If you haven't heard much about black rice benefits, you probably will soon. Black rice is the latest nutrient-rich superfood growing quietly in popularity all over the world. But what is black rice? How is it different from white rice or brown rice? And what makes it such a great choice for health-conscious folks? As it turns out, there are quite a few benefits of black rice, and when you hear about all of them, you'll definitely want a taste of this yummy grain.
What is black rice?
As the name implies, black rice is a variety of rice with black grains. Also known as "forbidden rice" or "emperor's rice," black rice boasts a nutty flavor, a chewy texture, and a fascinating history. In ancient China, black rice was reserved for the emperor and used as a tribute food, according to the American Society of Plant Biologists. Apparently, the noble people of the time wanted every last grain for themselves and forbid the commoners from eating any of it. But what gives black rice its signature — and highly sought-after — color?
Though the exact origins and evolution of black rice remain unknown, a 2015 study found that the black shade is caused by changes to a single gene, which restores a chemical pathway that makes the dark pigments. In white rice, that same pathway is totally blocked. Dorian Fuller, PhD, a professor of archaeobotany at University College London, told NPR that it's likely that farmers from back in the day selected for black grains after they showed up from crossing with other varieties of rice. "Color, like fragrance, is often a target of post-domestication cultural selection — think of all the colors of maize or potatoes," he said.
Nowadays, black rice can be found not only all over Asia, but also all over the world. We may never know exactly why farmers of the past decided to specifically try to cultivate more black rice — or why it became the ultimate gift for emperors — but we can only guess that the fabulous health benefits of black rice had at least a little bit to do with it.
Black Rice Benefits
One of the best black rice benefits is that it includes an impressive amount of antioxidants — so impressive, in fact, that scientists reported at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in 2010 that black rice actually rivals blueberries as an antioxidant source.
"Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health-promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants," said Zhimin Xu, PhD, who reported on the research in a press release. Even more impressive? A 2010 study also found that antioxidants were about six times higher in black rice than in brown and white rice.
Black rice may also help with weight control as well. A 2008 study found that a group of overweight women who ate a mixture of black and brown rice for six weeks lost more weight, BMI, and body fat than a group of overweight women who ate white rice during that time period.
It's worthwhile to note that rice in general includes many benefits, such as being a great source of protein and iron. Just imagine getting all the usual nutrients you're used to getting when you eat rice, plus some added bonuses. Who could say no to that?
How to Use Black Rice
If you're interested in buying some black rice of your own, the good news is that it's sold in many grocery stores today, so there's a great chance it's in your local shop as well. But if you don't want to go out of your way to buy it, many brands that sell black rice are also available to purchase online, such as Nature's Earthly Choice All Natural Rice, Black, 14-Ounce ($9.03, Amazon) and Lotus Foods Heirloom Forbidden Rice, 15-Ounce, Pack of 6 ($20.75, Amazon).
Black rice can take a bit longer to cook than traditional white rice, but if you ask us, the extra time is certainly worthwhile. More good news? Simply cooking black rice is pretty easy, according to recipes from Nature's Earthly Choice. All you have to do is rinse your rice; bring a ratio of 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot; switch to low heat and cover the pot; and then let the grains cook until the water is fully absorbed. It usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes to complete. Finally, let it stand covered and off the heat for about 10 minutes before serving.
Once you feel comfortable with the basics of cooking black rice, the sky is really the limit as to what you can do with it. You can serve it as a mouthwatering side dish for dinner, toss it in a savory salad, or even make a sweet pudding out of it. The only question is: Which one will you make first?
Next, learn about some more tasty superfoods that can help you live longer in the video below: