Rice is one of the staple food groups for much of the world. It is versatile, easy to cook, and importantly, quite cheap.
Unfortunately, with the recent rise in popularity of high fat low carbohydrate meal plans, rice has been getting a bad rap within the health and fitness industry. This has resulted in the demonization of white rice entirely, with brown rice becoming a more popular alternative.
Brown rice is extremely nutrient dense, containing a great number of essential vitamins and minerals that promote positive health benefits, but it is not the only alternative to white rice.
Enter Black rice
Black rice (or what was once known as forbidden rice) is a type of sticky produced from Chinese heirloom plants. It was traditionally eaten sparsely in ancient china by the emperor and his nobles (it was not deemed suitable for civilians), and was thought to promote good health and longevity.
Funnily enough, they were pretty close to the truth.
Black rice has an extremely similar nutrient profile to brown rice, and as a result, offers a number of similar health benefits. Where it differs from brown rice is that black rice has an extremely high antioxidant content, which provides a number of additional health benefits that brown rice does not.
Black Rice and Antioxidants
As previously mentioned, black rice has an extremely high antioxidant content. In fact, it is approximately 6 times more than the amount of antioxidants found in brown rice.
To put that into perspective, the content of antioxidants per gram of black rice is comparable to that of blueberries, with a spoonful of black rice bran containing the same amount of the antioxidant anthocyanin as blueberries . This is no mean feat, as blueberries are commonly considered the greatest natural source of antioxidants.
These antioxidants have a number of positive effects on health, and can help fight off a number illnesses and diseases.
Black Rice and Inflammation
Systemic inflammation is considered a key contributor to a number of diseases and illnesses prevalent in society today. This includes arthritis and other joint issues, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and even cancer.
Additionally, this systemic inflammation can influence the way our cells function, the way we digest food, and the way we transport nutrients in and out of the blood. As such, it can influence the onset of money metabolic, cardiovascular, and digestive issues.
Fortunately, preliminary research has indicated that black rice bran has the capacity to reduce inflammation at a cellular level . This results in a reduction in the amount of systemic inflammation within the body, improving cell health, and acting as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of inflammatory disease and illness.
Black Rice and Weight
Black rice has also been suggested to influence weight gain.
Black rice has an extremely high fibre content, which can promote gut health, and aid with digestive processes. Furthermore, as fibre is digested slowly (and subsequently stays in our stomach longer), it can reduce feelings of hunger, and cause results in our daily energy intake. It is this reduction in energy intake that leads to weight loss.
This has been supported by research, in which a study undertaken on 40 overweight adult women compared the effects of rice consumption on weight loss. One group consumed only white rice, while the other group consumed a mix of brown and black rice. All other food consumption was kept exactly the same (resulting in the same daily energy intake) .
Despite this, the group consuming the mix of black and brown rice saw greater reductions in fat mass and BMI compared to the white rice group.
Black Rice and Heart Health
We have already mentioned the influence that black rice can have on inflammation within the body, which can lead to significant improvements in both cardiovascular and heart health.
In addition to this, black rice has also been demonstrated to reduce plaque build-up within our arteries .
Plaque build-up within the arteries can cause the wall of those arteries to harden and become blocked. This negatively effects the function of those arteries, while also placing an increased demand on the heart, causing a significant rise in blood pressure.
This is considered a key risk factor to both heart attacks and strokes
By reducing plaque build-up in the arteries, black rice can directly reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular and heart disease, while also improving heart health and function.
Black rice and Cancer
We have already mentioned at length that black rice contains a high number of antioxidants. These antioxidants also protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
These free radicals have been suggested to cause damage to our body at a cellular level, which can lead to uncontrollable cell growth, and subsequently, the development of cancerous tissue.
Antioxidants stop the formation of free radicals, which in turn, protects the body from the onset and development of cancer.
Furthermore, black rice consumption has demonstrated to influence the spread of cancer in a positive manner, slowing tumor metastasis (referring to the spread of cancer around the body) . While the influence of black rice on cancer formation is yet to be observed, the fact that it has been shown to slow cancer formation and spreading suggests it may play a positive role inhibiting the formation of cancerous tissue.
Black rice and Liver Health
The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body, as it plays a key role converting the nutrients found in the food we eat into compounds that can be used effectively be the body. In addition to this, the liver also plays a key role regulating hormone levels within the body.
If our liver does not function well, we can develop hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, and a number of other diseases and illness.
An indication of liver health is fatty liver disease, which refers to an increased deposition of fatty tissue on and around the tissue of the liver.
The inclusion of black rice into the diet has shown to reduce risk factors that lead to fatty liver disease, suggesting its direct influence on liver health . By supporting liver health and function, black rice can further protect us from a number of negative health issues.
Black rice is an excellent alternative to white and brown rice, due to its nutrient density, high fibre content, and rich antioxidant content.
While preliminary research has suggested black rice may have the capacity to reduce the likelihood of developing a number of different diseases and illnesses, more research is still needed. Despite this, the early research is promising, suggesting that black rice consumption may promote heart and liver health, weight loss, while reducing inflammation and the spread of cancer.
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2. Min, Sung-Won, Su-Noh Ryu, and Dong-Hyun Kim. “Anti-inflammatory effects of black rice, cyanidin-3-O-β-D-glycoside, and its metabolites, cyanidin and protocatechuic acid.” International immunopharmacology 10.8 (2010): 959-966. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20669401
3. Kim, Jung Yun, et al. “Meal replacement with mixed rice is more effective than white rice in weight control, while improving antioxidant enzyme activity in obese women.” Nutrition research 28.2 (2008): 66-71. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19083390
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5. Chen, Pei-Ni, et al. “Black rice anthocyanins inhibit cancer cells invasion via repressions of MMPs and u-PA expression.” Chemico-biological interactions163.3 (2006): 218-229. Viewed at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0009279706002134
6. Jang, Hwan-Hee, et al. “Black rice (Oryza sativa L.) extract attenuates hepatic steatosis in C57BL/6 J mice fed a high-fat diet via fatty acid oxidation.” Nutrition & metabolism 9.1 (2012): 1. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366884/