10 Awesome Health Benefits of Black Rice

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

White rice has a pretty bad reputation these days. It’s a simple carbohydrate that raises blood sugar and contributes to obesity.

Brown rice has a slightly better reputation, but there’s an even better form of rice on the market and it’s quite the nutritional superstar!

Introducing Black Rice

Introducing Black Rice

According to Chinese legend, black rice was among a select few foods once solely reserved for the emperor and his family, and was known as ‘The Forbidden Rice.’ Anyone caught consuming the rare rice without permission was in danger of execution.

Luckily, no one is hoarding black rice for themselves today and we can all safely benefit from its impressive nutrient profile.

How does it stack up against white and brown rice? The following values are for one quarter cup of uncooked rice.

White Rice:

  • 180 calories
  • 0 g fat
  • 53 g carbohydrates
  • 0.5 g dietary fiber
  • 3 g protein

Brown Rice:

  • 170 calories
  • 1.3 g fat
  • 45 g carbohydrates
  • 1.6 g dietary fiber
  • 4 g protein

Black Rice:

  • 160 calories
  • 5 g fat
  • 34 g carbohydrates
  • 2 g dietary fiber
  • 5 g protein

On these basic nutrients alone, we can see that black rice has fewer calories, fewer carbohydrates, some beneficial fiber (about 20% of the daily recommended intake) and some filling fat.

It’s already looking like a much better alternative to white rice (and to brown for those that don’t enjoy its flavor.) As a simple substitution for white rice, black rice will save you 20 calories and almost 20 grams of carbohydrate per serving. That’s a big benefit for anyone watching their weight or their blood sugar.

Black rice has a sweet, slightly nutty flavor and is an alluring deep purple when cooked.

The real health benefits from black rice come from its other properties though, so let’s see what black rice can do for your health.

1. Black Rice Is Rich In Antioxidants

Twelve different varieties of rice were analyzed for their antioxidant content and black rice was found to have an antioxidant content about six times higher than brown or white rice.

Its antioxidant content has even been found to rival that of the well known antioxidant powerhouse – blueberries.

That’s really impressive when you consider that of forty different fruits and vegetables blueberries have been ranked the number one antioxidant.

In a study presented to the American Chemical Society in 2010, it was disclosed that one spoonful of black rice bran contains the same amount of the antioxidant anthocyanin as a spoonful of fresh blueberries. One spoonful of rice bran is equivalent to 10 spoonfuls of cooked black rice.

Anthocyanin is the powerful antioxidant that gives blueberries their deep color and their superb health benefits.

As well as possessing an impressive amount of antioxidants, black rice bran contains more fiber, less sugar and more vitamin E than blueberries.

While it is more expensive than white rice, black rice is still a more affordable way to get high levels of anthocyanin than eating blueberries, and it’s more filling too.

2. Black Rice Fights Inflammation

While inflammation is the body’s front line, healthy response to viruses, foreign bacteria and injuries, sometimes that inflammation can get out of control and result in a wide range of major health problems.

This type of inflammation is known as chronic inflammation and is believed by many experts and some doctors to be the primary cause of many of today’s most common diseases, playing a role in less serious conditions like asthma and arthritis and a role in life threatening conditions like cancer, heart attack and stroke.

Black rice has been shown to have the ability to suppress inflammation in the body.

Researchers in South Korea carried out animal research using both black rice bran and brown rice bran to investigate their effectiveness against skin inflammation.

The brown rice bran didn’t display any ability to suppress the inflammation, but the black rice bran did. The researchers suggested that this type of rice could be a useful “therapeutic agent for the treatment and prevention of diseases associated with chronic inflammation.”

Another animal study, published in the Journal of International Immunopharmacology, found that CG3 the main constituent of black rice, and its metabolites was highly effective at suppressing inflammatory cytokines in the body.

As a chronic inflammation preventive measure, eating black rice looks like a good idea, but if inflammation is already present, you’ll need to make further modifications to your diet.

3. Black Rice May Help You To Lose Weight

As you’ve already seen, black rice contains fewer calories and less carbohydrates than white rice, both of which are important for weight management and weight loss strategies.

Black rice has been investigated for its abilities to assist with weight loss. A six week study in 2008 at the Department of Food and Nutrition at Hanyang University Korea, tested the effects of black rice on weight loss.

