Manifesting in our local menus as lor mai kai (glutinous rice and chicken) or nuo mi fan (the hawker centre version that contains fried onions and peanuts), the myriad of varieties that glutinous rice boasts has been prolific in Asia. But it’s no saint though, as 100g of glutinous rice can contain up to 10 times more fat as compared to 100g of white rice, according to the Health Promotion Board. “Oil is added to glutinous rice to ensure that the grains do not stick together,” says Jamie Liow, a nutritionist from the Singapore Heart Foundation.
Because glutinous rice is so sticky, does it mean that it’ll get clogged in our intestines? Surprisingly, glutinous rice is digested in the same way as white rice, according to Liow, even though it’s more viscous. However, because glutinous rice lacks a component of starch known as amylose, it thus has a very high glycaemic index. This means that it can cause a short-term rise in blood sugar (not suitable for diabetics) and can be digested quickly, meaning that you’ll get hungry more quickly.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gave one saving grace to this dish: Consuming a high glycaemic-index
meal of glutinous rice could help put you to sleep more quickly, though it shouldn’t be branded as a sleeping aid as yet. “The higher the carbohydrate content of the food, the more serotonin is produced, which in turn gives a calming effect,” says Liow. However, food with a higher glycaemic index also generally means a shorter duration of the serotonin-induced calming effect, she says.
Another good point about glutinous rice is that it does not contain gluten at all (despite its name), hence making it a viable addition to the diets of gluten-intolerant individuals. Don’t worry about the chicken and peanuts in our local varieties, because as long as there is no wheat in the dish, it’s safe to eat, says Liow.