The Most Nutritious Type Of Rice Might Surprise You

Did you know that rice is an essential source of nutrition for more than 3.5 billion people around the world, according to Ricepedia? This humble grain comes in all shapes and sizes, and some have even been considered forbidden at a time. Forbidden rice — or black rice — got its name in ancient China when consumption was prohibited by anyone but the aristocracy (via MasterClass). The Spruce Eats notes that it was also referred to as the emperor's rice because it was only served to the Chinese emperor to promote his health and longevity. At the time, the crop was limited to enhance its allure, but Modern Farmer explains that it is also harder to grow than other varieties of rice, often producing only one-tenth of their yields.

Even though it looks similar to the black rice found in a wild rice mix, this is a different variety entirely. A genome study of rice varieties was conducted, and it turns out, forbidden rice is a gene mutation of Japanese rice, which causes high levels of anthocyanins, Modern Farmer explains. While anthocyanins might sound like a mouthful, you're probably familiar with them already as the antioxidant that gives blueberries, eggplant, and other produce their purple color, according to MasterClass. Although it originally came about as a mutation, Modern Farmer says that its nutritious appeal and nutty, earthy flavors have led to crossbreeding for increased production of this yummy grain.

What makes black rice so special?

So, given that this rice has been considered valuable for centuries, let's take a look at what makes it worthy of an emperor's diet! First of all, anthocyanin — which gives it its color — is a true nutrition powerhouse, considered to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties (via Healthline). MasterClass explains that this antioxidant supports heart and brain health, cholesterol, and is also both fat and water-soluble which facilitates its action throughout the body. MasterClass also notes that black rice contains significant amounts of vitamin E, which boosts the immune system and supports healthy eyes and skin.

As far as grains go, Healthline points out that black rice is an optimal choice for vegetarians because it is a great protein-rich pantry staple, especially compared to other types of rice. It also has a lower glycemic index than other carbohydrates which makes it a satisfying option to keep hunger at bay, according to MasterClass.

If for some reason you're still not convinced, start by replacing white rice with black — that's all you'll need to get hooked!