Digging deeper into the nutritional benefits of Black Rice

Dr. Rowndel Khwairakpam *

 Chakhao, the Manipuri Black Rice
Chakhao, the Manipuri Black Rice

Black rice is an umbrella term used for many of the deeply pigmented rice around the world due to their similar content of functional food components. This nutraceutical components mainly of highly active antioxidant anthocyanins and polyphenols impart its distinctiveness in appearance, taste and flavor profile. It should not be confused with other specialty rice such as pigmented rice ex. Purple Thai Rice, Colusari Red Rice, Himalayan Red Rice, etc.

The black rice is not merely pigmented but it is literally darkest purple colored undoubtedly, giving it a blackish appearance. Often referred as heirloom rice these are specialty rice from species Oryza sativa that has been handed down for generations within a community or a group of closely knitted people and are often linked to their traditional ceremonies and celebrations.

This kind of rice often has its own palatable distinctiveness. Similar kinds of rice were allowed to be consumed exclusively by the royals and nobles in ancient China referring to it as "Forbidden Rice" or "Emperor's Rice" due to nutritional, palate and health advantages over traditional white rice.

Chakhao, the Manipuri Black Rice although less popular that packs a punch of nutritional benefits loaded with nutraceuticals. Black rice not only has excellent nutritional value but also has a high bioactive component that helps fight illness.

In Manipur, these properties were realized quite early on, valuing its uniqueness and preserved and passed on through generations associating it to traditional ceremonies and celebrations. It is often included in the diet to supplement with the demanding nutritional requirement, especially for pregnant, lactating women and older folks.

This is not only the rice that has the richest source of powerful antioxidants in form of anthocyanins that combat illness but also includes dietary fiber, anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to prevent diabetes, cancer, cardiac disease and even gain in weight.

What makes it black?

These kinds of rice are softly polished retaining its distinctive color giving anthocyanin pigments which have high anti-oxidants and functional components, in the outer layers of its hull. Because of soft polishing, the appealing dark purple shine is preserved as whole grain and retains most of the beneficial components such as vitamins and minerals that usually lost during polishing. The anthocyanin content is recorded to be more than double times than blueberries, the much-fashionable and fancied fruit of the health professional and fanatics.

Why will people like it? With ever dynamic lifestyle changes and growing health consciousness among people, there has been a high increase in adoption and demand for functional foods. Black rice has a wide spectrum of health benefits, often referring it to a panacea status in terms of benefits in comparison to its counterparts.

Its extracts are highly sought after in the food industry as beverages, ice cream, and confectionaries as a healthy replacement of colorant or other additives. Due to its appalling deep purple colour, it can be served as specialty servings in fine dining and restaurants.

To the consumers, its nutty flavour and a completely different flavor profile can often be a refreshing course when served with different dishes. Most of it, for the people who recognize its benefit, it is unrivaled by many others often referring to it as one of superfood.

Why can't people find it?

It is starting to pop up in some of the major supermarkets across the country in recent times, but it is definitely available at online food outlets in the form of packets of different quantities.

The rice accession of our heirloom black rice known as "Chakhao poireiton" surpassed its two other black rice cousins "Chakhao Amubi" and "Chackhao Pungdholmanbii" in presence of functional food components, never the less they are not far behind.

 Chakhao, the Manipuri Black Rice
Chakhao, the Manipuri Black Rice

These three black rice varieties are the only true black rice accession reported in India recognized globally. With the ever-changing food dynamics of modern living, the demands of these rice have been climbing steeply. In Manipur, this miraculous food yet has to start integrating to the modern culinary.

The slow integration has either to do with a lack in general awareness of its benefits or the traditional preparations of black rice have lackluster in appealing to the younger demographic.

If in the first case, it is time to garner some spotlight back into this beloved grain in the social platforms and media outlets. In the second case, it will take to bring into awareness of some innovative food vendors to whip up some trendy healthy food items out of it and integrate it as an integral part of the culinary experiences they provide to their costumer.

General Health benefits

Based on the several reports from prestigious scholarly reports of various research facilities around the world some of the very redundant reports on health benefits properties of black rice can be listed as the following.

Gluten-free cereal

Many people of non-wheat based diet are sensitive to gluten today with or without their knowledge. But most of the processed products used for baking, such as bakery and fast food items, noodles, pasta, breakfast foods as flatbread also locally known as "tun" consist of nongluten-free flours as it is often impossible to find gluten-free flour in markets.

Gluten-susceptible sensitivity is often associated with health maladies like Celiac disease which is a serious autoimmune disease that often goes undiagnosed and risks long term health complications similar to life-threatening medical conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, etc., after eating gluten (confirmed gluten allergy).

