Black rice is also known as purple or forbidden rice. It belongs to the Oryza sativa L. species (1).
The black-purple color of black rice comes from anthocyanin, a pigment with strong antioxidant properties (2).
Black rice was considered very unique in ancient China such that it was only eaten by royalty (1). But it is widely consumed in modern times, thanks to its chewy texture, nutty flavor, and large nutritional value.
In this article, we discuss some of the health benefits of black rice.
Black rice contains many nutrients
Black rice is also rich in iron. Iron helps with oxygen transport throughout the body (7).
The nutritional value of 45g (1/4 cup) of uncooked black rice include (3):
- Calories: 160
- Iron: 6 percent of the daily value
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 1.5 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Carbs: 34 grams
It contains a lot of antioxidants
One of the many health benefits of black rice is its high antioxidant content (8).
An antioxidant is a compound that protects your cells against damage from free radicals (9).
Black rice is not as popular as other types of rice, no doubt, but studies have shown that it contains the most antioxidant capacity (10).
It is worth noting that, in addition to anthocyanin, black rice contains no less than 23 phytochemicals with different antioxidant properties, including different carotenoids and flavonoids (8).
Thus, by adding black rice to your meals, you can easily boost the number of disease-protecting antioxidants in your diet.
Contains the phytochemical anthocyanin
One of the health benefits of black rice is that it contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a group of flavonoids that gives black rice its purple color. It is also responsible for the color of purple sweet potatoes and blueberries (2, 11).
Also, test-tube, population, and animal studies have shown that eating anthocyanin-rich foods can protect an individual against many chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease and some cancers (13, 14, 15, 16).
Black rice may have positive effects on heart health
There’s limited research on the benefits of black rice on heart health. However, many antioxidants in black rice appear to have positive effects on heart health.
Early animal-based and human studies have shown that anthocyanins can boost the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol (13).
A study involving 120 adults with high blood cholesterol found that a daily intake of 80mg of anthocyanin for 12 weeks caused significant improvement in HDL cholesterol, while also reducing the levels of bad cholesterol (19).
Another study examining the effects of high cholesterol diet on plaque accumulation in rabbits found that including black rice to one’s diet reduced plaque buildup by 50%, compared with white rice diet (20).
While results from the study suggest that consuming black rice may protect against heart disease, the results are yet to be observed in humans.
There are indications that the anthocyanins in black rice may also have very active anticancer properties.
A review of some studies has found that increased intake of foods rich in anthocyanins was associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer (16).
Also, a test-tube study found that anthocyanins had reducing effects on the number of breast cancer cells, and also reduced their ability to grow and spread (21).
Results from available research is promising, but then, there’s a need for more human-based research to fully understand the anticancer effects of the anthocyanins in black rice.
Supports ocular health
Another health benefit of black rice maybe its positive effects on ocular health. Black rice contains much lutein and zeaxanthin – both are carotenoids that support eye health (8).
Lutein and zeaxanthin both function as antioxidants to protect the eyes from the damaging effects of free radicals (22).
It is worth noting that both compounds can protect the retina by filtering the damaging blue light waves (22).
Results from several studies indicate that these antioxidants may play very active roles in protecting against age-related macular degeneration, which is the major cause of blindness in the world. They also reduce one’s risk of diabetic retinopathy and cataracts (23, 24, 25, 26).
Also, a one-week study on rodents showed that intake of anthocyanin extract from black rice reduced retinal damage when animals made contact with fluorescent lights. However, these results are yet to be replicated in humans (27).
Black rice is gluten-free
Gluten is a kind of protein that is naturally present in cereal grains, like rye, barley, and wheat.
People who have celiac disease must avoid gluten at all costs because it triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine (28).
Gluten may also cause negative side effects in the gastrointestinal system, side effects like abdominal pain and bloating in persons with high sensitivity to gluten (28).
While there’s gluten in most grains, black rice has none and can be enjoyed by those on a gluten-free diet.
It may help with weight loss
A 12-week study found that mice fed with high-fat diet anthocyanins from black rice caused a 9.6% reduction in body weight. These results, however, have not been replicated in humans (21).
While there’s limited research on the role of black rice in weight loss, it has been found to assist in weight loss when eaten together with brown rice.
In a 6-week study involving 40 overweight women who ate a mixture of black and brown rice up to thrice daily on a calorie-restricted diet, significant weight loss was recorded as compared to those who ate white rice (31).
Other health benefits of black rice include:
- Reduction of blood sugar levels
- May reduce your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Black rice is easy to cook
It is similar to cooking other types of rice.
To cook black rice, just combine water or stock and rice in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat. Once it has boiled, you cover it and allow it to simmer. Cook for at least 30 minutes, and up to 35 minutes, or until it is chewy, tender, and all the liquid has been absorbed.
Take the pan off the heat and allow the rice to sit for five minutes before taking off the lid. With a fork, fluff the rice before you serve.
Use 2 ¼ cups of stock or water (that’s 295 ml) for every cup (180g) of uncooked rice.
To prevent humming of the rice when cooking, you should rinse the rice under cool water before you cook to take off some of the starch on the surface.
You can use your cooked black rice in any dish, such as rice pudding, salad, stir-fry, grain bowl, etc. If you want to purchase black rice and can’t find it in your local supermarket or grocery, it is available online.