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Black Rice Nutrition and Health Benefits

Somi Igbene PhD ANutrSeptember 20, 2021

Have you seen pretty photos of black rice on social media and always wondered what the fuss is about? Or perhaps you’ve never heard of black rice and want to learn more about it? Either way, if you’ve never tried Black rice, you’re missing out! 

Besides its nutty, delicious flavour, black rice is rich in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins. It is also a good source of essential amino acids, B vitamins, iron, zinc and magnesium. With its low glycaemic index, black rice is beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes and many metabolic conditions. 

In this blog post, I’ll cover everything you’ve always wondered about black rice, including its origins, nutrition content, health benefits and how to cook it. 

Let’s dive in!

What is black rice, and where does it originate?

Black rice, also known as ‘purple rice’ or ‘forbidden rice’, is a variety of pigmented rice that has been eaten in Asia for thousands of years. For centuries it was reserved solely for Chinese royalty. 

The royal families and kings ate this special rice for good health and to emphasise their wealth. They also used it to prevent anaemia, improve blood circulation, kidney function, eyesight, and heal broken bones. 

Black rice originated from white rice both through spontaneous mutations and artificially induced mutations. 

It was traditionally only cultivated in Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and other regions and countries, including Brazil. 

But since gaining attraction from the West, similar varieties have been bred and adapted to grow in many Western countries, including Italy, France, Russia, and Australia.

Black Rice Nutrition Benefits

Rice is a staple cereal for over half of the world’s population. All rice consists of an outer layer – the hull – and an inner layer – the caryopsis. The hull is removed during the hulling process to reveal the caryopsis, which consists of the bran, endosperm and germ. 

The bran layer and germ, rich in protein, fibre, oil, minerals, vitamins, and other plant nutrients, are removed during the milling process. This process typically turns brown rice into white rice.

However, milling only removes the hull and a minimal amount of the bran layer for black rice. For this reason, black rice is considered a whole grain.

Black rice is rich in many nutrients, including essential amino acids, lipids, fibre, B vitamins, vitamins A and E, and minerals including iron, zinc, copper, magnesium and potassium. 

It is also rich in antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins, phenolic compounds, and tocopherols and is a source of phytosterols (Ito et al., 2017).

Black rice is a rich source of carotenoids, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin. Most of the carotenoids in black rice are present in the bran layer (Ashraf et al., 2017; Petroni et al., 2017)

Per 100g uncooked, black rice provides:

Kcal: 378

Carbohydrates: 79g

Protein: 7.5g

Fat: 2.8g

Of which saturates: 0.5g

Fibre: 3.4g

Health Benefits of Black Rice

Black rice is considered a potent functional food because it contains many bioactive compounds. It also has a low glycaemic load, meaning it doesn’t raise blood sugar and insulin levels as high as white rice (Ti et al., 2015; Meng et al., 2018).  

Its high content of phenolic compounds can block enzymes involved in carbohydrate digestion, e.g., intestinal alpha-glucosidase and pancreatic alpha-amylase, which may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (Ranilla, Kwon, Apostolidis & Shetty, 2010). 

Extracts of black rice have also been shown to stimulate the repair and regeneration of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, further supporting its capacity to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes (Rebello, Greenway & Finley, 2014). 

Black rice has high antioxidant activity, meaning it can neutralise damaging free radicals that contribute to many metabolic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and cancer (Tanaka et al., 2012).  

Evidence shows that extracts of black rice can block breast cancer cell growth, and antioxidant compounds in black rice, including flavonoids and anthocyanins, can suppress the pathways involved in cancer growth (Shao et al., 2014). 

How to Select and Store Black Rice

You can buy black rice in packages or as a bulk product. Since natural oils can go rancid over time, always check the ‘use by’ or ‘best before date on pre-packaged rice. If you choose to buy in bulk, go to a wholesaler with a high turnover rate. And whether buying in bulk or from a retailer, never buy rice with moisture. 

Since the oils in black rice can go rancid, store them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Brown rice can keep for up to six months when stored properly.

How to Cook Black Rice

The anthocyanins in black rice provide much of their health-promoting properties, so it is essential to preserve as much of them when cooking. 

