It’s believed that in ancient China, black rice was revered but only the emperor was allowed to eat it, resulting in its name “forbidden rice.” In modern times, black rice, or purple rice as it is also called, is one of over 40,000 varieties of rice, but is now readily available in most grocery or health food stores. Why is this rice growing in popularity? Here’s what you need to know about this deeply-hued grain alternative.
First, like its counterpart brown rice, black rice is gluten-free and tends to be low-allergenic, so most people with food sensitivities or allergies can handle it. Technically black rice, like other types of rice, is a seed not a grain, so it can be eaten even on most grain-free diets. It has a slightly chewy texture and a delicious nutty flavor.
How do black and brown rice nutritionally compare? One hundred milligrams of uncooked black rice compared to the same amount of brown rice:
Black Rice Brown Rice White Rice
8.5 grams protein 7.9 grams protein 6.8 grams protein
4.9 grams fiber 2.8 grams fiber 0.6 grams fiber
Additionally, black rice contains 3.5 milligrams of iron compared to brown rice’s 2.2 milligrams, and only 1.2 milligrams in white rice.
Black rice contains anthocyanins which are not found in brown or white rice. Anthocyanins give foods like black rice and blueberries their signature color, but are also packed with health benefits including: heart disease and cancer prevention, as well as improving cognitive function.
That’s because anthocyanins help with a wide variety of cellular and biological functions, including regulating the destruction of cancer cells in the body and quelling inflammation, according to research published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Anthocyanins also help to regulate inflammation by regulating the expression of genes involved in the inflammatory response. Anthocyanins’ ability to control inflammation is showing promise in the treatment of arthritis as well.
Research in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine found that anthocyanins found in black rice could prevent the spread of breast cancer in a laboratory setting. While the research is in the early stages, anything that halts the metastasis of such a common form of cancer is certainly promising. Anthocyanins like those found in black rice are not just showing promise for breast cancer. Other research that will be published in the upcoming March 1, 2018 edition of Food Chemistry shows that black rice and other anthocyanin-rich foods show promise in the treatment of colon cancer as well.
The antioxidants found in black rice have been shown to help restore the health of the liver, and may even help with doing so after it has been damaged by alcohol consumption. Black rice is also showing promise in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders caused by Helicobacter pylori, which include ulcers, according to research published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.
So if you’re going to choose between black, brown and white rice, the best nutritional choice is fairly clear: black rice is anything but forbidden when it comes to healthy eating.