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The Health Benefits of Black Rice: Why This Nutrient-Dense Grain Should Be Part of Your Diet

The Health Benefits of Black Rice: Why This Nutrient-Dense Grain Should Be Part of Your Diet

Black rice is a special kind of whole grain rice that has a very dark purple or black color. It is also known as “forbidden rice” because in ancient China only royalty was allowed to eat it! Nowadays black rice is growing in popularity because of its great taste and amazing health benefits.
Unlike white rice which has the bran and germ removed, black rice is a whole grain that contains all parts of the grain - the bran, germ, and endosperm. This gives black rice a very high nutrient and antioxidant content compared to refined white rice. Black rice has a sweet, nutty flavor and sticky texture when cooked.
Let’s explore all the ways black rice can be great for your health!

Nutrition Facts of Black Rice

Black rice is packed full of important vitamins and minerals:

  • High in antioxidants - Anthocyanins give black rice its dark pigment and act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants help fight free radicals and prevent damage to cells.

  • Contains iron - Iron carries oxygen through the blood to all the cells in your body and helps fight fatigue and anemia.

  • Has fiber - The bran layer of black rice gives it a high fiber content. Fiber promotes good digestion and heart health.

  • Provides magnesium - Magnesium is needed for strong bones, muscle and nerve function. It also helps control blood pressure.

  • Contains plant-based protein - Black rice offers 3.5g of protein per half cup cooked. Protein provides energy and supports the growth and maintenance of tissues.

  • Naturally gluten-free - Black rice contains no gluten, making it a good choice for anyone with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.

Health Benefits of Black Rice

Research shows that regularly eating black rice can provide many benefits:

High in Antioxidants

Antioxidants protect your cells from damage caused by molecules called free radicals. Too much free radical damage can lead to various diseases.

The anthocyanins found in black rice act as powerful antioxidants in your body. Studies show black rice contains even more anthocyanins than blueberries!

By eating black rice, you can increase your antioxidant intake and help prevent damage to your cells.

May Help Lower Cholesterol

High cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease. The fiber and plant compounds in black rice may help lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels.

In one study, rats fed a diet high in black rice had less LDL cholesterol and more HDL “good” cholesterol compared to rats fed white rice. The black rice group also had lower triglycerides.

While more research is needed, black rice may help keep cholesterol levels balanced and promote heart health.

Can Support Heart Health

Thanks to its fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, and phytochemicals, black rice may offer several benefits for heart health.

The fiber can help lower cholesterol. The minerals may help reduce blood pressure. And the antioxidants can decrease inflammation and oxidative stress, two key factors in heart disease.

One study found that people who ate brown rice and black rice 1-2 times per week had a lower risk of developing atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the arteries.

By supporting healthy cholesterol, blood pressure, and arteries, black rice may help keep your heart in good shape.

Contains Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Chronic inflammation is involved in many illnesses including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. The anthocyanins and other plant compounds in black rice have anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Studies demonstrate that black rice extract can reduce the production of inflammatory compounds like cytokines and prostaglandins.

This anti-inflammatory action may be part of why black rice is protective against certain diseases. Consuming black rice on a regular basis can help lower inflammation internally.

May Have Anti-Cancer Effects

While studies are still early, black rice may also have anti-cancer abilities. The anthocyanins act as antioxidants that can inhibit cancer cell growth and encourage cancer cell death.

In lab studies, scientists found that anthocyanin pigments from black rice slowed the growth of breast, liver, and colon cancer cells by 50-60%. Anthocyanins also boosted cancer cell death by 50-70%.

More human studies are needed, but the early lab results are exciting and suggest black rice could have anti-cancer effects.

Could Aid Digestion

If you suffer from digestive issues, black rice may help thanks to its fiber content. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance that moves slowly through your digestive tract, helping to ease both constipation and diarrhea.

Insoluble fiber gives bulk to stool and promotes regular bowel movements. This combination of soluble and insoluble fiber in black rice can support healthy digestion.

