11 Surprising Benefits and Uses of Black Rice
Black rice gets its signature black-purple color from a pigment called anthocyanin, which has potent antioxidant properties.
In ancient China, it's said that black rice was considered so unique and nutritious that it was forbidden for all but royalty.
Today, thanks to its mild, nutty flavor, chewy texture, and many nutritional benefits, black rice can be found in numerous cuisines around the world.
Here are 11 benefits and uses of black rice.
1. Good Source of Several Nutrients
Compared with other types of rice, black rice is one of the highest in protein.
- Calories: 160
- Fat: 1.5 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Carbs: 34 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Iron: 6% of the Daily Value (DV)
Black rice is a good source of several nutrients, particularly protein, fiber, and iron.
2. Rich in Antioxidants
In addition to being a good source of protein, fiber, and iron, black rice is especially high in several antioxidants.
Antioxidants are compounds that protect your cells against oxidative stress caused by molecules known as free radicals.
They're important, as oxidative stress has been associated with an increased risk of several chronic conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer's, and certain forms of cancer.
Despite being less popular than other rice varieties, research shows that black rice has the highest overall antioxidant capacity and activity.
In fact, in addition to anthocyanin, black rice has been found to contain over 23 plant compounds with antioxidant properties, including several types of flavonoids and carotenoids.
Therefore, adding black rice to your diet can be an easy way to incorporate more disease-protecting antioxidants into your diet.
Research shows that black rice contains over 23 types of antioxidants and has the highest antioxidant activity of all rice varieties.
3. Contains the Plant Compound Anthocyanin
Anthocyanins are a group of flavonoid plant pigments that are responsible for the purple color of black rice, as well as several other plant based foods like blueberries and purple sweet potatoes.
Research shows that anthocyanins have strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects.
Furthermore, animal, test-tube, and population studies have shown that eating foods high in anthocyanins may help protect against several chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and some forms of cancer.
Anthocyanin is a pigment that's responsible for the black-purple color of forbidden rice. It's also been found to have potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects.
4. May Boost Heart Health
Research on black rice's effects on heart health is limited. However, many of its antioxidants have been shown to help protect against heart disease.
Flavonoids like those found in black rice have been associated with a decreased risk of developing and dying from heart disease.
Additionally, early research in animals and humans suggests that anthocyanins may help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
One study in 120 adults with high cholesterol levels found that taking two 80-mg anthocyanin capsules per day for 12 weeks resulted in significantly improved HDL (good) cholesterol levels and significantly reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Another study analyzing the effects of a high cholesterol diet on plaque accumulation in rabbits found that adding black rice to the high cholesterol diet resulted in 50% less plaque buildup, compared with diets containing white rice.
While this study suggests that eating black rice may protect against heart disease, these results have not been observed in humans.
Black rice contains antioxidants that have been shown to help protect against heart disease. However, more research is needed to understand black rice's effects on heart disease.
5. May Have Anticancer Properties
Anthocyanins from black rice may also have potent anticancer properties.
A review of population based studies found that higher intake of anthocyanin-rich foods was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
Furthermore, a test-tube study found that anthocyanins from black rice reduced the number of human breast cancer cells, as well as slowed their growth and ability to spread.
While promising, more research in humans is needed to fully understand the ability of the anthocyanins in black rice to reduce the risk and spread of certain types of cancer.
Early research suggests that the anthocyanins in black rice may have strong anticancer properties, but more studies are needed.
6. May Support Eye Health
Research shows that black rice contains high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin — two types of carotenoids that are associated with eye health.
These compounds work as antioxidants to help protect your eyes from potentially damaging free radicals.
In particular, lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to help protect the retina by filtering out harmful blue light waves.
Research suggests that these antioxidants may play an important role in protecting against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. They may also decrease your risk of cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Finally, a 1-week study in mice found that consuming anthocyanin extract from black rice resulted in significantly less retinal damage when animals were exposed to fluorescent lights. Still, these findings have not been replicated in humans.
Black rice contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which have been shown to protect your retina from potentially damaging free radicals. While anthocyanins may also protect eye health, research in humans is currently lacking.
7. Naturally Gluten-Free
Gluten is a type of protein found in cereal grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye.
People with celiac disease need to avoid gluten, as it triggers an immune response in the body that damages the small intestine.
Gluten can also cause negative gastrointestinal side effects, such as bloating and abdominal pain, in individuals with gluten sensitivity.