Researchers divided 40 overweight women aged between 20 and 35 years old into two groups. One group ate low calorie meals containing regular white rice, while the other group ate low calorie meals where the white rice was replaced by a mix of black and brown rice. This rice substitution was the only difference between the food intake in the two groups.

At the end of the 6 week study both groups had significant reductions in weight, body fat and body mass index, but the group eating meals containing the mix of black and brown rice experienced  greater reductions in all three areas, compared to the white rice group.

The study authors concluded that;

“Meal replacement with mixed rice was superior to replacement with white rice in weight control, improving antioxidant enzyme activity, and as such, should be recommended for diet therapy in obese women.”

4. Black Rice Can Improve Heart Health

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, and is responsible for a quarter of all deaths.

Studies have found that black rice may be able to play a role in heart and cardiovascular health.

Black rice has been found to help keep arteries healthy. One study, reported in the Journal of Nutrition, found that black rice can decrease plaque in the arteries. When plaque builds up, it causes the arterial walls to harden and the deposits form blockages that impair blood flow and lead to high blood pressure.

Arterial plaque buildup is a major risk factor for both heart attack and stroke.

In the study, male rabbits were given high levels of cholesterol in order to cause arterial plaque formation. These animals were then divided into five groups. The groups were fed different diets as follows:

  • Group 1 – normal laboratory diet
  • Group 2 – high cholesterol diet
  • Group 3 – high cholesterol diet with white rice
  • Group 4 – high cholesterol diet with red rice
  • Group 5 – high cholesterol diet with black rice

In the rabbits fed the black rice and the red rice arterial plaque formation was 50% lower than in the rabbits fed with white rice. The red and black rice groups also saw increases their HDL (good) cholesterol counts.

Researchers concluded that the antioxidants in the rice may play a role in reducing atherosclerosis.

Another study (in vitro) has shown that black rice has the ability to inhibit cholesterol absorption, and this is thought to be due to the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanins.

5. Black Rice May Help To Prevent Fatty Liver Disease

Some studies have shown that black rice may be an important food for liver health.

The liver is one of our biggest organs. In addition to its detoxifying role, it is also responsible for converting nutrients in food into substances that the body can use, and it also regulates some hormones.

A 2012 study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism looked at the effects of black rice extract on a disease that affects up to 90 million Americans. This disease, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is characterized by fatty deposits that form in the liver.

For seven weeks mice with fatty liver disease were fed a normal fat diet, a high fat diet or a high fat diet including the black rice extract.

It was found that those mice consuming the black rice extract in their diet had improved blood lipid levels and significantly lower levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol than the mice fed the other diets.

Based on these results researchers have suggested that black rice may play a role in preventing fatty liver disease.

In different research carried out on alcohol induced liver disease, black rice was found to provide protection against liver damage.

The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences investigated the effects of black rice extract on rats with alcohol-induced liver damage.

Two groups of rats were given alcohol to cause liver damage. One group was also given the anthocyanin extract. The researchers found that the rats given the black rice extract had lower levels of liver damage.

6. Black Rice Aids Healthy Brain Function

Black Rice Aids Healthy Brain Function

Antioxidants are crucial for free radical protection in the body and in the brain. The brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative damage because it has such a high need for oxygen. Oxidative stress leads to cognitive difficulties like memory impairment, learning difficulties and brain fog. Oxidative stress is also implicated in disease like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Plenty of studies have been carried out on the antioxidant found in black rice – anthocyanin – with regard to brain function.

The results of a six year study involving 16,000 patients found that mental aging could be delayed by up to two and a half years in those eating anthocyanin-rich foods. The study also showed that the more of these foods the participants consumed the slower their rates of cognitive decline.

Anthocyanins have been shown in animal studies to help boost learning and memory.

A 2009 study on rats demonstrated that animals given anthocyanins displayed improved learning and memory functions, over those that didn’t consume any of the antioxidant.

7. Black Rice May Have Anticancer Properties

The antioxidant anthocyanins in black rice and other foods help to protect the body from free-radical damage, which can lead to cancer.

Free radicals left unchecked in the body cause cell damage, DNA damage and cell death.

In a study published in The Journal Chemico-Biological Interactions, researchers looked at the ability of the anthocyanins in black rice to inhibit tumor metastasis. Metastasis is the spread of cancer to parts of the body other than the original tumor site.

