Diabetes is a lifestyle-related medical condition. However, one can control it with dietary interventions. Your body gets the glucose from what you eat, meaning the food you consume directly impacts your blood sugar levels.

Research shows that diet is a slower yet effective process to control diabetes. This is because dietary measures usually include controlling the consumption of food that causes blood sugar spikes, like sweetened drinks and processed foods. 

Idlis are a wholesome and healthy option for breakfast. They are oil-free, easily digested, provide energy and are easy to digest. However, people are confused about the calories and health attributes of this dish, raising questions about whether it is an ideal addition to a diabetes diet. 

Scroll down to find out!

Idli – The Nutritional Overview

Idli is one of the lightest and healthiest dishes, usually made from rice and urad dal along with black lentils in certain batter variations. Even though it is low in calories, studies show that consuming idli for breakfast keeps you full for a long time.

It is also rich in proteins, carbs, fibre and iron. It is also excellent for digestion because of the fermentation process, where it quickly breaks down vitamins and minerals.

Here is a research-based nutritional overview of one Idli (made using millet).

  • Calories: 58 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 52mg
  • Dietary fibre: 12g
  • Protein: 1.6 g
  • Sodium: 75 mg
  • Potassium: 41 mg
  • Total fat: 0.4g

Glycemic Index of Idli

The food provides energy to the body by entering the bloodstream as glucose. It means different foods raise the blood sugar level at different rates.

Glycemic Index ranks those foods by the rate they increase the guar level. The higher the GI value, the faster the blood glucose level will rise.

Skipping breakfast is associated with poor glycemic control in diabetes. Your breakfast is essential to your well-being in terms of macronutrients.

Studies have revealed that the glycemic index of idli is 60-70, which is relatively high for diabetic patients.

Experts recommend consuming food items with a GI score below 55 for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. However, one can substitute rice idli with rava and oats as more nutritious options for daily intake. 

Idli for Diabetes – The Connection

According to research, type-2 diabetes is a significant, non-communicable disease with increasing prevalence at a global level. Type-2 diabetes occurs when the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it produces. 

Type-2 diabetes is the leading cause of premature deaths. Furthermore, improperly managed, it can lead to several health issues. These include heart diseases, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, leg and foot amputations, and death. 

Type-2 diabetes or adult-onset diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. It usually begins when a person is in their mid-50s, but diabetes is not inevitable.

Minor changes in your lifestyle can significantly reduce your chances of getting this disease. Therefore, to prevent this condition, one should work on the modifiable factors that influence its development-lifestyle and dietary habits. With proper testing, treatment and lifestyle changes, healthy eating as a strategy and promoting walking, exercise, and other physical activities, one can manage diabetes.

Idli made from rice tends to raise blood sugar levels. White rice is one of the carb-rich foods which can cause obesity and raise your sugar level.

Experts from HealthifyMe suggest consuming foods with high levels of fibre and low fats, such as idli made from wheat, Rawa, ragi or oats.

Eating idli with a mix of dals and vegetable sambar makes it a healthier option. It can control blood sugar levels due to the protein content, slowing down the increase in blood sugar levels.  

What Does Research Say?

The slow digestion mechanism of protein can keep you full for longer while slowly releasing glucose into the bloodstream. Therefore, pairing high GI foods with fibre and protein rich foods reduces and balances the GI to a healthy level. 

Research also shows that idli is rich in iron, which promotes blood oxygenation. In addition, it has no cholesterol. As a result, it effectively lowers the risk of cardiovascular health ailments and strokes. On the other hand, idli (made from red rice or oats) does not make you fat (as its steamed) and is an excellent choice for weight loss.

Research says that obesity is the primary causative factor of diabetes mellitus. Idli has no fats or cholesterol. However, it does not mean one should consume them in high amounts. Idli gets prepared by steaming instead of using oil, preventing the build of bad cholesterol in your body and abnormal sugar spikes.

In addition, the most suitable time to eat idli for excellent benefits is for breakfast. Nonetheless, consuming one or two idlis along with vegetables for dinner can stop hunger pangs.

The research found that people who make healthier breakfast choices like oats idli rich in protein are more likely to control their blood glucose and weight.

The HealthifyPro CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) is a wearable device that helps you calculate real-time glucose levels of your body effortlessly.

Powered with AI and coach interventions, this innovative technology allows you to better understand your body. It can notify you how each food combination affects your blood glucose level.

Healthy Ways to Consume idli for Diabetes

  • One can consume rava idli Instead of rice idli to keep their sugar levels in check.
  • Eating small servings of idlis can help a diabetic person maintain their weight and blood sugar.
  • Consume idlis with protein-rich sambar or chutney. Mix the idli batter with healthy vegetables like carrots or beans to add fibre and vitamins to your diet.
  • Opt for masala idli, made with onions and spices, for additional nutrients and flavour.

