Black Rice Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

black rice in a bowl with wooden spoon

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Black rice (Oryza sativa) is deep, purple-colored rice also known as forbidden rice. The rice got this name because in Ancient China it was reserved only for those in the upper class. Black rice has a roasted, nutty taste and soft texture.

There are several types of rice that may be called black rice. Some are waxy (sticky) black rice and some are non-waxy. The type of black rice known as forbidden rice is usually the non-waxy variety and the type that you are likely to see in stores.

Black rice contains roughly the same number of calories as white rice, but it is high in antho­cyanin antiox­i­dants which may provide health benefits. For this reason, it is sometimes also called "longevity rice." It can be consumed alone as a side dish or included in salads, stir fry dishes, or even desserts.

Black Rice Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a one-quarter cup (45g) of medium grain dry (uncooked) black rice.

  • Calories: 160
  • Fat: 1.5g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 34g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 4g

Carbs

A quarter cup of dry, uncooked black rice provides about 160 calories. That amount of dried rice would make a single cooked serving of about 1/3 cup according to the package instructions of some brands. There are 32 grams of carbohydrates and about one gram of fiber in a serving of that size. There are zero grams of sugar in black rice, so the rest of the carbohydrate in black rice is starch.

When considering the carb and calorie content of rice, it may be helpful to note that rice contains two different kinds of starch: digestible starch and resistant starch. Resistant starch essentially "escapes digestion" making its calories unavailable to the body. Resistant starch usually makes up less than 3% of hot cooked rice. But researchers have found that cooling rice after cooking it increases the amount of certain kinds of resistant starch in rice and may be helpful in reducing its overall calorie content.

Glycemic index is an estimate of how carbohydrates impact blood sugar levels in the body. There is no specific recorded glycemic index for black rice. The glycemic index of white rice tends to be high, ranging from 75 to 92, making it a high glycemic food.

Fats

When cooked without added fat, there are about 1.5 grams of fat in a single-serving of black rice.

Protein

A single serving of black rice provides about 4 grams of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Black rice is not a significant source of micronutrients. Information provided by the USDA indicates that black rice provides about 1mg of iron or about 6% of your daily recommended value. Some commercial black rice labels also suggest that it provides 155mg of potassium or about 4% of the daily value.

Health Benefits

Black rice contains high levels of seven different antho­cyanin polyphenols—a type of flavonoid that has antioxidant benefits.  Anthocyanins are a pigment that gives black rice its deep purple color. They are also found in other red, blue, or purple foods like eggplant, blackberries, and blueberries.

Anthocyanin-rich foods have been used for centuries in traditional herbal medicine by North American Indians, the Europeans, and the Chinese for a wide variety of ailments. Modern research has supported some of these health benefits, although studies investigating black rice specifically are limited. In addition, many studies investigating the potential of antho­cyanin polyphenols have been performed in a test tube or on rodents.

May Boost Cognitive Function

A limited study published in 2019 investigated how cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G)—a component of anthocyanin—may help improve cognitive function in older adults with subjective memory impairment. Only 48 participants were involved in the 12-week study where they consumed either a black rice extract capsule or a placebo.

The results were mixed. There was a significant improvement in subjective memory among the black rice capsule group but no significant improvement in objective cognitive function. However, study authors suggested that their findings indicate the need to further explore the potential of cyanidin-3-glucoside in black rice.

May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

Plant anthocyanins have been studied with regard to risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Evidence has suggested that consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods may reduce the risk of heart disease.

While black rice was not included in all of these studies, consumption of other anthocyanin-rich foods has been shown to improve lipid profile and platelet function in some limited research. But research results have been inconsistent.
There is also some evidence that the dietary intake of anthocyanins may be able to prevent high blood pressure.

May Reduce Inflammation

Several studies have indicated the anti-inflammatory potential of black rice. In fact, one study compared the anthocyanins in black rice bran (the outer layer) to the anthocyanin content of red and brown rice bran, and black rice bran was found to have the highest levels.

May Help Prevent Cancer

Some research has suggested that the phytochemicals in black rice may have anti-tumor benefits. In vitro studies have suggested that black rice demonstrates antiproliferative activity when exposed to specific breast cancer cell lines. In simple terms, that means that it suppresses cell growth.

Other studies have found that plant-based anthocyanins may have anticancer properties. However, more research needs to be done to fully understand the potential anti-cancer properties of black rice.

May Help Prevent Obesity

Research has suggested that anthocyanidins and anthocyanin pigments possess anti-obesity properties. Studies in rats and mice have indicated that they may improve adipocyte dysfunction, a key factor identified in the progression of obesity. But again, studies in humans are lacking.

