BRING ON THE BUDDHA bowls — we’re loading them up with a protein-packed ancient grain that does so much more than just take up space below our vegggies. Black rice, also called forbidden rice, is more nutrient-dense than white rice and can be used in all of the same ways. According to functional medicine expert, Dr. Josh Axe, black rice health benefits include a slew of antioxidants that fight inflammation, plus plenty of fiber to balance blood sugar and improve digestive health. Break out the rice cooker and discover more of the amazing benefits below…
Despite being less popular than brown rice or wild rice, black rice, also known as “forbidden rice” or “emperor’s rice,” is an ancient grain that has even more impressive health benefits than many other rice varieties. Not only is it the type of rice that is richest in powerful, disease-fighting antioxidants, but it also contains dietary fiber, anti-inflammatory properties, and has the ability to help stop the development of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and even weight gain.
Forbidden rice has been eaten in regions of Asia for thousands of years. In fact, for centuries it was reserved for only Chinese royalty. Today this type of rice is picking up in popularity and popping up in more health food stores across the U.S., Australia and Europe, as people discover the numerous health benefits that this whole grain rice has to offer.
What Is Black Rice?
“Forbidden rice” is another name for black rice, which is a medium-grain, non-glutinous heirloom rice. It has a dark purplish-black color with a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Is black rice really rice? As odd as it may look if you’ve never seen it before, it is certainly a type of rice. Forbidden rice includes a range of rice types that all belong to the species Oryza sativa, some of which are glutinous rice. Thai black rice, for example — also called black sticky rice or black glutinous rice — has a sticky texture and is often used in desserts in Thai cuisine. Glutinous or sticky rices have higher amounts of amylopectin, which makes them very sticky when cooked. Black Japonica rice is a mix of Asian black short-grain rice and a medium-grain mahogany rice grown together in the same field.
Is this ancient grain a superfood? It is often considered a superfood because of its high nutritional content, in addition to the fact that it’s naturally high in anthocyanins, which are the antioxidant pigments that give the rice its unique coloring. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s even considered a blood tonic.
Can you eat black rice on keto? Unfortunately, rices of all kinds are typically a “no” on the ketogenic diet. The good news? Black forbidden rice is an option for those following a gluten-free diet.
Black Rice Nutrition. One serving of black or forbidden rice contains only around 160 calories but offers a very high amount of flavonoid phytonutrients. It’s also a good source of important fiber, substantial mineral content and even a good source of plant-based protein. In addition, just the outside hull of the grain has one of the highest levels of anthocyanin antioxidants of any food.
7 Benefits of Back Rice
Full of Antioxidants. Is black rice a good carb? It’s certainly a more nutritious source of carbohydrates. The bran hull of black rice, which is the outermost layer of the rice grain, contains one of the highest levels of the antioxidant anthocyanin found in any known food. This rice has a deep black purplish color, which is an indication of its high antioxidant properties, similarly to how deeply-colored antioxidant berries like blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries appear. Sources show that the anthocyanin content of black rice is higher than any other grain, including brown rice, red rice, red quinoa or other colored whole grain varieties. It even has more anthocyanins than blueberries.
Anthocyanin has the ability to help prevent a myriad of common but serious illnesses, according to numerous studies that have looked at the benefits of this antioxidant. Scientific research correlates anthocyanin antioxidants with: helping prevent cardiovascular disease, protecting against cancer that can be caused by free radical damage, improving brain function, reducing inflammation and more. Additionally, it also contains the important antioxidant, vitamin E, which is useful in maintaining eye, skin, and immune health in addition to other important functions.
Protects Heart Health. Research studies have shown that black rice decreases dangerous atherosclerotic plaque formation in the arteries. This is very important for keeping arteries clear and preventing heart attacks and stroke. Epidemiological studies also demonstrate that anthocyanins consumed in the diet have a preventative effect on the development of cardiovascular disease. The anthocyanins in forbidden rice can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels by reducing total cholesterol, as well as LDL “bad” cholesterol.
Can Help Detoxify the Body. Studies have demonstrated that consuming forbidden rice can help detox the body and cleanse the liver of harmful toxic buildup thanks to the rice’s high antioxidant content. In a recent animal study, the antioxidant statuses of blood, the liver and one of the main arteries, the aorta, were evaluated in rabbits that were either fed refined white rice or forbidden rice. Results showed that the rabbits fed black rice experienced less oxidative stress (also called free radical damage), contained more antioxidants in their blood, experienced detoxification in the liver and also had reduced plaque buildup in the arteries. The phytonutrients found in black rice help the body reduce inflammation and cleanse the body of harmful substances that can contribute to a wide range of conditions.
