By: Marlene Affeld
The world has a diverse array of rice varieties. Rice varies in size, texture, aroma, shape, stickiness, and price. Rice is available in a wide assortment of colors, including white, brown, red, and deep purple. There are dozens of varieties of purple rice in Asia.
A traditional favorite in Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, purple rice is often used in desserts combined with coconut, fruits, honey or sugar.
High in protein and iron, purple or forbidden rice is loaded with fiber, vitamin E, fiber, and a host of anti-inflammatory properties. Purple rice presents an amazing potential to extend the length and quality of life.
Deep purple rice obtains its royal color from its outer coating of black bran. When purple rice is cooked, the bran provides a nutty flavor, chewy texture and provides essential dietary fiber. Purple rice can be found in health food stores, organic food stores, Asian markets and online.
Grains of black glutinous rice, also known as black sticky rice or purple rice, vary from brownish-amber to black when dry. The grains turn deep purple when cooked. Because black rice is not hulled, each kernel exhibits extra toasty flavor and texture.
History Of Purple Rice
Centuries ago, during the Tang and Sung Dynasties, purple rice was reserved for royalty, believing that the exceptional medicinal properties of purple rice would ensure optimum health and longevity; only the Chinese Emperors were allowed to enjoy medicinal benefits. On especially auspicious occasions, the emperors shared the coveted dish with their consorts or their warriors on the eve of battle.
Purple rice was so highly prized; it was not allowed outside the palace walls. Consuming purple rice without the expressed consent of the Emperor was punishable by death. Because of the restrictions placed on its consumption, purple rice was commonly known as Forbidden Rice.
Modern medical research studies confirm that the ancient Chinese knew a good thing when they found it. Nutritionally rich purple rice contains anthocyanins and antioxidants that provide the rice its unique deep purple color. In fact, purple rice contains more antioxidants, ounce for ounce, than blueberries, so it has superior “superfood” anti-aging properties.
A recent research study revealed that black rice has higher levels of antioxidants, known as anthocyanins, than blueberries. The study, presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), noted that just one cooked ounce of purple rice bran contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than an ounce of fresh blueberries. Purple rice also offers more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants, but less sugar.
Medical research studies indicate that eating purple rice has been linked to a marked decline in cancer and heart attack risk in those persons that made it a regular part of their diet. Adding purple rice to the diet also seems to lower high blood pressure, increase circulation and reduce overall cardiovascular problems. Because purple rice is such a rich source of anti-oxidants, it may prove useful in avoiding long-term health issues such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
How To Cook Forbidden Rice
Place raw purple rice in a sieve or strainer and rinse under cold running water for 5 minutes; sort through the rice for any impurities.
Heat three tablespoons of extra-virgin coconut oil in a 2-quart pot. Add rice, stir and sauté lightly for 2 minutes, and then add water and a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Follow instructions on the package label; rice is typically prepared with 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice.
Reduce heat, covering the pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook for approximately 30 minutes, occasionally stir. Purple rice should be tender, yet slightly chewy. Keep warm or reheat with a little water or coconut milk.
Traditionally, because it was so rare, expensive, and highly prized, only a pinch of purple rice was used to add nutritional merit and color to other rice dishes. Just a pinch of purple rice added to any other type of rice during the cooking process will impart rich burgundy coloration to the dish.
Purple rice is exceptionally high in nutritional value and contains 18 amino acids, copper, iron, zinc, carotene, anthocyanin, and several important vitamins including vitamin E and K. Purple rice contains 8.5 grams of protein, iron, zero zinc and 4.9 grams of fiber per ounce.
Whole Grain Rice Varieties Contain Phytochemical Benefits
FoodProductDesign.com notes, “In their studies conducted with five color classes of rice bran—including white, light brown, brown, red and purple/black—researchers discovered red and purple rice bran had higher phenolic and flavonoid concentrations than the lighter-colored rice bran measured. The researchers also identified one purple rice bran variety that was both high in phenolic compounds as well as vitamin E and oryzanols. Vitamin E concentration differed among rice bran but was not associated with bran color.” Alzheimer’s and Diabetes.
Blood health is maintained or improved in those persons who add purple rice to their diet. Because this special type of rice is considered to be anti-inflammatory and a great source of antioxidants, it may be useful in avoiding long-term problems like diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.