Black rice, named for its black color when uncooked, has been held in high regard -- both in ancient and modern times -- for certain reasons. Chief among them all is the type of nutrients it provides, substances that contribute to the fight against several ailments.
Black rice is native to Asia; it is produced in only a few countries of that area of the world, which include China, Thailand and Indonesia. For this reason, it is exceedingly rare. With a favored taste, black rise became a highly valued food crop. In ancient China, the emperors nicknamed it “forbidden rice” because only they could eat it. Today, it is used in Asia for decoration of food, as well as for cooking noodles, pudding and sushi.
Nutritional Value and Benefits
Black rice is prized for containing a type of pigment called anthocyanin. Appearing as red, purple or blue, anthocyanin is also classified as a type of antioxidant. Moreover, it has been associated with a decreased risk of certain medical conditions such as heart disease; hypertension, or high blood pressure; and cancer. Since anthocyanin is water-soluble, it can reach different parts of the body.
Comparison with Brown and White Rice
According to Zhimin Xu -- an associate professor in the Department of Food Science at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana -- black rice may be healthier than brown rice. Black rice contains more antioxidants than brown rice, which gets its color because the bran -- the nutrient-rich hard outer layers -- is left on while the chaff is removed. Black rice is healthier than white rice, which is essentially different from brown rice in that the bran is removed.
Comparison With Other Foods
The anthocyanins that are found in black rice are present in other foods such as blueberries, strawberries, red cabbage, red onions and red wine. However, black rice eliminates the sugar content present in some of the aforementioned items. Also, it provides a better alternative to the artificial food colorings used for many types of foods and drinks.