We commonly assign the term “super food” to little berries and other fruits and vegetables that are packed with essential nutrients and anti-oxidants. You wouldn’t expect black rice to fall into that category but researchers are finding that black rice packs as much antioxidants as blueberries.
Most people haven’t heard of black rice as it’s not a mainstream food item yet. It didn’t reach U.S. shores until the mid-90′s. This super food has long been revered in the east, particularly China, since ancient days, but it has long been greatly overlooked among western diets.
In fact, black rice was considered to be so rare, tasty, and nutritious in ancient china that only the emperors were allowed to consume it. Thankfully, times have changes and while black rice is still relatively rare in western society, many grocers are working to make it mainstream as popularity grows.
The Awesome Benefits of Black Rice
Just like brown rice, black rice is packed with antioxidant-rich bran. This bran is found in the outer layer that typically gets removed during the milling process to make white rice. However, only black-rice bran contains anthocyanins, those purple and reddish pigments found in other super foods like blueberries – or in other purple vegetables.
In fact, a single spoonful of black-rice bran, or ten spoonful’s of cooked black rice, contains the same amount of anthocyanin as a spoonful of fresh blueberries. The benefit of black rice over blueberries though is that black rice bran contains significantly less natural sugar than blue berries.
What’s the importance of anthocyanins? Extensive research has linked them to reductions in the risk of heart disease and cancer, improvements in focus, improved memory and a variety of other health benefits.
It’s important to note that some antioxidants in brown rice, and even some of the ones found in black rice, are fat-soluble which means fat must be present during digestion in order for the body to absorb those antioxidants. Anthocyanins however are water-soluble and as such have much greater reach within the body.
Lastly, the antioxidants found in black-rice have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Not only can it reduce every day inflammation, but can help prevent and diminish a variety of diseases linked to inflammation.
Barriers to Enjoying Black Rice
The most obvious barrier for some is the availability. Because it’s not quite mainstream, it can be difficult to find black rice and enjoy the benefits. Major food suppliers like Whole Foods often carry black rice, but finding one can be difficult for those in less-populated regions.
Also, many Americans have a finicky palate. As with trying many new foods, black rice can sometimes be an acquired taste – so it won’t win everyone over. The key is to find ways to utilize black rice within other dishes. Not only with the color add something different to a dish, but black rice can blend well with a variety of other ingredients. Black rice delivers a nutty taste initially with almost a complex floral or fruity hint to it some say is similar to jasmine rice.
Want to try black rice and need a few recipe ideas? Try these:
• Spicy Sesame Tofu Stir-Fry with Black Rice
• Asian Salad with Black Rice
• Scrambled Eggs (or tofu) with Black Rice
• Black Rice Risotto
• Black Rice with Sweet Potato Scallions