Black rice is one of the uncommon varieties of the species Oryza sativa. It comes in short-grained, medium-grained and long-grained varieties with its grains similarly turning purple when soaked or cooked.
The history of black rice goes way back. It was originally cultivated in China before it spread to other parts of Asia 10,000 years ago evolving in color and taste. Grown in small scales and eventually crossbred by some cultures, the color of its pigments are more stabilized and have a better consistency when cooked.
Nowadays, studies give black rice lots of credit for its astounding health benefits. Comparable to blueberries in its antioxidant effects, black rice guards the body’s immune system and fights most cardiovascular diseases as well as diabetes and other conditions.
Continue reading this article to know more about this valuable type of rice, its uses in cooking, and the reasons why you should start incorporating it in your diet, too.
Why Black Rice is called Forbidden Rice
In the olden days, black rice was more known as forbidden rice or emperor’s rice. Though it was used in traditional Chinese medicine, it was generally expensive and was considered a rarity among the general masses who were forbidden from consuming it.
Because it yields less than other types of rice, it was grown only on small scales. This is why it was being reserved for the aristocracy and Chinese emperors to ensure their longevity and was forbidden for others.
Thankfully, years of agricultural mechanization have changed all that. Now, black rice can be found easily in eateries, grocers, and supermarkets.
Black Rice is a Superfood
Black rice is regarded as a superfood because of the wide array of inherent nutrients it contains. Compared to other types of rice, it has more iron, protein, and fiber. What’s more is that its nutritional value is increased by the abundance of flavonoids, anthocyanins, amino acids, healthy fatty acids, and other antioxidants. Black rice contains the micronutrients and macronutrients like Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Copper, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin E, Beta-carotene, Anthocyanin, Potassium, Calcium, and Phosphorus.
And, with lesser starch and a lower glycemic index, the long-grained variety is healthier than the short-grained one.
What are the Health Benefits of Black Rice?
Research on black rice has shown that it is linked to multiple health benefits. These include:
Packed with Antioxidants. Compared to other types of rice, black rice has the highest amounts of antioxidants. Among those are anthocyanins which possess antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-obesity effects. These antioxidants improve and restore liver health. Further, antioxidants in black rice reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancers.
Excellent Source of Iron and Protein. With 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100 gm of black rice serving, you’ll reach the required amount of iron in no time enough to maintain body functions and repair worn out tissues.
Abundant in Amino Acids. Studies show that black rice has more than 15 types of amino acids-all of which help in the regeneration of damaged cells and stabilizing the body’s energy levels.
Good for the heart. Black rice has the right levels of cholesterol, glucose and triglycerides which means that it is good for people who are at risk of heart problems. Nutritionists say that regular consumption of black rice promotes smooth circulation in the body’s blood vessels and prevents the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Prevents bodily inflammation and eye degeneration. Black rice contains Vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin which help prevent blindness. Its abundance in antioxidants help reduce the impact of the sun’s rays on the eyes and has anti-inflammatory effects. This means it can benefit people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases that are associated with inflammation.
Fights diabetes. People with diabetes are rarely allowed to consume white rice because of its high glycemic index (GI). Black rice, on the other hand, has a low GI and helps in avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels. Thus, it helps in the management of certain types of diabetes.
Other benefits associated with consuming black rice include: weight loss and better-regulated bowel movements due to its fiber content, as well as healthier hair, nails and skin due to its antioxidants. Moreover, black rice is gluten-free so people with an intolerance to gluten can consume it without a worry.
How to Include Black Rice in Your Cooking?
With all the benefits of black rice, there is no reason why you should not try incorporating them into your own recipes.
For your daily meals, try using black rice instead of white or brown rice. There really is not a big difference because like white rice, you can also eat black rice with curries, salads and vegetable bowls. You’ll be surprised by its chewy texture making it a perfect base for porridges, cakes, and puddings.
Black rice can be prepared similarly as other types of rice. it is especially known for its versatility so you can boil, fry, or steam it. And if you are a fan of Japanese cuisine, you can use black rice as a base for sushi.
There are a few reports citing high arsenic levels in rice but there has been no scientific bases or more critically-acclaimed research that has proven them.
As a precaution, however, it is best to pre-soak the rice for around an hour to get rid of arsenic levels present in the soil where the rice may have been cultivated.
Despite its unpopularity, black rice is a more healthful option compared to all other types of rice. It is rich in protein, fiber, iron, and antioxidants and is largely beneficial to the health of the heart, liver, eyes, and brain.
The nourishing black rice variety has all these health benefits, but it is still best to watch portion sizes and consume it only in moderation.
And, although it’s been previously forbidden, black rice is now one of the most preferred varieties due to its exotic hue. If you incorporate it in your dishes, it can turn into a mouthwatering meal.
Try cooking with black rice today!