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The Magic of Black Rice: New Superfood

Updated on March 1, 2013
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As a certified health and wellness coach, I love discussing food, health benefits, and how to keep weight in check.

Black Rice, the New Superfood


I never fully appreciate the magic of black rice until I stumbled upon an article praising the nutritional value of this once “forbidden rice.” Forbidden rice? I never knew that. Growing up, my mother would conveniently (we were poor and black rice is rather inexpensive in Singapore) make a big pot of sweet black rice (resembling black congee) for our mid-day snack. It was always served with generous drizzling of thick coconut milk, with a little salt added. Since, it’s almost a kitchen fixture, like the stove has sprouted a permanent pot of black rice, I didn’t appreciate it at all. I longed for ice-cream, lollipops and crackers. Anything but this black gooey dessert.

Of course, mom was right. You hear that often, but it bears repeating. They always are, on hindsight. As I read the article, I wonder at my mom’s nutritional intuition. How did she know, given that it took years to come to this scientific conclusion? Maybe, she did. In Chinese herbal medicine, black rice is often recommended as a tonic. It is believed to strengthen health and promote longevity, which explained its other alias: “longevity rice,” and “tribute rice” and it was reserved exclusively for emperors.

Once for the exclusive enjoyment of emperors, we can now find black rice anywhere, particularly in South-east Asia, where black rice is used in many forms: as steamed rice, in stir-fry, in salad and notably in desserts. If you are still new to the darker and more handsome (by way of nutrition) of this species of rice, black rice is quite the “king” of rice” when it comes to nutrition.

What is Black Rice?

Black rice is obviously named because of its black appearance. Sometimes, it’s also called purple rice because of its deep purple color when cooked. Its deep hue is due to a powerful group of antioxidants, called anthocyanins, the pigment that is responsible for the stunning colors of fruits and vegetables. To heap more accolades, black rice is also whole-grain and gluten free.

Black rice is a long-grain rice whereas black glutinous rice is short-grain.

Health Benefits

  • More Antioxidants

Blueberries have basked too long in the antioxidants' limelight. Now, a new champion has been crowned. According to Zhimin Xu, an associate professor at the Department of Food Science of Louisiana State University, “Just a spoonful of black rice bran (or 10 spoons of cooked black rice) contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar, and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants.”

As have been pointed out in many health reports, anthocyanins protect against damaging free radicals that give rise to cancer, aging and cardiovascular diseases, amongst others.

  • Anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is often the cause behind a number of body ailments, including allergies, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and even aging. In a study published in the American Chemical’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that mice fed with a diet supplemented with 10 percent black rice bran significantly reduced inflammation of the ear skin compared to mice fed on standard diet or ones supplemented with 10 percent brown rice bran.

The study also found that black rice bran inhibits the release of histamine, a chemical that triggers inflammation. Black rice bran consumption can alleviate allergic dermatitis symptoms, such as swelling. Allergy and asthma sufferers may find relief by including black rice in their diet.

How to Make Basic Black Rice

You, too, can tap the magic of black rice by including black rice in your diet. The Louisiana researchers think that you don’t even have to consume large quantities of black rice to reap its benefits. Just one spoonful of black rice, mixed in your food can make a difference.

But given the fact that black rice is nutty and more interesting in flavor than white rice or even brown, you may not have to be arm-twisted to just eat a spoonful.

Here’s how to make basic black rice:

  • 1 cup black rice
  • 2 cups water


  • Soak black rice in enough water to cover for at least 4 hours. You can also soak it overnight.
  • Drain rice. Place rice in non-stick saucepan and add 2 cups of water
  • Bring it to a boil and lower heat. Allow to simmer for about 40 minutes.
  • You can also use a rice steamer and steam rice until cooked, about 40 minutes or until tender.
  • Fluff rice and serve with your favorite meat or vegetables dishes.

More Black Rice Dessert Ideas:

How to Make My Mom’s Sweet Black Rice Dessert aka Pulut Hitam (in Singapore and Malaysia)

You make this dessert like you would make congee or porridge. Boil until tender and soupy like.

  • 1 cup black rice
  • 6 to 7 cups of water
  • ¼ cup sugar or Gula Malaka (sugar made from sap of sugar palm)
  • A few drops of pandan essence/extract or better yet, fresh pandan leaf (screwpine leaves) readily available in Asia.
  • A small bowl of coconut milk, lightly seasoned with a sprinkling of salt.


  • Rinse black rice and soak for at least1 hour.
  • Put black rice in a deep pot, add water and bring to a boil.
  • Lower heat and simmer until tender.
  • Add sugar and pandan essence/extract

Serve warm, at room-temperature or chilled. Just before serving, add a tablespoon or two of coconut milk. Stir in thoroughly and enjoy.

There are variations to this black rice dessert. It is also often cooked with red beans, lotus seeds, dates or dried longans for medicinal value.

Black rice: Promotes the flow of Qi (life-force in the body)

Red Beans (aka aduki beans or hong dou—Chinese translation of red bean): reduces swelling caused by accumulation of water, promote diuresis, clears heat, damp-heat, eliminates toxins.

Lotus Seeds: classified as an astringent, benefiting the spleen, kidney and heart.

Dates: nourish blood and spleen, promoting sleep and mental clarity

Dried Logans: add luster to skin, helps to detoxify and protect the liver

Recipe for using black rice, longans and dates:

Recipe: Nourishing Beauty with Sweet Rice Congee


Where Can You Find Black Rice?

Since the promising reports on the health benefits of black rice, the Louisiana University researchers have suggested that food manufacturers consider using black rice in the making of cereals, cakes, cookies, and drinks to boost nutrient levels.

But why wait? You can easily find black rice in Asian markets or buy it online (as always). Opt for whole-grain black rice as its outermost layer or bran holds the key to the above-mentioned health benefits.


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