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The health benefits of purple rice have received a lot of media attention, although this colorful food staple is not new. The ancient Chinese supposedly revered it so much that only the emperor was allowed to eat it.

Purple rice has a deep black color, but it turns purple when people cook it. Sometimes, people call it black rice. It grows mainly in Asia and is slightly chewy with a nutty flavor.

It is one of more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice. While the nutritional values vary, all varieties of rice are a good source of carbohydrate, have almost no fat or cholesterol, and provide some protein.

Purple rice may have several health benefits.

Heart health and cholesterol

Steamed purple and black rice in a bowl with chopsticks.Share on Pinterest
Purple rice may help increase the levels of good cholesterol.

According to a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, purple rice contains more antioxidant compounds than white rice.

There is evidence that antioxidants can promote heart health and lower the risk of some cancers. These compounds help eliminate harmful free radicals.

The body produces free radicals naturally, but if too many build up, oxidative stress can occur. Oxidative stress increases the risk of many health problems, including heart disease.

The authors of a 2016 study noted previous animal research in which purple rice reduced the levels of "bad" low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the body and increased the levels of "good" high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

A healthy cholesterol balance is vital for a healthy cardiovascular system. Doctors believe that it helps decrease the atherosclerotic plaque formation in the arteries that can lead to heart failure. It may do this due to its dietary fiber content, which has benefits for heart health.

Digestion

As a rich source of dietary fiber, purple rice can help keep the digestive system working properly, preventing constipation and other digestive problems.

Liver function

Oxidative stress can lead to liver damage. Foods that contain antioxidants help reduce oxidative stress. The antioxidants in purple rice may, therefore, help keep the liver healthy.

The cholesterol lowering activity of purple rice may also benefit the liver. A 2012 study found that mice that ate a high fat diet with a purple rice extract had reduced markers of liver disease compared with those that did not consume the extract.

Learn more here about rice.

Purple rice has a similar number of calories to white or brown rice, but it contains more protein, iron, and antioxidants.

Protein

All cells and tissues in the body contain protein, which plays a role in a wide range of metabolic interactions. It is essential for growth and body repair and for maintaining good health.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 recommend that protein should make up 10–35% of an adult's diet.

A 100 gram (g) serving of dry medium grain purple rice contains about 8.89 g of protein.

Fiber

Dietary fiber offers many health benefits, such as aiding weight loss and helping reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

It is also important for digestive health as it can help prevent constipation and may also protect against colorectal cancer.

A 100 g serving of dry purple rice contains about 2.2 g of fiber. The Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming up to 33.6 g a day of fiber, depending on the person's age and sex.

Why is fiber important? Find out here.

Iron

People need iron to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Low iron intake can lead to iron deficiency anemia.

People should consume up to 18 milligrams (mg) of iron a day, depending on their age and sex. During pregnancy and around the time of menstruation, a woman may need to increase her intake of iron.

A 100 g serving of dry purple rice contains 2.4 mg of iron.

Why do people need iron? Find out here.

The table below shows the nutritional value of 100 g of each type of rice.

NutrientsPurple riceBrown riceEnriched white rice
Energy (calories)356357333
Protein (g)8.97.16.7
Carbohydrate (g)75.676.277.8
Fiber (g)2.22.40
Iron (mg)2.43.43.2

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Compared to white or brown rice, purple rice contains more fiber and protein.

People can follow the steps below to cook purple rice:

  1. Rinse the rice three or four times in cool water.
  2. Add 2 cups of water to each cup of rice in a pan.
  3. Bring the water to a gentle boil with a tablespoon of olive oil or butter and a pinch of salt. Alternatively, use stock or coconut water to add flavor.
  4. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes with the lid on.

To make softer rice, use an extra quarter of a cup of water and cook it over a low flame for a further 10 minutes.

Purple rice is available to purchase online.

Purple, or black, rice is a variety of rice with a long history. Its nutritional profile is similar to that of brown rice, as it is relatively high in fiber.

Its fiber content makes it more nutritious than many varieties of white rice.

Q:

Can I eat purple rice if I have a gluten allergy?

A:

Rice is a gluten free carbohydrate, which makes it suitable for anyone who has a sensitivity to gluten. People with celiac disease should be sure to buy their rice from a reputable manufacturer that takes care to avoid cross-contamination with whole grains that contain gluten.

Natalie Butler, RD, LD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.