Black rice, also known as “Black Pearl” or “Medicine Rice” or “Longevity Rice.”, is a pigmented rice variety of Oryza Sativa L. species. Despite a long history, the origin of black or purple rice is in a gray zone and is assumed to have originated from different parts of Asia. The grain contains a high concentration of anthocyanin pigment which gives the rice its identity/color. The concentration of anthocyanin increases the amount of antioxidants and that’s the reason black rice is well-regarded among extremely nutritious and healthy diets. Black rice is also known as “Forbidden Rice” or “Emperor’s rice”. Widely speculated oral history suggests that emperors in ancient times used to consume black rice due to high nutritional values and banned its consumption by ordinary people. Though black rice was reserved only for the emperor’s consumption in history, no such restriction exists nowadays.
China and India are the leading producers of black rice, followed by Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Thailand. About 30 varieties of black rice are found in India. North-eastern states of India have long traditions of growing black rice, apart from West-Bengal, Odisha, and Jharkhand.
Due to its numerous nutritious and meditative qualities, black rice occupied a high acclaimed position in Indian Ayurvedic Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. In Ayurveda, it is called “Krishna shali” resembling the dark-skinned Lord Krishna and considered as Tridoshaghna meaning: healer of vitiated state of the three touches of humor (pacifying all three Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). In Traditional Chinese Medicine, black rice is considered to have the capacity to stimulate appetite; increase blood circulation by strengthening blood vessels and heart muscles; regulates blood pressure; improve vision; warm liver.
This natural variety does not tolerate chemical fertilizer and pesticides. So, it is grown pure organically. The nutritional quality in black rice (traditional landraces) has been found higher than in chemically grown white rice mainly due to the effective accumulation of bioactive compounds in black rice. In recent times, the consumption and demand for black rice have been increasing as its nutritious and medicative values are realized by the generation “Y” who are way more conscious towards a healthy diet. The market of this precious rice has grown not only in Asian countries but also in Middle-East and the United States. While growing consumer’s interest has created a substantial market, it is simultaneously providing economic benefits to farmers and producers as well.
Black rice is enriched with a high amount of fiber which helps to maintain the digestive system better. It is also a good source of plant-based protein content and concentration of Vitamin B, E, iron, zinc, magnesium, niacin, and calcium is higher compare to white rice. The major nutritional benefits of black rice include:
Rich source of antioxidant : The Black or purple color of the rice is mainly due to an abundance of anthocyanin pigments. Its anthocyanin pigment provides high antioxidant content which is both fat and water-soluble. The antioxidant has a high capacity to fight against free radical damage, microbial infection, diarrhea, and also prevents cardiovascular diseases.
Low Glycemic index prevents diabatic risk : Black rice has a low glycemic index and bran is enriched with dietary fiber. Dietary fiber makes sugar absorption slower and helps to provide stable energy. Thus, the consumption of black rice prevents random spikes in blood sugar levels as well as diabatic risk . Germinated Black rice is found to be a strong antidiabetic compare to normal Black rice.
Source of 18 amino acid : Amino acid deficiency in diet decrease protein production and leads to nutritional imbalance . Amino acid helps in protein metabolism and is very essential for the development of our body. Black rice is a good source of 18 amino acids (such as alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tyrosine, and valine).
Naturally gluten-free : Protein gluten is present in wheat and barley. People who are sensitive or allergic to gluten often suffer from constipation, diarrhea, etc. Fortunately, Black rice is naturally gluten-free. People sensitive to gluten may replace wheat or barley by black rice in their diet to maintain daily protein requirements.
Anti-cancer : The anthocyanin pigment of black rice is found to have anti-cancer properties. Research conducted on mice concluded that anthocyanin extract of black rice successfully suppresses tumor growth and reduces the growth of breast cancer cells.
Anti-inflammatory : Studies found that ethanol and aqueous extracts from black rice contains anti-inflammatory activity. Consumption of black rice found to be effective to reduce chronic inflammation like edema and skin allergy.
Improves heart health : Cholesterol is the leading driver for many cardiovascular diseases. The presence of anthocyanin photochemical in black rice helps to reduce low-density lipid-protein (LDL) or bad cholesterol.
Improves brain/cognitive health : The study found that anthocyanin-rich food delays mental aging or slow cognitive decline. Consumption of anthocyanin contained food also helps to increase learning capacity and memory. Black rice is believed to be beneficial to improve brain or cognitive health since it contains a high amount of anthocyanin and antioxidant.
Improves Eyesight : Anthocyanin found in Black rice is known to be effective for improving eyesight by reducing and preventing retinal damage caused by fluorescent light.
Reduce high blood pressure : The dietary fiber present in Black rice helps to maintain blood pressure level and reduce the lipid profile level. Thus, the consumption of Black rice is beneficial to protect cardiovascular health.
Improves liver health : Deposition of excessive fat in liver causes for fatty liver disease. Research conducted on mice found that antioxidants present in Black rice help in reducing triglyceride and total cholesterol in the liver by regulating fat metabolism.
Helps in weight loss : Black rice contains a high amount of fiber. Fiber takes a longer time to digest and prevent frequent hunger. Thus, the consumption of black rice helps to lower calory intake and contribute to weight loss.
Improves Kidney health : High blood pressure is considered a big risk for people suffering from chronic kidney diseases. Consumption of Black rice regulates blood pressure levels and thus helps to improve kidney health.
Natural detoxifier : Black rice is considered to be a natural detoxifier. A high amount of antioxidants in black rice helps in eliminating disease-causing toxins from our liver. In addition, phytonutrients present in black rice helps to release toxic substances from our body.
Mr. Saptaeshi Mandal is a highly experienced scientist, Ph.D. in Remote Sensing Application in Mountain Agriculture. He has been the founder of "Punarutthan AgroFarm" for farming of Black Rice and other kind of rice. Seeing the interest of Merchentus India Exim International LLP to promote this precious crop produced in India, he has taken lots of interest and has been encouraging us for the export of Black Rice.