Rice is a staple food in many households—especially in Asia, where many people have been eating rice with almost every meal for thousands of years.
One particular type of rice, called black rice, is an incredibly healthy and nutritious alternative to white rice, but it hasn’t always been readily available for consumption. In ancient China, noblemen realized the great value of black rice and started hoarding it for themselves. Black rice cultivation was limited and strictly reserved for the noble, hence its nickname: forbidden rice.
White rice has always been more popular than black rice. In fact, black rice was only introduced into American supermarkets in 1995. Since then, its popularity has been slowly rising due to its numerous health benefits.
Black rice is packed with tons of anti-inflammatory antioxidants, fiber, protein, and iron, making it a much healthier alternative to other types of rice.
RELATED: Try Black Rice for Antioxidants
Here are some of the many incredible health benefits that black rice has to offer.
1. Improves Heart Health
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. One in every four deaths is caused by heart disease, including coronary heart disease and heart attack. (1)
Major risk factors for heart disease are high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure (hypertension)—and black rice can help to reduce those risk factors.
Black rice is a good source of dietary fiber, which is important for lowering cholesterol levels. Fiber binds to fats in the digestive system and pulls them out of the body before they are absorbed into the bloodstream. Also, black rice contains powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been shown to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. (2)
Blood pressure levels are also reduced by eating foods high in fiber and antioxidants.
In addition, the fiber in black rice fills you up and prevents overeating, which can lead to obesity—another risk factor for heart disease.
2. Supports Digestion
High-fiber foods are essential for healthy digestion for two main reasons.
First, fiber absorbs water and bulks up the stool, making for easier and more regular bowel movements. This prevents gastrointestinal issues like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas.
The other important role that fiber plays in the digestive system is that it binds to toxins and waste and pulls them out of the body before they accumulate in the digestive tract or get absorbed into the bloodstream.
3. Prevents Anemia
Black rice is a surprisingly good source of iron, an essential trace mineral that helps to build red blood cells. It’s also the active component in transferring oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Iron deficiency can lead to a condition called iron deficiency anemia—when a person lacks healthy red blood cells and therefore lacks proper oxygen supply to tissues and organs throughout the body.
Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
4. Reduces Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is a major issue that plagues much of the population in the Western world. In fact, inflammation is at the root of most chronic diseases, including allergies, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), neurodegenerative diseases, and more.
The best way to combat inflammation is to reduce your intake of inflammatory foods, such as processed, refined, artificial, fried, and inorganic foods.
In addition, foods high in antioxidants, like black rice, combat the effects of free radicals—which are what causes inflammation in the first place.
The deep color of black rice indicates that it is high in antioxidants, just like other dark-colored plant foods, including berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries.
5. Balances Blood Sugar Levels
Black rice is a much better choice for people at risk for type 2 diabetes or for those who already have diabetes. (3)
Refined foods, like white rice, are immediately converted to sugar in the body, causing blood sugar spikes.
Black rice, on the other hand, is a whole grain, and it’s full of fiber, so it is released more slowly into the bloodstream, ensuring that blood sugar levels stay balanced and steady.
6. Supports Liver Detoxification
Studies show that the high level of antioxidants in black rice—especially the anthocyanins—helps to support liver function.
In a study on rats with liver damage, black rice helped to improve antioxidant activity and liver function and reduce triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of fatty liver disease. (4)
Another study on rabbits showed similar results, with higher “good” HDL cholesterol levels, increased antioxidant activity, and decreased oxidative status, improving liver function and reducing the risk of fatty liver disease. (5)
7. Good Source of Plant Protein
Black rice is an excellent food for vegans, vegetarians, and for non-vegans on meatless Mondays. In just one half-cup serving of black rice, you get 5 grams of protein.
Black rice is just one of many sources of plant protein out there. To benefit both your health and environment, make sure to swap out animal protein for plant protein as often as possible.
8. Protects Brain Function
Studies show that foods high in antioxidants, like black rice, can reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. (6)
The reason for this is that neurodegenerative diseases are caused by oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. The antioxidants in black rice combat that by fighting free radicals and free radical damage, reducing the amount of oxidation and inflammation in the brain and body.
Reduction in oxidative stress in the brain can also boost your cognitive performance, enhancing memory, problem-solving, and learning.
How to Cook and Eat Black Rice
Because black rice is a whole grain, it takes longer to cook than white rice. You may have better results by first soaking the rice for an hour and then cooking it. For every cup of black rice, you’ll need to add two cups of water.
Black rice can be eaten on its own, as a side dish, or in stir-fry, soups, stews, or salads. You can also use black rice to make burgers or fritters.
You may even be able to find black rice flour, which can be used instead of wheat flour to make cakes, cookies, breads, pasta, and more.
Since black rice is incredibly versatile, you can probably find a way to fit it into almost any meal.
Black rice is a nutritious, delicious, and filling food that can be eaten in many different ways. Swap your regular white rice for this nutritious rice and benefit from its various nutrients, including fiber, protein, iron, and tons of amazing anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
You’ll probably be able to find black rice in almost any supermarket or health food store, so go grab yourself some of this amazing food.