Nutrition discovery: black rice rivals blueberries as source of healthful antioxidants

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: black rice, antioxidants, health news

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(NaturalNews) In ancient China, nobles commandeered every grain of a variety of black rice known as "Forbidden Rice" for themselves and forbade the common people from eating it. Now 21st century scientists have discovered that black rice truly is a treasure -- at least when it comes to nutrition. In fact, a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, plus the rice bran has less sugar, more fiber and an abundance of vitamin E.

That's the conclusion of Zhimin Xu, Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dr. Xu just announced his research team's findings at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) being held in Boston.

Many fruits are known to be rich sources of anthocyanin antioxidants and these phytochemicals show promise for fighting heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. But according to Dr. Xu and his colleagues, research shows black rice is also rich in these health-protecting phytochemicals -- so adding black rice bran to the diet or the bran extracts to breakfast cereals, beverages, and other foods could help protect and improve health.

"If berries are used to boost health, why not black rice and black rice bran? Especially, black rice bran would be a unique and economical material to increase consumption of health promoting antioxidants," Dr. Xu said in a statement to the media.

Brown rice is the most widely produced variety of rice in the world. It has a brown color because only the outer husks, or "chaff", are taken off the rice grains during milling. When rice is processed more and the underlying nutrient-dense bran is removed, the result is white rice. If you eat brown rice instead of the white kind, you are making a far healthier diet choice because the bran of brown rice contains higher levels of gamma-tocotrienol, one of the vitamin E compounds, and gamma-oryzanol antioxidants, which are lipid-soluble antioxidants.

A large body of research has concluded these antioxidants can reduce blood levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol) and potentially lower the risk for heart disease. In fact, as previously reported in NaturalNews, Temple University scientists have found that a specific natural compound in brown rice can reduce high blood pressure and protect blood vessels (http://www.naturalnews.com/028705_brown_rice...) and Harvard University research suggests consuming brown rice may prevent type 2 diabetes (http://www.naturalnews.com/029143_brown_rice...).

As healthy as brown rice is, however, Dr.Xu and his colleagues think black rice may be even healthier. They analyzed samples of black rice bran from rice grown in the southern United States and found it possesses higher level of anthocyanins antioxidants than brown rice bran. The scientists also discovered that pigments in black rice bran extracts can produce a variety of different colors, ranging from pink to black, and may provide a healthy, natural alternative to the artificial colorings manufacturers often add to some foods and beverages. Several studies have found an association between artificial food coloring and cancer, behavioral problems in children, and other health concerns.

Currently, black rice is used mainly in Asia for food decoration and in sushi, noodles, and puddings. Dr. Xu stated that farmers in Louisiana are interested in growing black rice and he is optimistic Americans may soon embrace this nutrient-rich rice variety.

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