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A screen filled with black rice granules.

What is black rice? 11 health benefits

23 Nov 2022 • 4 min read

Black rice is a wholegrain rice with a dark purple colour determined by its high level of antioxidants.

It is part of the species known as “Oryza sativa” and it is believed to have originated in Japan before spreading to ancient China and becoming the “Forbidden Rice,” only available to those in Chinese Imperial Court.

As black rice is not refined on its way to you, it retains its natural minerals and vitamins, including Vitamin E, high levels of fibre, and 9.9g of protein per 100g serving, higher than many other rice and grains.

In Italy and China, black rice has historically been prized for its association with health and vitality.

Foodies worldwide are increasingly attracted to this novel grain, which gets its deep black colour from an abundance of antioxidants.1

Did you know that it’s these same antioxidants that also make aubergines purple and blueberries blue?2

If you’ve been seeing black rice in all the trendiest recipes lately and have been wondering if you’re missing out, don’t worry… Here’s everything you need to know about why black rice deserves a prime spot in your recipes and day-to-day diet.

In this article, we’ll explain what black rice is, and the health benefits associated with it. We’ll break down the nutritional profile of a bowl, advise on who should avoid it, and even how to cook black rice.

What is black rice?

Black rice is a species of wild rice with a deep purple, nearly black, colour, due to its high antioxidant content.3,4

Desserts are frequently made from black rice in South East Asia, as it is starchy, stickier, and has a nuttier flavour than most rice varieties.

In the West, you’re more likely to find it as the base of a healthful poké or grain bowl than in a pudding.

Why is black rice forbidden?

Well, thankfully, it isn’t any more!

Back in the old China, black rice was originally called ‘Forbidden rice’ or ‘The Emperor’s Rice’, as it was reserved for members of the Imperial Court.5

Even now, it’s still rarer than many types of rice, meaning that it can still add that extra touch of luxury to both your meal and your diet.

Where does black rice originate from?

Black rice originates from Japan.6

However, it has been grown in many parts of Asia for centuries and was once only allowed to be eaten by Asian royalty.


  • Black rice is a dark whole-grain rice that tastes mild and nutty. It is often used in desserts in the East, or in healthy grain bowls in the West
  • Black rice was originally called “Forbidden Rice” as it was only available to the upper class in ancient China
  • Black rice originates from Japan’s Oryza sativa species of rice

What is black venus rice?

Black venus rice is just another name for black rice.

This comes from Italy, where they call black rice, “riso Venere” (Rice of Venus), as it was believed to have aphrodisiac properties.7

Is black rice healthy?

Black rice is full of antioxidants and has many health benefits you can easily introduce into your diet.

Now that you know the facts and history behind this once-honoured rice, let’s run through the calories, nutritional values, and all the benefits you can expect when you add black rice into your recipes.


  • Black Venus Rice is the Italian name for black rice, “riso Venere
  • Black rice is a healthy addition to any meal as it is high in antioxidants, fibre, protein, and slow-releasing carbohydrates

Black rice calories and nutritional profile

An average, 100g portion of black rice contains:8

  Amount % of RDA*
Energy 325kcal 13% for men, 16.25% for women
Fat 3.4g 4.8%
...of which saturates 0.9g -
Carbs 67g 26%
...of which sugars 1.2g 1.3%
Fibre 3.7g 7.4%
Protein 9.9g 19.8%
Salt <0.01g -
Iron 4mg 46% for men, 27% for women


*RDA = recommended daily allowance
The above information is based on an average adult's daily intake of 2000 calories. Individual diet recommendations will vary depending on individual characteristics such as age, gender, lifestyle and physical activity.

Black rice also has a higher protein content than brown rice, which only contains 7g per 100g portion.9

Iron is essential for producing healthy blood cells.

Black rice contains a fair amount of iron, which means hitting your daily recommended amount will be more manageable with this in your regular diet.

11 benefits of black rice

Black rice is associated with a whole host of health benefits, including:

  1. Antioxidant properties

Black rice contains more antioxidants than any other rice.10

Antioxidants protect your body from the negative consequences of ageing, like age-related diseases, by reducing oxidative stress.11

Antioxidants can be found in a wide variety of nuts, fruits, and vegetables – in fact, here are six other foods that are high in antioxidants you might want to bring into your kitchen.

Ready for the science behind it? Well, the outer layer of the rice, known as the bran and hull, are filled with an antioxidant called “anthocyanin”, an antioxidant that – as you’ll see – helps to keep you healthy in a number of ways.12

  1. Better heart health

Diets rich in food with a high anthocyanin content, like black rice, are connected to fewer instances of cardiovascular disease as they help to reduce cholesterol.13

  1. Promotes healthy brain function

High levels of antioxidant-anthocyanin are also believed to support with healthy brain function and reduced inflammation, associated with the ability for anthocyanin to suppress the signals of inflammation in areas where it may occur.14

  1. Supports in weight loss

As black rice is a whole grain, it offers high levels of fibre in its bran (outer layer).

