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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
An average, 100g portion of black rice contains:8
|Amount||% of RDA*|
|Energy||325kcal||13% for men, 16.25% for women|
|...of which saturates||0.9g||-|
|...of which sugars||1.2g||1.3%|
|Iron||4mg||46% for men, 27% for women|
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.
Black rice is associated with a whole host of health benefits, including:
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.
Make perfect black rice every time:
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!
Last updated: 13 July 2021
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.