Also called forbidden or purple rice, black rice is a type of rice that belongs to the Oryza sativa L. species.
Black rice gets the black-purple color from a pigment called anthocyanin, which has potent antioxidant properties.
In ancient China, it’s said that black rice was considered so unique and nutritious that it was forbidden for all but royalty.
Today, black rice can be found in numerous cuisines worldwide thanks to its mild, nutty flavor, chewy texture, and many nutritional benefits.
Here are 11 benefits and uses of black rice.
1. Black rice is packed with nutrients
Black rice is one of the highest in protein than other types of rice.
Per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), black rice contains 9 grams of protein, compared with 7 grams for brown rice.
It’s also a good source of iron — a mineral that’s essential for carrying oxygen throughout your body.
A 1/4 cup (45 grams) of uncooked black rice provides:
- Calories: 160
- Fat: 1.5 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Carbs: 34 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Iron: 6% of the daily value
Summary: Black rice is a good source of several nutrients, particularly protein, fiber, and iron.
2. Black rice is rich in antioxidants
In addition to being a good protein, fiber, and iron source, black rice is exceptionally high in several antioxidants.
Antioxidants are compounds that protect your cells against oxidative stress caused by molecules known as free radicals.
They’re essential as oxidative stress has been associated with an increased risk of several chronic conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain forms of cancer.
Despite being less popular than other rice varieties, research shows that black rice has the highest overall antioxidant capacity and activity.
In addition to anthocyanin, black rice has been found to contain over 23 plant compounds with antioxidant properties, including several types of flavonoids and carotenoids.
Therefore, adding black rice to your diet can be an easy way to incorporate more disease-protecting antioxidants into your diet.
Summary: Research shows that black rice contains over 23 types of antioxidants and has the highest antioxidant activity of all rice varieties.
3. Black rice contains the plant compound anthocyanin
Anthocyanins are a group of flavonoid plant pigments responsible for the purple color of black rice, as well as several other plant-based foods like blueberries and purple sweet potatoes.
Research shows that anthocyanins have strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects.
Furthermore, animal, test-tube, and population studies have shown that eating foods high in anthocyanins may help protect against several chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and some forms of cancer.
Summary: Anthocyanin is a pigment responsible for forbidden rice’s black-purple color. It’s also been found to have potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects.
4. Black rice may boost heart health
Research on black rice’s effects on heart health is limited. However, many of its antioxidants have been shown to help protect against heart disease.
Flavonoids like those found in black rice have decreased the risk of developing and dying from heart disease.
Additionally, early research in animals and humans suggests that anthocyanins may help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
One study in 120 adults with high cholesterol levels found that taking two 80-mg anthocyanin capsules per day for 12 weeks significantly improved HDL (good) cholesterol levels and significantly reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Another study analyzing the effects of a high cholesterol diet on plaque accumulation in rabbits found that adding black rice to the high cholesterol diet resulted in 50% less plaque buildup compared with diets containing white rice.
While this study suggests that eating black rice may protect against heart disease, humans have not observed these results.
Suggested read: Can people with diabetes eat brown rice?
Summary: Black rice contains antioxidants that have been shown to help protect against heart disease. However, more research is needed to understand black rice’s effects on heart disease.
5. Black rice may reduce the risk of cancer
Anthocyanins from black rice may also have potent anticancer properties.
A review of population-based studies found that a higher intake of anthocyanin-rich foods was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
Furthermore, a test-tube study found that anthocyanins from black rice reduced the number of human breast cancer cells and slowed their growth and spread.
While promising, more research in humans is needed to fully understand the ability of the anthocyanins in black rice to reduce the risk and spread of certain types of cancer.
Summary: Early research suggests that the anthocyanins in black rice may have strong anticancer properties, but more studies are needed.
6. Black rice may support eye health
Research shows that black rice contains high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin — two types of carotenoids associated with eye health.
These compounds work as antioxidants to help protect your eyes from potentially damaging free radicals.
In particular, lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to help protect the retina by filtering out harmful blue light waves.
Research suggests that these antioxidants may be essential in protecting against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness worldwide. They may also decrease your risk of cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Finally, a 1-week study in mice found that consuming anthocyanin extract from black rice resulted in significantly less retinal damage when animals were exposed to fluorescent lights. Still, these findings have not been replicated in humans.
Summary: Black rice contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which have been shown to protect your retina from potentially damaging free radicals. While anthocyanins may also protect eye health, human research is currently lacking.
7. Black rice is naturally gluten-free
Gluten is a protein in cereal grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye.
Suggested read: 8 impressive health benefits of carrot juice
People with celiac disease need to avoid gluten, as it triggers an immune response in the body that damages the small intestine.
Gluten can also cause adverse gastrointestinal side effects in individuals with gluten sensitivity, such as bloating and abdominal pain.
While many whole grains contain gluten, black rice is a nutritious, naturally gluten-free option that those on a gluten-free diet can enjoy.
Summary: Black rice is naturally gluten-free and can be a good option for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
8. Black rice may aid in weight loss
Black rice is a good source of protein and fiber, which can help promote weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing feelings of fullness.
Furthermore, early animal research suggests that anthocyanins found in black rice may help reduce body weight and fat percentage.
One 12-week study found that giving mice with obesity on a high-fat diet anthocyanins from black rice resulted in a 9.6% reduction in body weight. However, these results have not been replicated in humans.
While research on black rice’s role in weight loss in humans is limited, it has been found to help reduce weight when combined with brown rice.
In a 6-week study of 40 women with excess weight, those who ate a mix of brown and black rice up to 3 times per day on a calorie-restricted diet lost significantly more body weight and body fat than those eating white rice.
Summary: Given that black rice is a good source of protein and fiber, it may aid weight loss. Also, while animal studies have suggested that anthocyanins may benefit weight loss, more research on humans is needed.
9–10. Other potential benefits of black rice
Black rice may also offer other potential benefits, including:
- Lower blood sugar levels. Animal studies suggest that eating black rice and other anthocyanin-containing foods may help reduce blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes. Human studies are needed to confirm these effects.
- May decrease your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). A study in mice found that adding black rice to a high-fat diet significantly reduced fat accumulation in the liver.
Summary: While more research is needed, black rice may help lower blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of NAFLD.
11. Black rice is easy to cook and prepare
Cooking black rice is easy and similar to cooking other forms of rice.
Suggested read: 12 proven health benefits of grapes
To prepare it, simply combine rice and water or stock in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once boiling, cover it and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the rice for 30–35 minutes, or until it’s tender, chewy, and absorbed all the liquid.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice sit for 5 minutes before removing the lid. Use a fork to help fluff the rice before serving.
Unless specified otherwise on the package, for every 1 cup (180 grams) of uncooked black rice, use 2 1/4 cups (295 ml) of water or stock.
To keep the rice from becoming gummy when cooking, it’s recommended to rinse it under cool water before cooking to remove some extra starch on the surface.
Once the rice is ready, you can use it in any dish you would use brown rice, such as in a grain bowl, stir-fry, salad, or rice pudding.
Summary: Black rice is prepared similarly to other types of rice and can be added to various savory and sweet dishes.
While not as common as other types of rice, black rice has the highest antioxidant activity and contains more protein than brown rice.
Eating it may offer several health benefits, including boosting eye and heart health, protecting against certain forms of cancer, and aiding weight loss.
Black rice is more than just a nutritious grain. Its deep purple color can turn even the most basic meal into a visually stunning dish when cooked.