Black, white & brown: a rice breakdown
You may have noticed in a few recent posts that black rice keeps finding its way into my kitchen. I’d heard of black rice before departing for China, but hadn’t gotten around to purchasing it in the U.S. because, well…I tend to be a bit of an anti-snob when it comes to food shopping.
To clarify: I love trying new foods. Love, love, love. However, I have great difficulty putting up with pretentiousness, and many purported “superfoods”* come with quite a pretentious price tag (lookin’ at you, pink Himalayan rock salt and organic gojiberries). At the time I flew out, black rice still fit that category, so I was content to stick with good ol’ brown.
Now that I’m here, however, I enjoy the delightful perks (and total confusion) of local cuisine; while “western” produce like apples and oranges may cost $1 USD each, a big bag of black rice or floral tea will run the same price—and last for weeks.
So what’s the big deal on black rice, anyway? Wasn’t switching from white to brown in the first place good enough? I did some internet sleuthing** to learn more about what I’ve been putting in my body every day, and am pretty psyched at what I found. Here’s a basic rundown of how these three varieties compare:
White rice: the simplest starch
White rice is created by removing the germ and inner husk (bran) of brown rice, which extends the food’s shelf life considerably. However, removing the germ and husk also depletes rice of almost all its nutrients. While not technically unhealthy, eating white rice essentially means consuming empty calories—not too helpful if your intention is to make every calorie count. Additionally, the lack of nutrients in white rice raises the grain’s glycemic index, which translates to a rapid digestion process and spiked blood sugar levels during that time—this leads to a more quickly-returning feeling of hunger and increased snack cravings later in the day.
Brown rice: the more complex option
Brown rice is white rice in its earlier stage—the germ and bran remain intact, and those fiber- and nutrient-packed pieces of the plant (Vitamin E! Riboflavin! Thiamin! Vitamin B6! Potassium! Folacin! Magnesium! Iron!) translate to way more bang for your buck, calorie-wise. The body takes more time digesting all the good stuff, which means lower blood sugar spikes and extended feelings of satiety after a meal. Win, win!
Black rice: the edgy cousin
Like brown rice, the germ and bran of black rice are rich in fiber and vitamins and keep you super-full; unlike brown rice, the inner grain is packed with anthocyanins, the antioxidant that contributes to its deep purple hue. These same antioxidants (which decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer, and help prevent macular degeneration—hooray!) are also found in blueberries, blackberries and mulberries, but getting them from grains rather than fruit = less sugar and more fiber in your system. Win, win, win.
So, conclusion: no rice is bad for you, but some rices are better than others. I’m happy to skip the free, nutritionally empty white rice at lunch every day knowing the calories in the fridge at home can prevent disease and make me feel like a superhero.
Will I keep up the black rice kick once upon returning to the US? Eh, depends on whether or not the hype has died down a bit. Until then, its chewy texture and nutty flavor are an everyday staple, and I’d totally recommend making the switch from white to black ASAP, if you get the chance.
*My girl Kirsty over at The Natural Foodie published a great article in which she debunks the “superfood” hype. Totally worth reading up on, especially if you’ve ever worried about a whole-foods diet being too expensive to sustain (spoiler: it’s not).