Black rice, also called forbidden rice or "emperor's rice," is gaining popularity for its high levels of antioxidants and superior nutritional value.1 Forbidden rice earned its name because it was once reserved for the Chinese emperor to ensure his health and longevity, and forbidden to anyone else. Forbidden rice is a medium-grain, non-glutinous heirloom rice with a deep purple hue and a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. This whole-grain rice is rich in anthocyanins, which are antioxidant pigments that give the rice its unusual color. Relative to other rice varieties, forbidden rice is high in protein and iron; according to Chinese medicine, it is considered a blood tonic. Zhang, Ming Wei et al. Phenolic profiles and antioxidant activity of black rice bran of different commercially available varieties.
One crop of rice created in China about 10,000 years ago is the ancestor of hundreds of types of modern rice. Black rice, however, is unique. Its purplish black color is a result of its high concentration of anthocyanin; this is the same antioxidant responsible for the color of eggplant, blueberries, acaí berries, and concord grapes, as well as purple cauliflower, purple corn, and blood oranges.
Most cultivated rice produces white grains, but the color of black rice is caused by a gene mutation. Japanese researchers found that a change in a gene that controls anthocyanin rearranged to create black rice; this mutation occurred in a subspecies of rice.2 Since then, the rice has been replicated and transferred to other rice species through cross-breeding.
Black rice is not as easy to grow as other rice varieties because it only yields about 10 percent of the harvest that other rice varieties do. That makes the rice very expensive, which is why it was initially reserved only for the richest of the rich—which meant Chinese royalty at the time it was first discovered. The grain is cultivated in Southeast Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, Thailand, and China. Owing to its popularity in Western countries, it is now also grown in small amounts in the Southern United States as well.
The Nutritional Value
In comparison to other varieties, black rice has more fiber and protein than red, brown, or white rice. This, combined with its high level of anthocyanins, makes it a nutrition powerhouse. A 1/2 cup serving of prepared black rice, made from about 1/4 cup of uncooked rice, contains 160 calories, 1 1/2 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and 4 percent of iron.
Black rice is the newest superfood in town. Rich in antioxidants and low in calories, it’s so nutritious that even brown and red rice pales in comparison. It’s every weight watcher’s dream!
It’s delicious, to boot. It has a mildly sweet and nutty flavor and a chewy texture.
Its attractive purple hue makes it more fun to eat, too. Watch out for the stains, though!
With its impressive health benefits and flavor, black rice makes a great alternative to white rice and other grains.
Use it as a side dish or an ingredient to salads, bowls, and even dessert.
The best part is that it couldn’t be any easier to prepare. There are even different methods to choose from!
You can go the usual route and cook it in water, but if you care to make it more interesting, this recipe is a must-try.