Some of gluten sensitivity signs, including bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nutrient deficiencies, and leaky gut syndrome. Black rice is naturally gluten-free grain, like other rice varieties and its derived food product remains free of gluten until mixed with nongluten-free flours from gluten-containing cereals as wheat, oat, rye, barley, etc.

Osteoporosis: Black Rice Anthocyanins has can improve bone health by modulating bone metabolism and reducing postmenopausal osteoporosis. Black rice anthocyanins have been suggested of its benefits when used as a good food source to manage bone health of most postmenopausal women.

Anti-diabetes and anti-obesity: These black rice or glutinous-rice has a sticky texture, but due to soft polishing, it is more of waxy. It is high in amylopectin content, thus making it a very suitable slow release carb diet. The slow release of sugar prevents a rapid rise in blood sugar level decreasing the risk of putting on weight and Type-2-diabetes.

The dietary fibers in the outer layers of the whole grain aids in the slow release of glucose (sugar) from the grain and slow absorption by the body over a longer period of time. In comparison to polished ' white ' kinds of rice, which lack fiber, it is beneficial to eat 100% whole grains for prediabetes, diabetes or other forms of the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.

It is the same for people who struggle to lose weight, like fibers and nutrients in whole grain rice assists to stop signals of hunger and discourage excessive consumption. Research shows that varieties of whole grain rice can contribute to preventing resistance to insulin linked to enhanced obesity danger.

Antioxidant: Sources indicate that black rice contains more anthocyanin than any other seeds, including brown rice, red rice, etc. There are even more anthocyanins than the blueberries According to countless research that looked at the advantages of this antioxidant, anthocyanin has the ability to help prevent innumerable widespread but severe diseases.

Scientific studies have related its the ability to cardiovascular disease prevention, cancer protection induced by free radical harm, brain function improvement, inflammation reduction and more. It also contains significantly, an antioxidant, vitamin E, which, in addition to other significant features, is helpful for eye, skin and immune health.

Anticancer: In recent, there are numerous reports if prevention of metastasis in several types of cancer cells in laboratory conditions by black rice anthocyanin (BRAC). The capacity of anthocyanin pigments to interfere with the process of carcinogenesis seems to be linked to multiple potential mechanisms of anti-oxidant activities.

Healthy Brain: Anthocyanins have been credited with the capacity to modulate cognitive and motor function, enhance memory, by inhibiting lipid peroxidation of brain cells and to have a role in preventing age-related declines in neural and behavioral function.

Healthy Heart: Anthocyanins eaten by diets also show a preventive impact on the growth of cardiovascular diseases in epidemiological studies. Black rice anthocyanins can assist to keep good concentrations of cholesterol through a reduction in overall cholesterol and "poor" LDL cholesterol.

Research has shown that the formation of dangerous atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries is decreased by black rice for clear arteries and to prevent heart and stroke.

Detoxification: Studies have shown that the consumption of black rice can help to detoxify the body and purify the liver with the use of elevated antioxidant levels in the rice. The anti-oxidative status of blood, liver, and the aorta was assessed in rabbits fed either refined white rice or black rice in a recently conducted animal research.

The results demonstrate the less oxidant stress of rabbits fed black rice (also called free radical damage), more blood antioxidants, liver detoxification, and also a decreased growth in artery plaque. The phytonutrients in black rice help the body to reduce inflammation and to purify the organism from harmful matter that can contribute to a variety of conditions.

Digestive and Metabolic Health

The dietary fiber per serving is remarkable in black rice. Its fiber enables to protect against constipation, bloating and other undesirable digestive symptoms. Fibers bind to waste and toxins in the gastrointestinal system contribute to their elimination and the normal function of the bowel. Black rice can also contribute to avoiding diarrhea because fiber adds bulk to your stool.

The nutritional fibers discovered in Black Rice can also assist you to feel comfortable after eating, which can possibly help you lose weight in an extended time period, between meals. Research releases have shown how diet-high diets of whole grain fiber rice have beneficial impacts on metabolic parameters, including weight-affecting insulin resistance. It is a better choice to avoid the thrifty phenotype syndrome


These often considered a miracle food can be a panacea or bring you malady depending on the environment where it is grown. Since the rice is consumed as a whole grain with the hull or bran layer, there are high chances of toxic minerals accumulation in it.

When the rice is grown in certain soils contaminated with minerals such as arsenic and other heavy metals which are toxic to human, this metal in form of ions and conjugates accumulate in the bran of the whole grain rendering it unfit for human consumption. So it is advisable to avoid whole grain rice from such soil and water is problematic places.

Note from Author :
The opinions noted in this article is the Writer's own opinion and does NOT reflect that of the organizations he works for .

* Dr. Rowndel Khwairakpam wrote this article for
The writer has (Ph.D. Crop physiology, AAU) and a Guest Faculty at South Asian Institute of Rural and Agricultural Management Manipur
The writer can be reached at learnrondel(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on June 30 2019.

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