Have you noticed a trend toward black foods, such as bread with charcoal, black seaweed, black sesame and squid ink? Perhaps this is because they are unusual, or because they look great and really ‘pop’ on the plate making for Instagram (black) gold. Black rice is another black food that is enjoying popularity and is now widely available.
Black rice is a variety of regular rice Oryza sativa. In ancient China black rice was known as forbidden rice as only the wealthy could afford it. Now you can buy it in the supermarket, although it is a little more expensive than regular rice. I’ve seen it labelled as a ‘super food’ and while we may not be used to seeing rice labelled this way, it does have something special. The black colour is due the presence of an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which is also found in blue and purple fruits and vegetables such as berries, grapes, plums and cabbage. Besides looking gorgeous, anthocyanins are also good for you because they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that might help reduce the risk of numerous diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and even cancer. This sounds pretty ‘super’ to me, but I think lots of foods are super. It is also a good source of magnesium and a source of B-vitamins thiamine and niacin, and 1 cup of cooked black rice has just over 3g of fibre as most black rice is wholegrain and still has its bran layer. Black rice is naturally gluten free and offers a bit of excitement and variety in a gluten-free diet for those with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.
Many rice varieties have a high glycemic index (GI), several have medium GI, but unusually black rice appears to have a low GI. There is only one black rice listed on the GI database, and it is a Chinese black rice porridge that has a GI of 42 (low). With most rices the main determinant of GI is the balance of the two main starches present, amylose and amylopectin. However, in black rice it is likely that the high levels of anthocyanin antioxidant is also slowing down the absorption of the carbohydrate and thus lowering the GI.
Black rice keeps its shape and is chewier than polished white rice and has a nutty flavour. It also takes longer to cook, around 35 minutes. To save time, try cooking up a big batch, freeze meal-sized portions and take one out as you need it. Black rice is perfect for rice salads, rice bowls, pilafs, risotto, paella, fried rice and as a base for curries and stir-frys and even as a sweet rice pudding dessert.
Source: USDA, 2020
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, author, consultant, cook and food enthusiast who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious.
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