Black rice is range of glutinous rice varieties found in India, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia and other Asian countries. In China, a variety – forbidden black rice is popular. Indonesian black rice, Haitian black rice, Thai Jasmine black rice or Manipuri Chak-Hao Amubi are some of the black rice varieties. What makes this variety different is rich presence of anthocyanins in the barn which offers it dark purple or black color and other health benefits.
Ancient china believed black rice would make you live long and hence its consumption by restricted by nobles and emperors; hence it was called forbidden black rice. Most of black rice varieties are considered special and served on festivals and auspicious day. In Ayurveda, it is referred as Krishna shali. Today rightly so, research suggest health benefits which can make us live long and today it is counted amongst superfoods. Dr. Zhimin Xu, one of the leading researchers on black rice term it cheaper and better source of anthocyanins.
Black rice tastes good with mild meaty nutty flavor. It turns dark purple when cooked and may leave purple stain on utensils. It is rich in fibers just like brown rice. Black Rice does not contain glutenin or gliadin which makes it gluten free. It is sticky and often termed as sticky black rice or glutinous black rice. It offers glue like properties and according to some ancient reports it was used as mortar in construction of Great Wall of China.
Nutritional Value of Black Rice
Nutritional value of brown rice is widely accepted. Black rice is very much similar to brown rice in term of calorie, fibers and protein content. Difference between black rice and brown rice, apart from its colour is presence of anthocyanins while absence of Vitamin E in black rice. Latest research on anthocyanins shows that it is powerful antioxidant and has potential in treating and preventing various diseases including cancer. It reduces risk of chronic health conditions including atherosclerosis, heart disorder and cancer. Anthocyanin compounds extracted include cyanidin 3-glucoside, cyanidin-3, 5-diglucoside, peonidin 3-glucoside, and pelargonidin-3, 5-diglucoside. These pigments have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory property and have potential use as nutraceutical. Research shows that heating and cooking of black rice leads to thermal degradation of anthocyanins present in black rice. Black Rice does not contain gluten and safe for consumption for people with gluten intolerance.
Health benefits of black rice
Black rice due to its unique nutrient profile offers various health benefits. Some of the benefits of this not so forbidden rice are mentioned below:
Black rice as antioxidant
Black rice is rich source of anthocyanins which are considered good water soluble antioxidants. They are easily absorbed in our body and helps in removal of harmful free radicals from body. They prevent damage from oxidative stress of free radicals which may cause aging or degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. Animal studies confirm antioxidative action of black rice extract in rats and helped in protecting liver from alcohol damage. It is because of this property black rice extract finds use as antioxidant in various body care products. In China, black rice is considered good for kidney, stomach and liver. This can be attributed to possible antioxidant property of black rice in protecting body organs
Black rice and prevention of cancer
One of the important strategies in cancer treatment is tumor metastasis or cancer cell death. Anthocyanins are natural flavonoids which cause cancer cell deaths. In vivo study suggests cancer inhibitory action of peonidin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-glucoside extracted from black rice. Another study successfully investigated anticancer effect of black rice extract on breast cancer cells. The extract from black rice reduced growth of breast cancer cells and result in their death. Anthocyanins have showed tremendous potential in treatment of cancers. Regular consumption of anthocyanin rich black rice can reduce risk of cancer.
Black rice for protecting heart
Again anthocyanins can be attributed for heart protective property of black rice. Reglar consumption of black rice may reduce risk of heart disorders. Anthocyanins prevent development of plaques in arteries and thus heart attacks. Anthocyanins also reduce cholesterol levels in body. Black rice barn offers amino acids which reduces blood pressure.
Animal study suggests that level of cholesterol was low in rabbits fed with black rice compared to those fed with white rice. Also rabbits fed with black rice showed lesser atherosclerotic plaque. Black rice with increased antioxidant activity reduced blood cholesterol and blockages in arteries. Another study found that black rice diet reduced risk of heart complications in patients with coronary heart disease. Black rice offer cardioprotective effects by improving blood plasma antioxidant status and reduces inflammation. A study found that black rice offers benefits to control blood fat levels and reduces cholesterol. Black rice extract, mainly anthocyanins, interferes with cholesterol metabolism and inhibited its absorption in blood. The results suggests its use in treatment of hypercholesterolaemia.
