Black Rice: Newest Superfood?

If you’re enticed by rice, and chances are if you are living a gluten-free lifestyle that you are, then you’re probably already aware of the newest rice to join white, brown, and wild (not actually rice at all) in the rice arena. Say hello to black rice. Ancient Asian cultures revered and prized the rare grain so much that only emperors could eat it. So now that it’s widely available to emperors and peasants alike, in a 4-way nutritional cage match to the death, which rice wins? And how does black rice compare to its cousins in terms of flavor and texture? And lastly, does black rice belong in the nutritional hall of fame as a superfood or is it merely a flash in the pan?

Black rice is prepared by boiling it just like any other rice. Once cooked it becomes more of a dark purple.  Just simply boiled, black rice is pretty mild in flavor, slightly nutty, a little bit earthy, and vaguely floral. It is much less starchy and much chewier than white rice or even brown rice. I would say that it is more similar to wild rice in terms of flavor and texture than white or brown rice. Without having much experience with it, I think it would go great in seafood dishes or boiled in some kind of seafood stock instead of regular water. And if you worship rice pudding like me, then maybe a black rice pudding could be possible and delicious (and dare I say, nutritious, depending on how much sugar you had to use).

Nutritionally, black rice turns out to be quite the heavy hitter and is naturally gluten-free as well. Always make sure that you are using whole grain black rice though, as most of the health benefits lie in the bran. It packs about as much fiber as brown rice, has a good mix of amino acids, and has decent amounts of some vitamins and minerals too. But what really sets it apart nutritionally from other rice is its high concentration of anthocyanins, compounds responsible for giving black rice its color as well as its incredible health benefits.

Anthocyanins are biological compounds in the class of flavonoids, compounds found in all plants that often confer positive health benefits to humans. Anthocyanins are also found in other nutritional all-stars such as blueberries, acai berries, cranberries, blackberries, and grapes. A large part of what makes these foods so healthy is their content of anthocyanins. The health benefits offered by these molecules are significant and numerous. They are very powerful antioxidants with the ability to neutralize many harmful free radicals and protect your body from oxidative damage. Because of their high content of antioxidants, anthocyanins have also been linked to positive health benefits with respect to cancer and have been found to inhibit tumor development. They are also protective against heart disease and cognitive decline, and may help improve memory. Anthocyanins also have anti-inflammatory properties and help boost the immune system. They even seem to help improve vision. So yeah, pretty darn good for you.

So it seems that in the rice cage match to the death, black rice comes out the victorious hero. And really, it’s not even that close of a fight. The taste of black rice is much different than white rice, and that is something that may take getting used to, but nutritionally black rice really stands out from the crowd. And if you were to send black rice back into the cage to battle the vaunted blueberry, it may even take the blueberry down too. After all, it has more anthocyanins than blueberries, as well as more vitamin E and less sugar. And I say any food that defeats the blueberry is worthy of superfood status, so I say give black rice its trophy and let’s get onto more important stuff than anthropomorphizing cereal grains and giving them made-up awards and distinctions. Like going down to the store, buying some black rice, cooking it, and hopefully enjoying it. The health benefits are strong enough that it really does deserve a chance to be in your diet if it isn’t already.

Article Courtesy:  Andrew Steingrube