The amazing health benefits of purple rice have made it a very popular grain to include in meals and use as a health supplement. Purple rice (also known as black rice) was revered by the ancient Chinese for its healing power and nutritional qualities. In fact, because purple rice was kept for the Emperor and his family, it was referred to as ‘forbidden rice’.
When compared to other types of ‘traditional’ rice like white and brown rice, purple rice has much more health-boosting properties. This type of rice is a rich source of dietary fiber and contains many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. That is why many people include purple rice in their diet to help improve their digestive health, maintain a healthy heart, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and boost cognitive function.
In this article, you will find out about the many health benefits of purple rice and why it is much better for you than its white or brown counterparts. You will also learn how to cook purple rice and incorporate more of it into your meals.
Nutritional Value of Purple Rice
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that purple rice contains chemical compounds called phenolics, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. These are antioxidant compounds that have tremendous health benefits and can reduce the risk of developing various chronic diseases.
One serving of purple rice (1/4 cup or 50g) contains approximately 160 calories. Each serving of this type of rice contains 5g of protein and 2g of fiber and 1g of iron.
Which is best – purple rice or brown rice?
When it comes to choosing the type of rice to eat, brown rice is, of course, much healthier than white rice, which contains very little nutritional value. However, when comparing brown rice and purple rice, which is best?
Both brown rice and purple rice contain vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. However, purple rice has the edge over brown rice because it contains more protein and fiber than brown rice.
Purple rice is also better for you than brown rice because of the dark pigments that give the rice its purple or black color. Pigmented rice contains about 6 times more antioxidants than brown or white rice.
So, if you are looking for rice with the most amount of health benefits, purple rice is the best type to use.
The Health Benefits of Purple Rice
One reason why purple rice is so good for your health is that it contains anthocyanin pigments. These are dark pigments which give black and purple rice its unique color and are found in many fruits and berries. According to the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, anthocyanin pigments are powerful antioxidants that have medicinal benefits and can help rid the body of free radicals.
Let’s look at the amazing benefits to your health that “forbidden” purple rice can provide you with.
Purple rice has antioxidants
One of the biggest health benefits of purple rice is the high levels of antioxidants it contains. Antioxidants are important to protect cells in the body from damage done by harmful free radicals. Antioxidant compounds help to prevent or reduce the risk of developing various diseases including cancer and heart disease.
It may surprise you, but purple rice actually contains more antioxidants than blueberries. The American Chemical Society published information showing that, like for like, purple rice bran has more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries. However, purple rice bran has even more health benefits. It contains more fiber and vitamin E (another essential antioxidant) and less sugar than blueberries. It is also a cheaper source of disease-fighting antioxidants than blueberries.
Purple rice is anti-inflammatory
Another important health benefit of purple rice is its ability to reduce inflammatory responses in the body. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect us from bacterial and viral infections. According to Dr. Weil, chronic inflammation seems to be at the root of many serious illnesses and diseases.
Research carried out on the anti-inflammatory effects of pigmented rice, found that it contains a number of compounds that help to reduce inflammation.
Other researchers found that a diet containing purple rice bran helped to suppress inflammatory skin conditions like dermatitis. They concluded by saying that purple rice bran is anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic and can be used to treat and prevent diseases associated with chronic inflammation.
That study also showed that brown rice had no effect on reducing inflammation in the body. So, that is another reason why purple rice is superior to brown rice.
Cardiovascular (heart) health benefits of purple rice
Including more purple rice in your diet could help to improve the health of your heart and lower blood pressure.
Research published in The Journal of Nutrition found that purple rice helps to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This is the type of “good” cholesterol that a healthy cardiovascular system needs to function properly. The study showed that purple rice also helps to prevent hardening of the arteries that can lead to heart failure.
Of course, maintaining a healthy heart is a lifestyle choice and requires enjoying a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding habits like over drinking and smoking. However, eating more purple rice in your diet will help you to greatly improve your cardiovascular system and let you enjoy better overall health.
Purple rice improves digestive health
Purple rice is a rich source of dietary fiber which is important to keep your digestive system working properly. The proper amount of fiber in your diet helps to prevent constipation and other digestive problems. However, dietary fiber has also been linked with preventing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and elevated blood sugar levels.
Purple rice can also help you to lose weight. Researchers in South Korea found that women who replaced white rice with a mixture of brown and purple rice saw a significant reduction in body fat and weight. The group that had the purple rice also showed higher levels of “good cholesterol.”
By replacing white rice in your diet with purple rice, you may find that it’s easier to lose weight and cholesterol at the same time.
Purple rice for liver health
The antioxidant properties of purple rice can also help to detoxify your liver and improve liver function. A healthy liver is necessary to filter out toxins from your blood and break down fats from food. The liver also plays an important role in regulating glucose levels in the blood.
The journal Nutrition & Metabolism published a study showing that black (or purple) rice increased fatty acid metabolism and helped to reduce the risk of elevated blood sugar levels and high cholesterol. There was also a lower risk of developing liver disease thanks to the antioxidant effect of purple rice on the liver.
Other studies have also shown that the therapeutic properties of purple rice can also help to restore the function of livers that had been damaged by alcohol.
Purple rice regulates blood sugar levels
As the studies in the previous section show, purple rice helps to regulate blood sugar levels and can be used as an important food to help control diabetes.
In fact, substituting white rice for purple rice in your diet could help prevent you developing type 2 diabetes. White rice is classed as a simple carbohydrate, meaning that it quickly spikes sugar levels. However, the dietary fiber in whole grain rice (for example, purple rice) can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by almost 40%.
Purple rice has anticancer effect
The antioxidant anthocyanins in purple rice also helps to protect from cell damage in the body that can cause cancer. In fact, extracts from purple rice have been shown to have an anti-cancer effect and prevent the growth and spread of tumors.
Researchers from Taiwan discovered that, in laboratory conditions, the dark pigments called anthocyanins in purple rice stopped cancer cells from spreading (tumor metastasis). Other studies have shown positive results in using the anti-metastasis ability of anthocyanins in preventing breast cancer cells from spreading.
Of course, more research has to be carried out to see how the antioxidant properties of pigmented rice like purple rice can be used in the treatment of cancer.
Improves brain function
The antioxidant effect of anthocyanins also has a beneficial effect on improving brain function. This means that purple rice can help to improve your memory impairment and prevent or reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and depression.
Various studies into the effects of anthocyanins have found that foods containing these compounds have a beneficial effect on cognitive function. For example, a 6-year long study published in the Annals of Neurology showed that anthocyanin-rich foods (like purple rice) can help slow down the rates of cognitive decline. In fact, the researchers found that on average cognitive aging was delayed by 2 ½ years.
Clinical studies also showed that anthocyanins helped to improve learning capacity and reduce symptoms of depression.
By adding more purple rice to your diet or taking purple rice supplements, you could help to boost your memory and prevent premature cognitive aging.
Cooking With Purple Rice
Purple rice is cooked and used the same way as you would cook and prepare brown rice – For every one cup of purple rice, you need 2 cups of water. Because purple rice is less refined, you have to steam it for longer. To speed up the cooking process, you can soak the rice for one hour beforehand.
Bring the rice to the boil and then simmer for around 30 minutes on a very low heat. If you were not able to soak the rice beforehand, it may take up to 60 minutes to cook. The rice will have a chewy texture.