This means that the glucose inside each grain takes longer to be absorbed by the body, helping you to keep control of your sugar levels and reducing hunger.15

As the high levels of fibre keep you feeling full and energised for longer, you’ll be less tempted to snack throughout the day, therefore supporting you in healthy eating and weight loss.

  1. Support normal cholesterol levels

Also hiding inside each grain of black rice is something called “anthocyanin phytochemicals”.

These help to normalise the bad cholesterol levels that may contribute to cardiovascular diseases by regulating your body’s ability to metabolise cholesterol.16,17

Handpicked content: 5 foods to help lower cholesterol

  1. Better eye health

Black rice contains powerful carotenoids which preserve eye health by protecting against harmful blue light and helping to reduce the risk of age-related blindness.18,19,20

  1. Full of fibre

Black rice has a high level of fibre, with about 3.7g of fibre per 100g of black rice, giving you an easy way to intake 7.4% of your daily fibre intake in one meal.

There is strong evidence that diets with high levels of fibre can aid digestion, prevent constipation, and is associated with the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.21

  1. High levels of protein

When you’re looking to build muscle or lose weight, the first thing you’re often asked to reduce is your carbohydrate intake.

That’s because foods that are high in carbs are often believed to be low in protein, although both are equally important in maintaining a healthy diet.22

That isn’t the case here. Black rice naturally contains one of the highest level of proteins amongst all the grains, with 9.9g of protein in 100g of black rice, compared to 3.5g of protein in the average supermarket own-brand long grain rice.23

Handpicked content: Best high protein foods for vegetarians

  1. Reduces toxins in your body

Antioxidants are great at removing toxins, so foods and grains with high levels of antioxidants – such as black rice – give your liver a helping hand in detoxifying your body.24,25

  1. Naturally high in Vitamin E

Whereas refined rice loses many of their nutrients as they lose their outer layer on their way to the supermarket shelves, whole grains such as black rice retain their natural minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and vitamins.

One such vitamin is Vitamin E, which supports the health of your eyes, skin, and immune system.26

  1. It’s delicious

While this might feel like a cheeky “benefit,” we think that anything you can enjoy adding to your life in the search for a happy and healthy routine is a good thing.

You’ll soon find that with its mild and nutty flavour, black rice isn’t forbidden from any of your favourite dishes.


  • Black rice is full of antioxidants, reducing the negative effects of aging
  • Antioxidant-anthocynanin helps reduce cardiovascular diseases
  • Promotes healthy brain function and helps to reduce inflammation
  • Supports weight loss – whole grains are absorbed slowly, preventing hunger for longer.
  • Anthocyanin phytochemicals help to normalise bad cholesterol levels
  • Eye health – carotenoids support against harmful blue light and help to reduce the risk of age-related blindness
  • Full of fibre – keeping you feeling satisfied for longer
  • High levels of protein – 9.9g of protein per 100g of rice
  • Natural detoxifier – It naturally helps your liver to reduce toxins in your body
  • Naturally high in Vitamin E – helps support your eyes, skin, and immune system
  • Its mild, nutty flavour will add a touch of something new to all your favourite dishes

Side effects of eating black rice

Black rice is naturally gluten-free and currently has no known side effects, meaning it is believed to be suitable for everyone to eat.27

The only reason you should avoid black rice is if you don’t like the flavour.

How to cook black rice

Make perfect black rice every time:

  1. Rinse the rice in water before cooking to remove excess starch, to enjoy a perfectly fluffy grain once prepared.
  2. After rinsing, lightly toast the rice in the pan for one minute. Then, add water, at a ratio of 1-part rice to 1.5-parts water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil on medium heat, and then put the lid on the pan.
  4. Check if the black rice has absorbed all the water after 25 minutes. Black rice takes between 25 to 35 minutes to cook. Taste for softness, and if grains are soft, drain excess water.
  5. Rest in pan for 5 minutes.
  6. Enjoy with all your favourite additions, whether it’s meat, tofu, or more antioxidant-rich vegetables!


As you can probably already tell, we’re big fans of black rice.

Though it was once a forbidden grain in ancient China, that’s fortunately no longer the case, meaning you can bring its nutty flavours and many health benefits to all your favourite dishes.

If you’re looking for ways to bring more antioxidant-filled foods like black rice into your diet, read about ‘6 antioxidant foods and drinks for you to you’ and ‘The benefits of an antioxidant-rich diet’, just in case we haven’t already convinced you!

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 13 July 2021



Author: Bhupesh PanchalSenior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019

Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

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