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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Forbidden Black Rice

18 Aug 2021

A wooden bowl and wooden spoon holding uncooked grains of forbidden black rice

Forbidden Black Rice, also known as black rice or forbidden rice, is a type of heirloom rice that has a rich history and traditional significance. Black rice is actually a catch-all name for more than 20 varieties of Oryza sativa rice. Originating in ancient China, it got its name because it was once exclusively reserved for royalty and nobility due to its rarity and health benefits. 

Contrary to its name, Forbidden Black Rice is readily available to the public today and is becoming increasingly popular due to its unique nutritional profile and delicious taste. This type of wild rice stands out from other varieties of rice due to its deep purple-black color, which is caused by its high concentration of the antioxidant pigment known as anthocyanin, which is the same substance that gives blackberries and eggplants their dark color.

Black rice is not only visually appealing but also offers numerous health benefits. Its significance in Chinese culture and its versatility in the kitchen make it a worthwhile addition to any diet. So why not give this ancient grain a try and enjoy its unique flavor and nutritional advantages?

What is Forbidden Black Rice?

Forbidden Black Rice, also known as Emperor's Rice or Jet Black Rice, is a unique and nutritious variety of rice that stands out due to its vibrant deep purple-black color. Traditionally grown in Southeast Asia, it has a rich history dating back to ancient times when it was exclusively consumed by Chinese emperors, hence its intriguing name.

There are several varieties of forbidden black rice, each with its own distinct characteristics and flavors. Indonesian black rice is known for its sticky texture and slightly sweet taste, making it a popular choice for traditional Indonesian desserts. Thai jasmine black rice, on the other hand, has a fragrant aroma and a nutty flavor that pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes.
Incorporating forbidden black rice into your meals can provide a hearty and flavorful alternative to traditional white rice options. Whether it's used in salads, stir-fries, or desserts, this forbidden gem offers a unique and satisfying culinary experience while boosting your nutrient intake. 

What Makes It “Forbidden” Rice?

Although folks use the terms “black rice,” “purple rice,” and “forbidden rice” interchangeably, proper forbidden black rice comes from Zhejiang in northern China. It cooks more quickly than brown rice and is prized for its firmness and non-stickiness. Black rice has a low yield (about 10 percent), which makes it rarer than other types of rice. Because of this, it was reserved for the aristocracy in Ancient China. In ancient China, this unique rice variety was exclusively reserved for the emperor and the royal family. Its distinct dark color and rich nutritional profile made it a highly prized and sought-after grain.

Intriguingly, consuming black rice was considered forbidden for the common people. Any individual found growing or consuming it would face severe consequences, including death. This prohibition was not only because of its rarity but also due to the belief that black rice possessed special powers and could enhance longevity and overall health.

Fortunately, today, black rice is no longer forbidden and can be easily obtained in stores and online. Its availability has allowed people from all walks of life to benefit from its exceptional nutritional value. Whether used in traditional dishes or incorporated into modern recipes, black rice is a fascinating and nutritious grain that has transitioned from being a forbidden luxury to a highly accessible culinary delight.

Forbidden Black Rice Benefits

Black rice has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and it was once believed to possess special powers, but we’re only now starting to understand exactly how good it is for us:

Black rice is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. 

Oxidative stress is a condition that occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body's ability to neutralize them with antioxidants. This imbalance can lead to oxidative cell damage and has been linked to the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's. Additionally, oxidative stress is closely associated with chronic inflammation, which can exacerbate symptoms of such diseases.

To combat oxidative stress, incorporating foods rich in antioxidants into our diet is an essential step. Black rice, with its high antioxidant potential, can play a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress and protecting against various diseases. In fact, it has the highest antioxidant activity of all rice varieties. The phenolic compounds present in black rice are responsible for its antioxidant activity. According to the NIH, "Antioxidant compounds protect against oxidative damage caused by oxidative stress," neutralizing the harmful effects for ROS. These findings suggest that including black rice in our meals can help mitigate the damaging effects of oxidative stress and potentially reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Incorporating black rice into your daily diet can be a simple yet effective strategy to combat oxidative stress and promote overall health. By harnessing the power of its phenolic and bioactive compounds, black rice can aid in protecting our cells from the detrimental effects of oxidative stress and inflammation.

Black rice promotes a healthy heart.

Black rice also offers significant benefits for heart health. Consuming black rice regularly can help regulate cholesterol and triglyceride levels, prevent the formation of plaque deposits in blood vessels, reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack, and protect against various cardiovascular conditions. This ancient grain is packed with high-fiber content and antioxidant properties that play a significant role in promoting a healthy cholesterol profile.

Numerous studies have shown the positive effects of fiber and anthocyanin-rich foods on cholesterol levels. One study on rats in the Journal of Functional Food found "that supplementing diets with BRF [black rice fraction] decreases lipid levels in the plasma, heart and liver, as well as plasma LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides".

