Rice is the staple food group in much of the world, a starch used like bread in many meals and cuisines. But rice is getting a bad rap. As a refined carbohydrate with little of the actual grain left, white rice might as well be pure sugar - at least that's how your body processes it, anyway. Brown rice has taken its place on our plates, but can be a little boring and bland. The solution? Black rice, a nutty superfood that brings a new flavor and texture to your dinner table. Also known as “forbidden rice” or “longevity rice,” black rice is a type of sticky rice produced by heirloom plants in China, Thailand and Indonesia. In Ancient China during the Ming Dynasty, only the emperors were allowed to eat black rice, which promised a long life of good health.
Today, introducing this pretty grain into your diet is a smart idea. In the natural world, bright color indicates a healthy food, and these dark grains (actually deep purple) contain many of the same antioxidants as leafy greens, red tomatoes and orange carrots.
Nutritional Value Per Serving (1/4 cup uncooked):
White Rice: 180 calories, 53 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams protein
Brown Rice: 170 calories, 46 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams protein
Black Rice: 160 calories, 34 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 5 grams protein
High in nutritional value and balance, black rice contains 18 amino acids, zinc, copper and carotene. With a soft texture and mild, nutty taste, a serving of black rice offers the eater a significant dose of iron (almost 2 milligrams or 4 percent of your daily recommended intake) and also fiber (2 grams).
Black rice also packs a powerful punch of antioxidants from its purple anthocyanins, flavonoids that are also found in blueberries, grapes, açai and other purple foods. These pigments fight free radicals, reduce inflammation and improve cardiovascular and brain function through better circulation and healthy arteries.
Black rice is easy to find in any health food store, and you can incorporate it into your family’s diet in several ways. Because of its stout nutritional makeup, black rice takes longer to cook than white or brown rice. You’ll find the best results by soaking your black rice for one hour and rinsing it before you start to cook. Plan on two cups of water for every cup of rice, and boil for half an hour. Double this time if you didn’t soak it first.
Black rice is a delicious side dish on its own, or served with fresh roasted vegetables like peppers, onions, cauliflower, zucchini or Brussels sprouts.
Add to cold salads like you would wild rice, sprinkling it on a simple green salad along with carrots, green onions, red bell peppers, mangos or mandarin oranges.
Serve alongside a healthy stir-fry of sautéed chicken, shrimp or tofu, seasoned with garlic, onions and peppers.
Grind the dry rice kernels in a coffee grinder or food processor and shake over cereal, fish for baking and into pancake batter.
Some organic black rice:
Image: Dennis Mueller