May Support Wound Healing

There is some preliminary evidence that the antho­cyanins in black rice may promote cellular activity that may aid in wound healing and provide anti-aging benefits. However, it is important to note that this application for black rice antho­cyanins is in its early stages and research has only been performed on rodents.

Allergies

Rice allergy is not common but there are reports of allergic reactions to rice, including in children. Symptoms may include rash, skin redness, rash, swelling, oral allergy syndrome, stuffy nose, wheezing, and even anaphylaxis. If you have a known rice allergy or if you experience symptoms after consuming any type of rice (or any rice product) seek personalized advice from your healthcare provider before consuming black rice.

Another allergy called food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) is a condition that may cause symptoms when consuming black rice. Grains (including rice, barley, oats) are common triggers. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the most severe forms may cause a drop in energy, a change in body temperature, and low blood pressure requiring hospitalization. FPIES is found in children and is usually outgrown by age 3 or 4.

Adverse Effects

If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you might be concerned about certain types of black rice, most notably waxy black rice. This type of black rice is also called "glutinous" black rice or sticky black rice. It contains less amylose (a type of starch) and gets sticky when cooked. It does not contain gluten. In fact, flour made from this rice can be used as a gluten-free ingredient in bread.

However, you should always check the package label. Even though rice is naturally gluten-free, it may be subject to cross-contamination during processing or packaging.

Varieties

There are many different varieties of rice and many different varieties of black rice. The kind that you are likely to find in the grocery store is medium grain black rice—the kind that is also called forbidden rice. This variety is grown in Zhezhiang in northern China. It's firm and cooks relatively quickly.

Black sticky rice is long-grain glutinous rice. It is cooked by steaming and commonly used in Thai desserts sometimes combined with white sticky rice. Lastly, there is black japonica rice—a blend of black short-grain rice and medium-grain red rice. This variety was developed in California and is often used in salads.

When It’s Best

Black rice is available all year long in supermarkets and online.

Storage and Food Safety

Rice (uncooked) can stay fresh for at least one year with proper storage. As with all grains, store it in a cool, dark, pest-free location as heat, light, and pests will cause the grains to deteriorate. You can also refrigerate and freeze raw or cooked rice.

How to Prepare

You'll cook black rice just like you cook other types of rice. You can use a rice cooker or stick to the traditional method of cooking rice in a saucepan.

How to Cook Black Rice

You'll want to use a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and a heavy bottom to cook 2–3 servings. Combine about 1 3/4 cups of water and a cup of rice and bring them to a boil (without the lid). Some people also add a dash of salt.

When the rice mixture reaches a boil, immediately place the lid on top and simmer undisturbed for about 30 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and let it steam for another 10 minutes before serving. Do not remove the lid until the steaming is complete. The rice should be light and fluffy.

Troubleshooting Tips

Despite the simplicity of cooking rice, it can be a tricky process and many cooks struggle with getting the proper rice consistency. There are a few hacks you can try to get the perfect pot of rice.

First, do not lift the lid or stir your rice during the cooking process. If steam escapes, the rice won't cook efficiently. Stirring the rice can lead to a mushy texture on the outside and a hard texture on the inside.

Also, the proportion matters. Measure the rice with a dry measuring cup and the water with a liquid measuring cup. Make sure you use the proper size saucepan and place it on a burner that is appropriate for the saucepan chosen. For example, don't cook two servings of rice in a large stockpot on a tiny burner.

Lastly, keep in mind that your stovetop, the pot you use, and even your elevation can affect the cooking process so you may have to tweak the basic recipe based on your situation. If you live in higher elevations, you may need to add slightly more water.

Meal Ideas

The nutty taste of black rice and its soft texture make this rice versatile for use in side dishes, main entrees, and even desserts. For example, you can use it in place of white rice or brown rice in savory stir-fry dishes. You can also enjoy it plain as a side dish with fish, poultry, or meat. Or use it instead of white rice to make an easy broccoli bake.

If you're enjoying a plant-based meal, add some volume to your bean salad or leafy greens with black rice. Or simply use black rice as the base and mix in firm tofu, chopped carrots, peas, onions, and other veggies. You can also add black rice to a burrito, an omelet, or to your favorite soup recipe.

Many people use black rice to make a sticky black rice pudding. You would want to use the sticky variety of black rice for this dessert. Usually, you soak a cup of rice overnight, then cook the drained rice in one can of coconut milk with 1/4 cup of brown sugar in a saucepan until it is soft. Then let it cool.

To the mixture blend in 3 eggs and another 1/2 can of coconut milk before spreading into a baking dish and baking for about 30 minutes. Serve it either hot or cold, topped with whipped cream or coconut cream.

Recipes

Healthy Black Rice Recipes to Try

Use black rice along with another rice or instead of another type of rice in any of these recipes:

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