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What is black rice and why is it black?

What is black rice and why is it black?

Black rice is a type of rice species Oryza sativa L. that is glutinous, nutritious and mainly cultivated in Asia. During the ancient times, black rice used to be known as the “Forbidden rice” in China; it was considered as the emperor’s rice and was forbidden for anyone else to consume it, as they believe it would improve their health, lengthen their lives and secure their thrones longer. Black rice is gradually becoming more popular among health-conscious consumers nowadays due to its high nutritive value and antioxidant properties. Black rice has a deep blackish-purplish colour,

which indicates its high level of antioxidant capacity due to the chemical present known as the anthocyanin pigments. Anthocyanins are natural occurring plant pigments responsible for the bran colour of black rice. The highest level of anthocyanin is found on the bran hull of the black rice, which is on the outermost layer of the rice grain. They are rich in antioxidant and pharmacological properties. Studies showed that out of all types of rice, black rice is found to be among the one containing the highest amount of nutritious substances such as essential amino acids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fibre, vegetable fats, essential trace elements and anthocyanin antioxidants needed by the body. However, there are other healthy foods that are also rich source of anthocyanin antioxidants such as raspberries, blueberries, red grapes eggplants, and beetroots would have similar healthy supportive properties. Black rice has many health benefits compared to other types of rice and should be included in your diet.

Nutritional profile of black rice

Studies showed that a typical ½ cup of serving cooked or ¼ cup of uncooked black rice would provide your body with:
(1 serving – per daily recommendation)

160 cal (669kJ)
1.5g of fat
34g of carbohydrates
2g of fibre
7.5g of protein

One serving per day contains high amount of flavonoid phytonutrients, fibre, plant based protein and micronutrients including vitamin E, iron, zinc, carotene and copper.

Is black rice better than brown rice?

Scientists stated, “black rice is healthier than white rice, thus black rice is probably even more healthier than brown rice”. Research showed that black rice has got better phytochemical profile, antioxidant capacity, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties compared to brown rice and subsequently refined white rice. Whole grain brown rice also contains some beneficial antioxidants, however only black rice contains the powerful disease-fighting anthocyanin antioxidants (dark pigments) that have been shown to prevent the development of chronic diseases more effectively. Studies also showed that ¼ cup of uncooked black rice has lower calorie content (160 cal) compared to that of brown rice (170 cal) per serving daily. Therefore, black rice can be a better alternative part of your diet to maintain a healthy weight. Black rice is nutritionally similar but not identical to whole grain brown rice, some evidence-based studies showed that the nutritional composition of black rice has the highest amount of protein, vitamin E, iron and fibre than that of whole grain brown rice. Therefore, if black rice were easily available to you, I would highly recommend consuming black rice instead of whole grain brown rice and avoiding refined white rice to gain better health benefits.

What are the health benefits of black rice?

Protect against Chronic Diseases
Anthocyanin antioxidant present in black rice has many powerful health benefits. It has the ability to reduce inflammation, protect arteries from plaque build up, eliminate harmful free radicals molecules and prevent DNA damage that cause cancer. Many studies highlighted that high amounts of anthocyanin present in foods, specifically black rice helps in improving brain function and reduce risk of atherosclerotic plaque, subsequently lowers risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, stroke and even lowers the “bad” cholesterol levels known as the LDL. Scientists found that “just one spoonful of black rice bran contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than a spoonful of blueberries and yet better, black rice is more nutritious, offer more fibre and vitamin E but less sugar”. Vitamin E is also known as another important source of antioxidant, which is useful in maintaining skin, hair, eye and immune health. Other possible prevention illnesses found were Alzheimer’s and Diabetes.

The unique anthocyanin antioxidant and other phytonutrients present in black rice have the ability to reduce inflammation, detox the body and cleanse the liver of harmful toxic build up.
Improve Digestive Health
The high fibre content in black rice helps to prevent constipation, bloating, diarrohea and other digestive complications. The antioxidant present in black rice also helps to inhibit gastric acid secretion, thus promotes a gastric protective effect.

Gluten free
Black rice naturally contains no gluten. It serves as a great alternative to those who suffer from coeliac disease to include in their gluten-free balanced diet, which can help to control symptoms and long term consequences.
Weight management
People usually opt for brown rice when in comes to lose weight or weight control. Why not considering black rice as a more effective choice of losing weight due to its rich dietary fibre content? The fibre found in black rice has the ability to make you feel full and satiety for a longer period of time between meals, can potentially aid in weight loss.
Is black rice good for you if you have diabetes?

It is very important for those with pre-diabetes, diabetes, or other forms of metabolic syndrome to consume a high fibre diet including whole grains, as opposed to the refined and processed carbohydrates (white rice) that strip away the beneficial fibre that can trigger fluctuations in blood glucose levels. As for black rice, it contains the entire bran of the grain where the fibre is stored and essential minerals, which helps to regulate blood sugar level. Several studies found that a diet rich in fibre and low sugar content meals is ideal for diabetics. In this case, black rice is known to have lower sugar content than any other rice varieties; therefore black rice can serve as an alternative option for diabetics in their diet, since they can eat better with lesser risk of shooting up their blood sugar levels.
Even if black rice does contain more nutritious elements, high fibre content and antioxidants than refined grains, all types of grains still have the ability to affect blood sugar levels, so make sure you keep an eye on portion sizes as it is always a good practice.

Who can consume it?
Anyone can consume it, similarly to those traditional whole grain brown rice and white rice. Black rice is considered to be the healthier option to include your diet since it has more health benefits and natural flavour is rich and sweet compared to other varieties of rice.

How to cook it?

As we know, black rice is unrefined and denser than white rice; therefore it takes longer time to cook. For better results it is advised firstly to rinse well your dry black rice and allow it to soak for at least one or two hours prior to boiling. However, for best outcomes, if you have time, it is recommended to soak your rice for several hours in order to cut down on the amount of cooking time and also aid in the absorption of nutrients. After soaking your rice, no need to drain or add extra water, bring it to boil for at least 30-35 minutes. Check the texture of the rice at this point of time to see if it’s well cooked, chewy and ready to serve. Research showed that rinsing rice too often could result in loss of nutrients in water and antioxidants subsequently through boiling. Therefore, according to some studies, black rice pudding and risotto cooking could be a recommended cooking option to allow maximum absorption of water and nutrients of the black rice. Black rice is often featured in salads, noodles, sushi and dessert recipes such as rice cakes and pudding because of its natural sweetness.

However, it is advised to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which is a balanced diet overall. It is recommended to eat more healthy food groups, including 5 a day portions of fruits and vegetables and be physically active for at least 30 minutes daily.


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