NUTRITION
September 11, 2010

Black Rice? Who Knew.

Researchers find that black rice has more antioxidants than blueberries. The trick will be figuring out where to buy it.

If you want the all the antioxidant power of blueberries without the price, you may want to give black rice a try - if you can find it. Researchers at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center say that black rice actually has more antioxidants than blueberries, which have historically been touted at one of the highest antioxidant foods on the market.Antioxidants work by repairing the damage that molecules called free radicals do to our cells.

Black rice contains even more of the anthocyanin antioxidants than brown rice.

"Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants," says study author Zhimin Xu. Anthocyanins make up one variety of vitamin E antioxidants, and are thought to be particularly important in combating certain diseases, like heart disease and cancer.

Most people know that brown rice is healthier than white rice. This is because brown rice still possesses the outer bran layer, which contains some important antioxidants which are thought to reduce LDL or "bad" cholesterol. (To manufacture white rice, this outer bran layer is stripped off.) And black rice contains even more of the anthocyanin antioxidants than brown rice.

Many Americans haven’t heart of black rice, but it’s quite common in Asia where it is often used in sushi, noodles, and in food decoration. One type of black rice was known as the "Forbidden Rice" in Ancient China because it was supposedly consumed only by nobility, who forbade regular folk from enjoying it.

In addition to the health benefits that black rice may offer in the form of antioxidants, Xu says that its pigments, which range from black to pink, might also be used as a healthier alternative to food coloring. Some artificial colorings have been linked to a variety of health problems, like cancer, according to the ACS news release, so a healthy alternative might be an important addition to the market. Xu and his team also say that manufacturers might use black rice as an additive to foods like cereal, cookies, and even beverages to make them a little healthier.

While Xu says that famers in Louisiana are interested in growing black rice, introducing it to Americans may be tricky. It is already available at some specialty stores around the country.

The findings were presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on August 26, 2010.

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