Black Rice – Superfood for any dish

16 Oct

Written by: Katarina Smolkova

Photo courtesy of: Katarina Smolkova

Photo courtesy of: Katarina Smolkova

Rice is one of the most commonly consumed foods and opting for healthier varieties may significantly improve your health. In fact, the consumption of brown versus white rice has been shown to decrease risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 16% (Sun et al., 2010). But what if there’s yet another variety with a comparable nutritional profile, and more health benefits?

Black rice, also known as purple rice because of its colour after cooking, is a largely unknown variety with a nutty flavour and slightly chewy texture (Yonan, 2014). For centuries it was called “forbidden rice” as it was reserved for the Chinese emperors due to its believed longevity attributes (Soleyman, 2010). As it turns out, this image laid the foundation for today’s nutritional research.

Black rice is superior to brown rice in terms of its protein, fibre and iron contents (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2004). In addition, it is also rich in anthocyanins (Zhang et al., 2010), type of antioxidants studied for their cardiovascular health implications (Wallace, 2010) and cancer combating properties (Faria et al., 2010). Anthocyanins are found in purple-black coloured fruits and vegetables and they are the key to the health benefits of this superfood (Park, Kim, & Chang, 2008). Recent research suggests that a spoonful of black rice bran contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than the same amount of blueberries (American Chemical Society, 2010).

The health potential of black rice in the cardiovascular, cancer, and diabetes research arenas is promising. For instance, black rice extract was shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol as well as some other plasma lipid parameters in rats fed high cholesterol diets typical of Western society (Zawistowski , Kopec, & Kitts, 2009). Similar studies in rabbits (Ling, Wang, & Ma, 2002) and mice (Xia, Ling, Ma, Kitts, & Zawistowski, 2003) found reduced progression of atherosclerotic plaques in animals supplemented with black rice. In addition to these heart health benefits, black rice was also shown in mice to suppress grafted human breast cancer tumor growth and angiogenesis, which would help prevent blood vessels from expanding and minimize cancer cells from spreading throughout the body (Hui et al., 2010). Moreover, diabetes-focused animal research showed an improvement in insulin sensitivity in rats fed a fructose diet with black rice (Guo et al., 2007) and the ongoing human clinical research into the glycemic index of black rice is expected to shed more light into whether black rice is able to impact blood sugar levels too (U.S. National Institutes of Health, 2013).

Surely more research is needed to support the health benefits of this superfood. Meanwhile, don’t miss out! You’ll find that black rice cooks for just about the same time as brown rice, i.e. about 30 min after you bring it to boil (Yonan, 2014) and can bring more flavour to your favourite dish. Be sure to also keep an eye out for black rice bran or extracts in breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies and beverages (Rosolen, 2014). Black rice is perfect for providing natural colouring to foods, from nice pink to dark purple and black hues. So here’s my market prediction: black rice may be the food of 2015. What do you think?


American Chemical Society. (2010, August 27). Black rice rivals pricey blueberries as source of healthful antioxidants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from

Faria, A., Pestana, D., Teixeira, D., De Freitas, V., Mateus, N., & Calhau, C. (2010). Blueberry anthocyanins and pyruvic acid adducts: anticancer properties in breast cancer cell lines. Phytotherapy research, 24(12), 1862-1869.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (2004). Rice and human nutrition. Rome: FAO. Retrieved from

Guo, H., Ling, W., Wang, Q., Liu, C., Hu, Y., Xia, M., … & Xia, X. (2007). Effect of anthocyanin-rich extract from black rice (Oryza sativa L. indica) on hyperlipidemia and insulin resistance in fructose-fed rats. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 62(1), 1-6.

Hendrick, B. (2010, August 26). Black rice is cheap way to get antioxidants. WebMD. Retrieved from

Hui, C., Bin, Y., Xiaoping, Y., Long, Y., Chunye, C., Mantian, M., & Wenhua, L. (2010). Anticancer activities of an anthocyanin-rich extract from black rice against breast cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Nutrition and cancer, 62(8), 1128-1136.

Kong, S., & Lee, J. (2010). Antioxidants in milling fractions of black rice cultivars. Food chemistry, 120(1), 278-281.

Ling, W. H., Wang, L. L., & Ma, J. (2002). Supplementation of the black rice outer layer fraction to rabbits decreases atherosclerotic plaque formation and increases antioxidant status. The Journal of nutrition, 132(1), 20-26.

Park, Y. S., Kim, S. J., & Chang, H. I. (2008). Isolation of anthocyanin from black rice (Heugjinjubyeo) and screening of its antioxidant activities. Korean Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, 36(1), 55-60.

Rosolen, D. (2014, June 23). Black is the new black. Food in Canada. Retrieved from

Soleyman, P. (2010, September 8). Health benefits of black rice. The Underground Bootcamp. Retrieved from

Sun, Q., Spiegelman, D., van Dam, R. M., Holmes, M. D., Malik, V. S., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2010). White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women. Archives of internal medicine, 170(11), 961-969.

U.S. National Institutes of Health (2013). Effects of White Rice, Brown Rice, and Black Rice on Postprandial Glucose and Lipid Profiles in Healthy Korean Adults. Clinical from

Wallace, T. C. (2011). Anthocyanins in cardiovascular disease. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 2(1), 1-7.

Xia, M., Ling, W. H., Ma, J., Kitts, D. D., & Zawistowski, J. (2003). Supplementation of diets with the black rice pigment fraction attenuates atherosclerotic plaque formation in apolipoprotein e deficient mice. The Journal of nutrition, 133(3), 744-751.

Yonan, J. (2014, April 2). Treat yourself like royalty with forbidden rice. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Zawistowski, J., Kopec, A., & Kitts, D. D. (2009). Effects of a black rice extract (Oryza sativa L. indica) on cholesterol levels and plasma lipid parameters in Wistar Kyoto rats. Journal of Functional Foods, 1(1), 50-56.

Zhang, M. W., Zhang, R. F., Zhang, F. X., & Liu, R. H. (2010). Phenolic profiles and antioxidant activity of black rice bran of different commercially available varieties. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 58(13), 7580-7587.


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