Plus, fermentation of black rice fiber by gut bacteria produces compounds that influence digestion as well. Black rice’s fiber content makes it a smart choice for improving digestive function.

Supports Brain Function

Black rice is rich in anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid with antioxidant properties that may boost brain function. In animal studies, anthocyanins have been found to protect neurons from damage and improve neuron signaling.

The phytochemicals in black rice may also help prevent inflammation in the brain that can lead to cognitive decline.

By reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, black rice may support a healthy nervous system and brain as you age.

Good Source of Plant-Based Protein

Each half cup of cooked black rice provides around 3.5 grams of protein. This protein content combined with 8 grams of fiber makes black rice a filling and nutritious choice.

For vegetarians, vegans, or anyone looking to add more plant-based protein to their diet, black rice is an excellent option. The protein will help you stay energized and recover properly after exercise.

How to Cook and Enjoy Black Rice

Now that you know all the health perks black rice has to offer, let’s look at the best ways to cook and serve it:

  • Combine 1 cup black rice with 2 cups water or broth in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes until tender and liquid is absorbed.

  • Try substituting black rice for white rice in stir fries, fried rice, sushi rolls, and rice pilaf recipes.

  • For firmer black rice grains, cook like pasta in a large pot of boiling water for 25-30 minutes. Drain and rinse.

  • Cook black rice in coconut milk instead of water for a creamy, flavorful texture.

  • For quicker cooking, opt for black rice noodles or pasta over the whole grain.

  • Toss cooked black rice with chopped veggies, beans, nuts, herbs and lemon juice for a fiber-filled salad.

  • Make black rice porridge by simmering rice in excess liquid until creamy, then adding spices.

Easy Black Rice Recipes to Try

Black Rice Breakfast Bowl


  • 1⁄2 cup cooked black rice
  • 1⁄2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1⁄4 cup blueberries
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of cinnamon


  1. Cook black rice. Let cool slightly.
  2. In a bowl, combine rice, milk, blueberries and walnuts.
  3. Top with chia seeds, maple syrup and cinnamon. Enjoy!

Black Rice Salad with Chicken


  • 1 cup cooked black rice
  • 3 oz cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1⁄4 tsp salt
  • 1⁄4 tsp pepper


  1. Cook black rice. Let cool.
  2. In large bowl, mix together rice, chicken, bell pepper, carrot and cilantro.
  3. Whisk together oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss to coat.

Black Rice Sushi Rolls


  • 1 cup cooked black rice
  • 1⁄2 avocado, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 oz smoked salmon, cut into strips
  • 1⁄4 cup sliced cucumber
  • Nori sheets
  • Soy sauce (for serving)


  1. Cook black rice. Spread onto nori sheet.
  2. Layer on fillings - avocado, carrot, salmon, cucumber. Roll tightly into sushi roll. Cut into pieces with a sharp knife. Serve with soy sauce.


Black rice is an ancient grain that has impressive nutritional value and many science-backed health benefits. With its anthocyanins, fiber, minerals, and plant-based protein, black rice can help protect your cells, lower inflammation, support digestion, and more.

Compared to refined white rice, the whole grain black rice is far superior in terms of nutrition. Black rice provides antioxidants, cholesterol-lowering effects, anti-cancer properties, and anti-inflammatory activity according to research.

The delicious nutty flavor and chewy texture of black rice also makes it an easy substitute for brown or white rice in any dish. Consider swapping out regular rice for black rice in your meals to take advantage of the unique health perks it provides.

From breakfast bowls to rice salads and sushi, there are endless possibilities for enjoying black rice. To reap the rewards, aim for at least one serving of this superfood whole grain several times per week.

So give black rice a try today! Add it to your diet and start experiencing the valuable vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other compounds found in this nutrient-dense food. Your body will thank you.

The health benefits of black rice are still being uncovered, but science clearly shows that this colorful whole grain is worth incorporating into a balanced diet. With its ability to fight chronic disease, reduce inflammation, aid digestion, and beyond, black rice can be a simple way to boost your overall health every day.

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