Metastasis makes operating to remove the tumors problematic, and it is the spread of cancer throughout the body that significantly raises the risk of death from the disease.

This particular study found that the antioxidants extracted from black rice exhibited a ‘marked inhibition’ on the spread of certain cancer cells.

A 2014 study found that anthocyanins extracted from black rice have the potential to stop tumor metastasis in breast cancer cells and other studies have demonstrated that black rice extract can cause cancer cell death.

8. Black Rice Has A Smaller Effect On Your Blood Sugar Than White Rice

Studies have consistently shown that the risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic diseases like obesity, is greater when refined carbohydrates like white rice are the main carbohydrate source in the diet, and that the risks are lower when whole grains form the majority of carbohydrate consumed.

Whole grain carbohydrates with their fiber left intact slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, and their antioxidants combat damaging inflammation.

While black rice still contains a high amount of carbohydrate, its consumption is a much better idea  than eating white rice.

Black rice has the rice bran (which is where the fiber is stored) intact, whereas in white rice this bran is completely removed. Fiber in the diet leads to lower blood sugar levels after meals and helps to prevent the insulin spikes that lead to fat storage, and that ultimately damage the insulin producing cells in the pancreas and cause type 2 diabetes.

When compared to eating brown rice or black ice, white rice carries a much greater risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

If you already have blood sugar issues, it would be wise to avoid carbohydrate rich foods, whole grain or otherwise. As cardiologist, Dr William Davis of Wheat Belly fame reports, 2 slices of wholegrain bread have the same effects on blood sugar as 6 teaspoons of sugar.

9. Black Rice Is A Gluten Free Grain

Black rice, like other rice varieties contains no gluten. Gluten is the problematic protein found in all wheat, rye, and barley products.

One in seven people are thought to be sensitive to gluten, although they still test negative for Celiac Disease.

Those with gluten sensitivity suffer from uncomfortable symptoms after eating foods containing gluten. These symptoms include bloating, constipation, diarrhea, poor nutrient absorption which leads to a host of other problems, and an increased risk for developing leaky gut syndrome.

Many people with a gluten intolerance are unaware that they have this problem. If you regularly suffer digestive issues after eating foods like bread, pasta, cereals and baked goods then you may benefit from switching out gluten containing grains for gluten free ones like the much healthier black rice.

10. Black Rice Maintains Eye Health

Black Rice Maintains Eye Health

The anthocyanin antioxidants found in foods like blueberries and black rice help to protect eyes from degenerative problems.

One observational study found that antioxidants in black rice were associated with preventing and treating impaired vision, while other research has suggested that regular intake of anthocyanins helps to lower the risks of macular degeneration and developing cataracts.

How To Cook Black Rice

Black rice takes longer to cook because it is unrefined and denser than white rice. For the best results soak black rice in water prior to cooking. If you’re pressed for time, you can soak it for one hour but longer is better.

Soaking the rice cuts down on the cooking time and makes the nutrients in the rice more easily absorbable.

Once the rice has finished soaking, drain the water and rinse it through with fresh water.

Add two cups of water per cup of rice that you are cooking and bring the rice to a boil.

If you soaked your rice then simmering for half an hour should be sufficient but if the rice is unsoaked, then it will need to be cooked for at least one hour.

Check the texture of the rice before serving to make sure that it is cooked through. If it isn’t quite done, simmer for longer until it develops a chewy texture.

Black rice can be used in all of the same ways as white rice. It makes a great side dish all on its own with a little Himalayan mountain salt and fresh ground black pepper.

You can add it to soups, stir fries and stews, or mix it into a salad. Cooked and cooled black rice works well to add firmness and texture to homemade veggie burgers, it goes well with Indian and Thai curries, or you can simply serve it with vegetables and whatever protein you prefer.

For a really quick way to get a serving of the powerful antioxidants in black rice you can grind the dry grains in a coffee grinder just like you grind flax seeds, and add the powder to smoothies, cereals, soups, baked goods, or add it to a breadcrumb coating for chicken or fish.

In the same way that white rice is used to make some desserts, black rice can be made into a rice pudding and into rice cakes.

Where To Buy Black Rice

You can find black rice at health food stores, Asian grocers, at several online retailers including Amazon.com, Walmart and other big box stores, as well as many larger supermarkets.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.