While many whole grains contain gluten, black rice is a nutritious, naturally gluten-free option that can be enjoyed by those on a gluten-free diet.
Black rice is naturally gluten-free and can be a good option for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
8. May Aid Weight Loss
Black rice is a good source of protein and fiber, both of which can help promote weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing feelings of fullness.
Furthermore, early animal research suggests that anthocyanins like those found in black rice may help reduce body weight and body fat percentage.
One 12-week study found that giving mice with obesity on a high fat diet anthocyanins from black rice resulted in a 9.6% reduction in body weight. However, these results have not been replicated in humans.
While research on black rice's role in weight loss in humans is limited, it has been found to help reduce weight when combined with brown rice.
In a 6-week study in 40 women with excess weight, those who ate a mix of brown and black rice up to 3 times per day on a calorie-restricted diet lost significantly more body weight and body fat than those eating white rice.
Given that black rice is a good source of protein and fiber, it may aid weight loss. Also, while animal studies have suggested that anthocyanins may have benefits for weight loss, more research in humans is needed.
9–10. Other Potential Benefits
Black rice may also offer other potential benefits, including:
- Lower blood sugar levels. Animal studies suggest that eating black rice and other anthocyanin-containing foods may help reduce blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes. Human studies are needed to confirm these effects .
- May decrease your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). A study in mice found that adding black rice to a high fat diet significantly reduced fat accumulation in the liver.
While more research is needed, black rice may help lower blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of NAFLD.
11. Easy to Cook and Prepare
Cooking black rice is easy and similar to cooking other forms of rice.
To prepare it, simply combine rice and water or stock in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once boiling, cover it and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the rice for 30–35 minutes, or until it's tender, chewy, and all the liquid has been absorbed.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice sit for 5 minutes before removing the lid. Use a fork to help fluff the rice before serving.
Unless specified otherwise on the package, for every 1 cup (180 grams) of uncooked black rice, use 2 1/4 cups (295 ml) of water or stock.
To keep the rice from becoming gummy when cooking, it's recommended to rinse the rice under cool water before cooking to remove some of the extra starch on the surface.
Once the rice is ready, you can use it in any dish in which you would use brown rice, such as in a grain bowl, stir-fry, salad, or rice pudding.
Black rice is prepared similarly to other types of rice and can be added to a variety of savory and sweet dishes.
The Bottom Line
While not as common as other types of rice, black rice is the highest in antioxidant activity and contains more protein than brown rice.
As such, eating it may offer several health benefits, including boosting eye and heart health, protecting against certain forms of cancer, and aiding weight loss.
Black rice is more than just a nutritious grain. When cooked, its deep purple color can turn even the most basic meal into a visually stunning dish.
If you want to try black rice and can't find it locally, shop for it online.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ute Eberle
In May 2017, shells started washing up along the Ligurian coast in Italy. They were small and purple and belonged to a snail called Janthina pallida that is rarely seen on land. But the snails kept coming — so many that entire stretches of the beach turned pastel.
The Ligurian coast has been swept by snails turning its color pastel.
A World Between Worlds<p>The neuston comprises a multitude of weird and wonderful creatures. </p><p>Many, like the Portuguese man-of-war, which paralyzes its prey with venomous tentacles up to 30 meters long, are colored an electric shade of blue, possibly to protect themselves against the sun's UV rays, or as camouflages against predators.</p><p>There are also by-the-wind sailors, flattish creatures that raise chitin shields from the water like sails; slugs known as sea dragons that cling to the water's surface from below with webbed appendages; barnacles that build bubble rafts as big as dinner plates; and the world's only marine insects, a relation of the pond skater.</p><p>They live "between the worlds" of the sea and sky, as Federico Betti, a marine biologist at the University of Genoa, puts it. From below, predators lurk. From above, the sun burns. Winds and waves toss them about. Depending on the weather, their environment may be warm or cool, salty or less so.</p>
Sea snails can make up the neuston.