Black rice and weight loss
In China, black rice is becoming popular as weight loss food. Not much scientific evidence is available. However this effect can be attributed to high fibers present in black rice which gives feeling of full stomach and reduces food cravings. High fiber and anthocyanin also help in reducing absorption of cholesterol. Animal study has also shown that black rice extract reduced serum triglyceride levels, reduces platelet hyper activity and prevents weight gain.
Black rice for gastrointestinal health
Like brown rice, black rice offers high dietary fibers and is good for your gut. It facilitates bowel movements and prevents constipation. High fiber also prevents absorption of toxic materials in intestine and leads to their removal from body.
Black rice for diabetes
Anthocyanins are found to reduce risk of type II diabetes. Increasing experimental and clinical studies suggests correlation of type II diabetes and oxidative stress in body. Black rice with supply of antioxidant anthocyanins protects body from free radicals which may result in development of complications of diabetes mellitus.
Black rice good for eyes
Anthocyanins protect eyes from degenerative disorders of eye. A diet rich in black rice may reduce risks of development of cataract or diabetic complications related to vision.
Latest studies point to preventative and curative effects of anthocyanins on impaired vision. Animal studies have shown that anthocyanins can be used in treatment of opthalmological diseases like myopia and glucoma.
Anti-inflammatory properties of Black rice
Inflammation is body’s protective response of body to trauma, injury or invasion. However today many illness have be associated with development of chronic inflammation. Some of these diseases include asthma, arthritis, diabetes or even cancer. Black rice offers anthocyanins and other phytonutrients which are anti-inflammatory in nature and useful in treating symptoms of inflammation disorders. Black rice alleviates joint swelling, asthma, respiratory diseases, osteoporosis and other inflammatory diseases.
Skin benefits of black rice
Antioxidant nature of black rice is useful in protecting skin. Black rice prevents skin from damage by pollutants or sun. It prevents aging of skin and reduces signs of aging like wrinkles, dark spots and fine lines. Black rice offers antioxidants and other proteins to skin which helps in restoring skin elasticity and maintain firmness. Try out some homemade preparation of black rice for your skin –
- Use black rice flour for making a facial mask. Mix dried black rice powder with honey and apply this to your face. Leave this for 20-30 minutes before you wash face with cold water. This black rice facial would moisturize your face.
- Boil ½ cup of black rice with 4 cups of water for 10 minutes. Allow it to cool and rice to settle down. Sieve to remove black rice water. Soak paper towel or napkin in this rice water and place it over your face for 10-15 minutes.
- Grate some potatoes finely and crush to obtain potato starch. Add some black rice flour to this juice and mix well to form smooth paste. Apply to your face for 10-20 minutes.
Black rice for hair growth
In China, homemade fermented black rice water is used to wash hair. This black rice water offers antioxidants and nutrients for protection of scalp and hair. It is believed to make your hair smooth and shiny. Also try homemade black rice shampoo made from black rice water and aloe vera gel for protecting hair damage. Black rice offers biotin, Vitamin B and other proteins required for hair growth. It protects hair damage from wind and sun. Today various hair formulations are available in market with black rice extract. This patent uses black rice nourishing wine made from black rice, mulberry, Chinese angelica, dried rehmnnia root and yellow rice wine in particular ratio for hair nourishment and growth.
Culinary uses of black rice
Black rice bran and its extract are used as healthier alternative colorant in various foods and beverages. It is also used as additive in breakfast cereals, cakes and other processed food to enhance its nutrition and natural preservative. This sticky black rice serves in making good black rice sushi or black rice risotto or black rice pudding. Black rice salads are also more common. In china black rice noodles and black rice cracker chips are available in market. Chinkiang Vinegar or Black rice vinegar is very popular in south China, especially from city of Zhenjiang. Black rice vineagar has dark color and deep smoky flavor.
This fast becoming superfood is worth giving a try. It offers anthocyanins with great health benefits. Definitely it can add color and flavor to your food.