Black Rice: Should You Eat This Superfood?
Last week I was looking for fresh articles ideas. A friend mentioned the “superfood” black rice.
“Black rice?” I thought. “What in the world is that?”
I’ve written perhaps fifty articles on superfoods and nutrition over the years, and likely edited five times that many. This is a galaxy of information to process and digest. But over the course of these hundreds of thousands of words I’ve never come across a single conversation about black rice.
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So, here we are.
Rewind back a week. My friend was making some incredible claims about black rice. It has far more micronutrients than white rice. It has fewer carbohydrates and sugar than white rice. It is flat out just better for you than any other grain.
Are these claims true? Well, let’s dive into the facts and find out…
Black Rice History and Info
Black rice (species Oryza sativa L.) is also known as purple rice, forbidden rice, the emperor’s rice, or longevity rice. It is very high in iron and vitamin E. Black rice is also very rich in antioxidants, even more so than blueberries. The hull, or outer layer of black rice, contains one of the richest deposits of anthocyanin antioxidants found in any food.
For that reason alone black rice should be considered a superfood.
Black rice also has a similar fiber content to brown rice. It is also considered to have anti-inflammatory properties. The Chinese also believe that black rice is good for the liver, stomach, and kidneys.
It is also rich in vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B9 (folic acid), and the minerals phosphorus, zinc, calcium, and iron. Black rice also contains a wealth of the essential amino acids tryptophan and lysine.
Black rice has been used for thousands of years in Asia. For many centuries its consumption was limited to that of Chinese royalty. As a cooking ingredient, black rice can be used to make noodles, bread, porridge, and traditional Chinese black rice cakes.
Its rich black color turns to a dark purple hue when cooked. The darkness of its color is primarily from black rice’s anthocyanin content.
In the modern era, black rice is growing in popularity in the US, Europe, and Australia. It is typically only found in health food stores.
How Does Black Rice Stack Up?
So is black rice really a superior grain? Let’s look at how it stacks up again other popular rice options.
|1/4 Cup Uncooked||Black Rice||White Rice||Brown Rice||Wild Rice||Quinoa|
|B2 (Riboflavin)||0.043 mg||0.1mg||0.1mg||0.1mg||0.1mg|
|B1 (Thiamine)||0.413 mg||0.1mg||0.6mg||0.1mg||0.2mg|
|B9 (Folic Acid)||20mcg||3.6mcg||6.1mcg||36.8mcg||78.2mcg|
Now let’s compare the raw numbers.
Low fat. If you’re looking for the lowest fat option, black rice is not the winner. But let’s be real here: the difference is minimal. White rice and wild rice have about 2 fewer grams of fat per 1/4 cup uncooked serving than black rice.
Scorecard: White Rice 1, Wild Rice 1, Black Rice 0.
Calories. Wild rice takes the “low calorie” crown, coming in with 17 fewer calories per 1/4 cup uncooked serving. This makes wild rice a better choice for the calorie conscious, or those with a slower metabolism who are trying to maintain weight.
Scorecard: Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1, Black Rice 0.
Low carb. Diabetics, or those trying to limit carbs, will be best served by eating quinoa. Wild rice coming in a close second. Quinoa has almost 8 fewer grams of carbs per 1/4 cup uncooked serving than black rice.
Scorecard: Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1, Quinoa 1, Black Rice 0.
Protein. When it comes to protein per serving, quinoa is king… But only by a hair. Both black rice and wild rice aren’t that far behind quinoa’s 6 grams per 1/4 cup uncooked serving, coming in at 5 grams and 5.6 grams respectively.
Scorecard: Wild Rice 2, Quinoa 2, White Rice 1, Black Rice 0.
Fiber. The fiber champion out of this group is quinoa, with wild rice and brown rice not far behind. Black rice is still a solid option; it’s just not on the same level as quinoa.
Scorecard: Quinoa 3, Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1, Black Rice 0.
Potassium. The sodium/potassium balance is important when it comes to blood pressure regulation. Here, black rice crushes the competition and finally lands a scorecard point.
Scorecard: Quinoa 3, Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1, Black Rice 1.
Iron. Speaking of destroying the competition, quinoa is so iron-rich that it makes all rice variations feel anemic.
Scorecard: Quinoa 4, Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1, Black Rice 1.
Calcium. Those looking to boost their daily calcium intake can’t go wrong with black rice. It is the clear winner here. While the calcium intake in black rice wouldn’t be considered exceptional, it still is a top grain choice.
Scorecard: Quinoa 4, Black Rice 2, Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1.
Lysine and tryptophan. The winner is quinoa, but only by the smallest of margins. Because black rice is so close, I’m going to give both of these grains a point.
Scorecard: Quinoa 5, Black Rice 3, Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1.
Magnesium. When it comes to magnesium content, black rice is the clear winner. It contains nearly 60mg more per 1/4 cup uncooked serving than quinoa.
Scorecard: Quinoa 5, Black Rice 4, Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1.
B vitamins. B vitamins play an important role in cell metabolism, and are often included in energy drinks. When it comes to grain options, brown rice and quinoa start tall above the other options. One point for each here.
Scorecard: Quinoa 6, Black Rice 4, Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1, Brown Rice 1.
Antioxidants. As mentioned earlier, black rice is the antioxidant king of grains.
Scorecard: Quinoa 6, Black Rice 5, Wild Rice 2, White Rice 1, Brown Rice 1.
Is Black Rice the Best Nutritional Option?
Keeping it real, any of these choices are rock solid. They are clean, natural foods. It’s best to eat a variety of grain choices each week to sustain a well-rounded, well-balanced eating approach. This snap shot is not comprehensive, but it does yield quality insight into the differences between choices.
With that said, quinoa is king. It is high protein, lower carb, full of fiber, and packed with iron and potassium.
Of the rice options though, black rice stands tall. It is rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Black rice is also high protein and fiber-rich.
My best advice is to head to your local natural foods store and stock up on both quinoa and black rice. Next, hit the Internet and explore some healthy recipes. You won’t regret either of these power-packed options.