Velella velella jellyfish living on the surface of the ocean.<p>But now, they face another — manmade — threat from nets designed to catch trash. A project called <a href="https://theoceancleanup.com/" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a>, run by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, has raised millions of dollars in donations and sponsorship to deploy long barriers with nets that will drift across the ocean in open loops to sweep up floating garbage. </p>
Collecting With the Current<p>"Plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. To us, that future is unacceptable," <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/green-entrepreneur-sets-sights-on-great-pacific-garbage-patch/a-38855785" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a> declares on its website.</p><p>But Rebecca Helm, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina, and one of the few scientists to study this ecosystem, fears that The Ocean Cleanup's proposal to remove 90% of the plastic trash from the water could also virtually wipe out the neuston.</p><p>One focus of Helm's studies is where these organisms congregate. "There are places that are very, very concentrated and areas of little concentration, and we're trying to figure out why," says Helm.</p><p>One factor is that the neuston floats with ocean currents, and Helm worries that it might collect in the exact same spots as marine plastic pollution. "Our initial data show that regions with high concentrations of plastic are also regions with high concentrations of life."</p>
Waste collection in the Pacific Ocean heralded by The Ocean Cleanup.<p>The Ocean Cleanup says Helm's concerns are based on "misguided assumptions."</p><p>"It's true that neustonic organisms will be trapped in the barriers," says Gerhard Herndl, professor of Aquatic Biology at the University of Vienna and one of project's scientific advisors. "But these organisms have dangerous lives. They're adapted to high losses because they get washed ashore in storms and they have high reproductive rates. If they didn't, they'd already be extinct."</p><p>Helm says they just don't know how quickly these creatures reproduce, and in any case recovering from passing storm is very different from surviving The Ocean Clean Up's systems which could be in place for years.</p>
Communication Breakdown<p>The Ocean Cleanup invited Helm to a symposium on the topic in December, where both sides presented their points of views and didn't seem to find much common ground. Since then, direct communication between them has stopped, says Helm. "They're not interested in talking to me anymore."</p><p>Both sides agree that much is still unknown about the neuston. But one thing that has been established is that most of the oceans' fish spend part of their lifecycle in the neuston. "More than 90% of marine fish species produce floating eggs that persist on the surface until hatching," Betti says.</p><p>The Ocean Cleanup has undertaken one of the few studies into this ecosystem, collecting data on the neuston on the relative abundance of neuston and floating plastic debris in the eastern North Pacific Ocean during a 2019 expedition to the Pacific Garbage Patch, an area where plastic pollution has accumulated on a vast scale. But it is not yet sharing what it has found. The information was being prepared for publication in an as of yet unspecified journal, probably some time next year, an Ocean Cleanup spokesperson said. </p>
Inshore Solution?<p>Helm believes the best way to tackle the marine plastic problem would be to position the barriers closer to land — across river mouths and bays — to catch garbage before it reaches the sea.</p><p>"Stopping the flow of plastic into the ocean is the most cost-effective — and literally effective — way to ensure that it's not entering our environment," she says. </p><p>As for the plastic already floating in open waters, she does not believe it is worth sacrificing parts of neuston and wants to see more research first. </p><p>The Ocean Cleanup has made barriers across rivers a part of its mission. But it is also going ahead with its original vision of pulling trash from the open water. In late 2018, the project deployed a 600-meter, u-shaped prototype net into the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/environment-conservation-plastic-oceans/a-54436603" target="_blank">Great Pacific Garbage Patch</a>. </p><p>The system ran into difficulties, failing to retain plastic as hoped, and needing to be brought shore for repairs and a design upgrade, after which Ocean Cleanup says it gathered haul of plastic that it will recycle and resell to help fund future operations.</p><p>Over the next two years, the project hopes to deploy up to 60 such barriers to collect drifting flotsam. Helm isn't the only one concerned about these plans.</p><p><span></span>"We should think twice about every action we take in the sea," Betti says. "In nature, nothing is as easy as we think, and often, we've done a lot of damage while trying to do a good thing."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/environment-conservation-plastic-oceans/a-54436603" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.<a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2646992655#/" target="_self"></a></em><em></em></p>
By Hope Dickens
Molly Craig's day begins with feeding hungry baby birds at 6 a.m. The birds need to be fed every 15 minutes until 7 at night. If she's not feeding them, other staff at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn, Illinois take turns helping the hungry orphans.
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By Tara Lohan
Warming temperatures on land and in the water are already forcing many species to seek out more hospitable environments. Atlantic mackerel are swimming farther north; mountain-dwelling pikas are moving upslope; some migratory birds are altering the timing of their flights.
Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.
"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."
Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.
It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.
Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.
Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.
One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.
The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.
They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.
"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."
That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.
And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.
"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."
Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.
"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.
The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.
"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.