Cooking strongly affects the anthocyanins in black rice.  The best way to cook black rice is to rinse it lightly under cool, running water to remove dirt or debris. Cook in a lidded saucepan, allowing one part black rice to two parts warm water, topping with small amounts of water if necessary. Cook for around 30-40 minutes or until the grains are tender. 

Avoid soaking black rice in water for long periods before cooking to prevent the anthocyanins from leaching into the water (Catena et al., 2019).

Serving ideas

  • Black rice pudding: Cook the rice in water, then add dairy or dairy-free milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, sultanas or goji berries and a drizzle of honey. 
  • Sushi rolls: Wrap black rice in nori sheets with carrots and cucumbers
  • Salads: Combine leftover black rice with chicken, vegetables, nuts, seeds and a dressing. 
  • Fried rice: In a large wok, saute ginger, spring onions and garlic. Add any leftover chicken, beef or tofu and scrambled eggs. Add left-over cold rice and frozen peas. Mix, then add toasted sesame oil, black pepper and a pinch of salt to taste. 

REFERENCES

  1. Ito, V.C., and Lacerda, L.G. (2019) Black rice (Oryza sativa L.): A review of its historical aspects, chemical composition, nutritional and functional properties, and applications and processing technologies. Food Chemistry, 301:
  2. Yamuangmorn, S., Prom-u-Thai, C. (2021) The potential of high-anthocyanin purple rice as a functional ingredient in human health. Antioxidants, 10: 833.
  3. Ashraf, H., Murtaza, I., Nazir, N., Wani, A.B., Naquash, S., and Husaini, A.M. (2017) Nutritional profiling of pigmented and scented rice genotypes of Kashmir Himalayas. Journal of Pharmacogenetics and Phytochemistry, 6: 910–916.
  4. Petroni, K., Landoni, M., Tomay, F., and Calvenzani, V. (2017) Proximate composition, polyphenol content and anti-inflammatory properties of white and pigmented Italian rice varieties. Universal Journal of Agricultural Research, 5(5): 312–321.
  5. Ranilla, I.G., Kwon, Y.I., Apostolidis, E., and Shetty, K. (2010) Phenolic compounds, antioxidant activity and in vitro inhibitory potential against key enzymes relevant for hyperglycaemia and hypertension of commonly used medicinal plants, herbs and spices in Latin America. Bioresource Technology, 101: 4676–4689.
  6. Rebello, C.J., Greenway, F.L., and Finley, J.W. (2014) Whole grains and pulses: A comparison of the nutritional and health benefits. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 62(9); 7029–7049.
  7. Shao, Y., Hu, Z., Yu, Y., Mou, R., Zhu, Z., and Beta, T. (2018) Phenolic acids, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, antioxidant activity, minerals, and their correlations in non-pigmented, red, and black rice. Food Chemistry, 239: 733-741.
  8. Ti, H., Zhang, R., Zhang, M., Wei, Z., Chi, J., Deng, Y., and Zhang, Y. (2015) Effect of extrusion on phytochemical profiles in milled fractions of black rice. Food Chemistry, 178: 186–194.
  9. Meng, I., Zhang, W., Wu, Z., Hui, A., Gao, H., Chen, P., He, Y. (2018) Effect of pressure-soaking treatments on texture and retrogradation properties of black rice. Food Science and Technology, 93: 485-490. 
  10. Tanaka, J., Nakamura, S., Tsuruma, K., Shimazawa, M., Shimoda, H., and Hara, H. (2012) Purple rice (Oryza sativa L.) extract and its constituents inhibit VEGF-induced angiogenesis. Phytotherapy Research, 26(2): 214–222.
  11. Shao, Y., Xu, F., Sun, X., Bao, J., Beta, T. (2014) Identification and quantification of phenolic acids and anthocyanins as antioxidants in bran, embryo, and endosperm of white, red and black rice kernels (Oryza sativa L.). Journal of Cereal Science, 59(2): 211–218.
  12. Catena, S., Turrini, F., Boggia, R., Borriello, M., Gardella, M., Zunin, P. (2019) Effects of different cooking conditions on the anthocyanin content of a black rice (Oryza sativa L. ‘Violet Nori’). European Food Research Technology, 245; 2303–2310.

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