Improves Digestive + Metabolic Health. The fiber in black rice helps prevent constipation, bloating and other unwanted digestive symptoms. Fiber binds to waste and toxins within the digestive tract, helping pull them out and contribute to regular bowel function. Black rice can also help prevent or improve cases of diarrhea, since fiber adds bulk to your stool. The dietary fiber found in black rice can also importantly help you feel full after eating and stay satisfied for a longer period of time between meals, potentially aiding in weight loss. Clinical research published in 2014 demonstrates how a diet high in dietary fiber from whole grain rice varieties has positive effects on metabolic parameters, including insulin resistance, which affect weight.
Naturally Gluten-Free Grain. Like other rice varieties, black rice is naturally gluten-free grain. Many people today are sensitive to gluten, whether they are aware of it or not, but still test negative for Celiac disease. After eating something with gluten in it, those with a gluten sensitivity suffer many of the same symptoms as those with Celiac disease (a confirmed allergy to gluten), including bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nutrient deficiencies and an increased risk for developing leaky gut syndrome. Consuming forbidden rice in place of not only refined grains and processed flour products, but also all wheat, barley and rye-containing foods, can help to eliminate digestive problems associated with eating gluten for many people.
Helps Slow Down Absorption of Sugar in the Blood. Studies have shown that when it comes to the risk of developing diabetes and even obesity, consuming whole grains is much more beneficial and preventative than consuming refined carbohydrates. Compared to eating processed carbohydrates that are stripped of their fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients that help slow down the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, black rice is a much healthier option. Black rice contains the entire bran of the grain where the fiber is stored, and fiber is able to help glucose (sugar) from the grain to be absorbed by the body over a longer period of time. When researchers examined white and brown rice consumption in relation to type 2 diabetes risk, they found that white rice was more likely to contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes risk. The substitution of whole grains, including brown or black rice, in place of white rice, white bread, pasta and sweetened cereals may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and other complications, in addition to keeping your weight in check and your energy levels balanced.
Better at Preventing Obesity than Refined Grains. It is very important for those with prediabetes, diabetes, or other forms of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance to consume 100 percent whole grains, as opposed to processed “white” types that lack fiber. The same can be said for those who struggle with losing weight, since the fiber and nutrients in whole grain rice help shut off hunger signals and prevent overeating. Research shows that whole grain rice varieties can help prevent insulin resistance that is related to an increased risk for obesity.
Black Rice vs. Wild Rice vs. Brown Rice
Cultivated rice, which includes black and brown varieties, are all said to originate from the genus Oryza over 10,000 years ago. Wild rice is in fact wild, typically growing in shallow water in small lakes or slow-flowing streams. But it’s actually not rice! Wild rice is technically a grain from a reed-like aquatic plant (Zizania palustris), which is not related to rice.
Black and brown rice have a similar consistency and nutty flavor. Wild rice also has a nutty taste, but it has a chewy outer layer and the grain on the inside has a somewhat vegetal flavor.
Is black rice better than brown rice? Is it healthier than wild rice? If you’re wondering how black rice nutrition compares to other rice varieties, here’s how the different types of rice differ in terms of nutrient content when we compare a 1/4 cup cooked serving:
4 grams protein
32 grams carbohydrates
2.3 grams fiber
0.8 gram sugars
0.7 milligram iron
Highest amount of antioxidants of any rice variety
1.6 grams protein
9 grams carbohydrates
0.7 gram fiber
0.3 gram sugars
1 milligram calcium
0.3 milligram iron
1.9 grams protein
19.5 grams carbohydrates
1.1 grams fiber
0 grams sugars
11 grams calcium
0.4 milligram iron
You can see that black rice contains the highest amount of antioxidants, protein and dietary fiber. It’s also the best source of iron of the three, which can be hard to get for plant-based eaters who rely on grains and legumes for protein. When comparing black rice vs. brown rice, they both contain vitamin E, but black rice has a higher amount. All three options have almost no sugar per quarter cup serving, but wild rice and brown rice have less carbs than black rice.
Where to Find + How to Cook
Since the health benefits of black rice are in the bran of the rice, you always want to purchase 100 percent whole-grain black rice. You can be sure you get the correct type by checking the ingredient label and looking for the words “whole black rice” as the first, and ideally the only, ingredient on the list.
Because it is unrefined and denser than white rice, cooking forbidden rice takes longer. For best results, soak the rice for at least one hour before cooking it and preferably for several hours. If you can plan ahead of time and soak your rice, you will cut down on the amount of cooking time required and also make the nutrients in the rice more absorbable.
After soaking your rice, rinse the rice clean and then place it on the stove with two cups of water for every one cup of rice. Boil the rice for at least one half hour if you did soak the rice or for one hour if you didn’t. Check the texture of the rice after this time to see if it is chewy and cooked through. If not, keep boiling until it reaches the texture you’re looking for.
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