Idlis make a healthy option for breakfast as it is low in calories. It is suitable for people with diabetes. It can be part of weight loss plans. However, one must avoid excess calorie and carbs intake. Therefore, always eat one or two homemade idlis with a bowl of sambhar, chutney and curd to get the right combination of carbs, protein, fats and fibre on your plate. 

White rice has high starchy carbs and might result in sudden spikes in the postprandial state. Instead of a traditional rice recipe, you can use alternatives to prepare them.

Oats Idli

Oats are considered one of the superfoods for diabetes. It is high in fibre, which plays a significant role in managing blood sugar fluctuations. You can pair them with simple chutneys or add chopped veggies to the batter for a nutritious breakfast.

Moong Dal Idli

This versatile dal can add nutritional value to your regular idli breakfast, making it more delicious and diabetic-friendly. Moreover, it has a low GI score of 38. In addition, it has excellent protein and fibre content, essential for ideal blood sugar levels.

Ragi Idli

Research shows that ragi contain fibre, calcium, protein, and Vitamin D, along with various antioxidants and minerals. Therefore, it is an excellent choice for diabetic management.

Palak- Moong Idli

Palak moong idli is known for its high protein content. As a result, it can slow down digestion and reduce the rise of blood sugar levels. In addition, the spinach (palak) in the batter also has low GI value and Vitamin C, which can keep diabetes under control.

Benefits of Idli for Diabetic Patients

  • Low calories – Idli is steamed; hence, the dish is low in calories, as it is not fried in oil or has any oil in its preparation. 
  • Good for digestion – Studies show that fermentation makes idlis easily digestible. It is easy to break down and process the nutrients naturally. It accelerates digestion. The lactic acid in such fermented foods can alter the PH level to promote better health and long life.
  • High in fibre – The great fibre content in idlis will keep you full for a longer time and prevent overeating or unhealthy eating habits. It also aids in smooth digestion, promoting weight loss in diabetic people.
  • Rich in iron – Idli is rich in iron due to the addition of lentils which can fulfil your daily nutrient requirement of 8 milligrams for males and 18 milligrams for females.
  • Controls carbs – Experts suggest that eating steamed idli with citrus juice like oranges can burn fats and prevent the accumulation of carbs in the body, effectively preventing spikes in blood sugar levels.

Potential Side effects of Excess Idli Consumption

  • Idli is one of the fermented foods which is generally healthy. However, overconsumption may cause acidity in some people, triggering heartburn, burps, bloating and cramps.
  • The excess intake of the fermented dish is an unhealthy diet option for people with diabetes. In addition, it can raise blood sugar levels, especially if one prepares with white rice batter due to the high GI level. 
  • Adding rava may lead to allergic reactions like stomach cramps, vomiting and nausea. In addition, Rava is high in gluten which is harmful to people with gluten sensitivity. 


Diabetes is a lifelong lifestyle condition. But the Indian palate loves some carbs. Hence, eating idli made from wheat, rava, ragi or oats instead of rice is a healthier option. Moreover, it can keep the blood sugar level on an even keel.

Making nutritious food choices and an active lifestyle is crucial to maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. It ensures overall well-being while reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications. 

The Research Sources

1. Ley SH, Hamdy O, Mohan V, Hu FB. Prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: dietary components and nutritional strategies. Lancet. 2014 Jun 7;383(9933):1999-2007. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60613-9. PMID: 24910231; PMCID: PMC4751088.


2. Krishnamoorthy, Srinivasan & Kunjithapatham, Singaravadivel & Manickam, Loganathan. (2013). Traditional Indian breakfast (Idli and Dosa) with enhanced nutritional content using millets. Nutrition & Dietetics. 70. 10.1111/1747-0080.12020.


3. Neha, & Kumar, Vinay. (2021). Studies on Nutritional Improvement and Sensory Evaluation of Fortified Idli. 34. 98-107.


4. Glycemic Index Research


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8. Amankwaah AF, Sayer RD, Wright AJ, Chen N, McCrory MA, Campbell WW. Effects of Higher Dietary Protein and Fiber Intakes at Breakfast on Postprandial Glucose, Insulin, and 24-h Interstitial Glucose in Overweight Adults. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 2;9(4):352. doi: 10.3390/nu9040352. PMID: 28368334; PMCID: PMC5409691.


9. Joshi, Shashank & hoskote, sumedh. (2015). ragi in diabetes at vancuver idf poster.


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