Essentially, black rice's antioxidants and fiber can decrease bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and improve good cholesterol levels (HDL). By promoting a healthy cholesterol profile, black rice reduces the risk of plaque accumulation in blood vessels, which can lead to health conditions like atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Black rice protects your eyes. 

Black rice not only stands out for its deep purple hue and nutty flavor, but it also offers eye health benefits. The high concentration of carotenoids, specifically zeaxanthin and lutein, in black rice plays a crucial role in protecting and maintaining optimal eye health.

Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that help neutralize harmful free radicals and filter out damaging light waves that can affect the eyes. Zeaxanthin and lutein are specifically known for their ability to accumulate in the retina, offering protection against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts, which are often associated with aging.
Black rice is also rich in tocopherols, a major form of vitamin E. This makes it beneficial for eye and skin health, as well as your immune system.

By consuming black rice regularly, you can increase your intake of these essential carotenoids, thereby reducing the risk of eye issues that become more prevalent with age. Including black rice in your diet can serve as a proactive step towards preserving your vision and maintaining healthy eyes.

Black rice has a low glycemic index.

Black rice has been gaining attention for its potential benefits in regulating blood sugar level, making it an excellent choice for individuals managing diabetes or concerned about their glucose levels.
Black rice has a low glycemic index, meaning it releases glucose into the bloodstream at a slower rate compared to high-glycemic foods. This slower release helps prevent blood sugar spikes, making it a favorable option for people with type 2 diabetes, or those looking to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Additionally, the high fiber content in black rice slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, further contributing to better blood sugar control.

According to WebMD, the anthocyanins found in black rice "also influence blood sugar levels and diabetes management... improving insulin sensitivity so you can better use glucose." This makes it easier for cells to respond to insulin and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

When compared to processed grains like white rice or refined carbohydrates, black rice is a healthier alternative for managing blood sugar levels by slowing the body’s absorption of sugar. This makes black rice a stable energy source and helps avoid the spikes in blood sugar that come with other foods rich in carbohydrates.

Black rice may help with weight loss. 

With its high protein and fiber content, black rice can help promote weight loss by reducing your appetite and increasing your feeling of fullness. In addition, animal testing has shown that anthocyanins can help reduce body weight and fat percentage. Whether or not these benefits extend to humans is still up in the air.

Black rice is gluten-free.

We may be cheating a little with this one since all natural forms of rice—white, brown, or wild—are gluten-free. But still, this makes it an ideal option for folks with celiac disease, as well as gluten-sensitive individuals who are prone to negative gastrointestinal side effects like bloating and abdominal pain.

One of the key benefits of black rice for people with celiac disease is its high fiber content. Fiber is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system, and black rice is packed with it. This nutrient promotes regular bowel movements, prevents constipation, and supports overall gut health.

Additionally, black rice is rich in essential minerals, including iron, magnesium, and zinc. These minerals are vital for individuals with celiac disease, as they may be deficient due to restrictions in their diet. Iron helps prevent anemia, magnesium supports muscle and nerve function, and zinc strengthens the immune system.

By incorporating black rice into their diet, individuals with celiac disease can expand their culinary options while still maintaining dietary restrictions.

How to Incorporate Forbidden Black Rice into Your Diet?

One of the easiest ways to incorporate black rice into your diet is by replacing traditional white or brown rice with black rice in your meals. You can cook black rice just like any other type of rice, but it may require a slightly longer cooking time and a bit more water. Once cooked, black rice has a beautiful deep purple color and a slightly chewy texture with a nutty flavor. You can use it as a base for stir-fries, salads, or grain bowls, or serve it as a side dish alongside your favorite proteins and vegetables.

Incorporating black rice into your diet not only adds a beautiful pop of color to your plate but also provides a plethora of health benefits. So, get creative in the kitchen or order black rice from Bolay and enjoy the goodness in your meals.


Consuming black rice may contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, by reducing inflammation, boosting heart health, and inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells. Additionally, black rice is low in calories and fat, making it suitable for weight loss. Moreover, black rice is a gluten-free option, making it suitable for individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. With its impressive array of health benefits, incorporating black rice into your diet can improve your overall well-being and enhance longevity.

If you're looking to explore the benefits of black rice, why not try it at Bolay? You can build your own bowl with a black rice base, or order the Teriyaki Chicken Bowl with sweet potato noodles, roasted broccoli, and black rice. Not only will you experience the nutritional advantages and antioxidant content of black rice, but you'll also enjoy its rich color and distinct taste. Don't miss out on the opportunity to incorporate this healthy and versatile grain into your diet. Try black rice today and reap the benefits it has to offer!


- "Protective Effects of Black Rice Extracts on Oxidative Stress Induced by tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide in HepG2 Cells" - NIH National Library of Medicine
- "Effects of a black rice extract (Oryza sativa L. indica) on cholesterol levels and plasma lipid parameters in Wistar Kyoto rats" - Jerzy Zawistowski, Aneta Kopec, David D. Kitts
- "Black Rice: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses" - WebMD


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