Rice is one of the most popular accompaniments, and a key component in many beloved dishes and cuisines the world over – Thai, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, even the Italians and their risotto. But there’s one problem – white rice isn’t particularly healthy. Considered an “empty carb”, white rice has a high glycemic index, which means its carbs convert more quickly into blood sugar than, say, brown rice (hence why eating too much of it can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes).
It’s also highly processed, missing its hull (the hard protective coating), bran (outer layer) and germ (nutrient-rich core). For this reason, white rice lacks many vitamins and minerals that are present in other forms of rice, such as brown or the famed black rice, which are far healthier alternatives. But what exactly is black rice, and why is it so healthy?
In ancient China, black rice was considered so unique and nutritious that it was forbidden for all but the Emperor, hence its nickname – Forbidden rice. A medium-grain, non-glutinous heirloom rice with a deep purple hue and a nutty, slightly sweet flavor, black rice is high in protein and iron; according to Chinese medicine, it’s considered a blood tonic. It gets its signature black-purple color from a pigment called anthocyanin, a potent antioxidant and the same compound responsible for the color of eggplant, blueberries, and acaí berries. And, 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.
These compounds are important. Anthocyanins have strong anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects, and may help protect against several chronic diseases, such as heart disease and obesity. In addition, research suggests that anthocyanins may help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and help lower the risk of colorectal cancer. Meanwhile, two carotenoids found in black rice – lutein and zeaxanthin – are associated with eye health; they’ve ve been shown to help protect the retina by filtering out harmful blue light waves
Compared with other types of rice, black rice is one of the highest in protein; per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), it contains 9 grams of protein, compared with 7 grams for brown rice. It’s also a good source of fibre, which is why black rice can help promote weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing feelings of fullness. Being naturally gluten-free makes it ideal for those with celiac disease, or those who are sensitive to gluten and suffer from gastrointestinal side effects, such as bloating and abdominal pain.
As well as all these health benefits, black rice is super easy to cook, delicious, and versatile – you can use it in pretty much any dish that calls for rice, from curry to Tex-Mex to rice pudding. Black rice is just one of the many types we carry at Buffalo Market; order some today and get some of that goodness into your diet.