rice to their diet lowered the risk of diabetes by 35 percent.

Rice is easily converted into sugar by the body, Frank Hu, a member of the research team, told Reuters. Hu said that a serving of white rice “is like eating a candy bar – the fiber and other nutrients are stripped away.”

Since beans contain lots of fiber and protein and have a low glycemic index, they induce much lower insulin responses.

As Costa Rica has become wealthier and more urbanized, rice consumption has risen while the intake of beans has fallen, the study said, adding that the diabetes rate in the country has soared.

Experts encourage substituting nutritious brown rice for white rice in meals.

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