Black Rice, Purple Forbidden Rice (Uncooked)

ORAC Value:
μ mol TE/100g.

The antioxidant value of Black Rice, Purple Forbidden Rice (Uncooked) described in ORAC units is: 2,125 μ mol TE/100g.

Is black rice the same as forbidden rice? Yes, the latter is just a brand name (a registered trademark) for how the company Lotus Foods markets their products containing the black species of the crop Oryza sativa L.


Why is it called forbidden rice? According to Lotus Foods, when they went to China to research different species, at the end of each day they were served this type and were told it was only served to emperors during the Ming Dynasty, which lasted for almost three centuries from 1368-1644 A.D. (1). During that period, it was purportedly referred to it as longevity rice and tribute rice, due to the belief that it was healthier and better for you than brown rice and a "tribute" since it was reserved for royalty. Unlike the forbidden moniker, the latter two names for black rice are not trademarked.

Is purple rice the same as black rice? Yes don't be confused, there is no difference between those, either. Because of its dark purple color - both before and after it is cooked - some choose to call it by that name. As if there weren't already enough terms for this healthy colored grain!

Is black rice the same as wild rice? No. Fortunately this is one name which is truly referencing something different. In fact it's so different, technically speaking, what we call wild rice is actually not rice at all, but a form of swamp grass. That's why it has that very earthy smell, which is definitely is more of an acquired taste for many people.

Average cost and where to buy it the cheapest

How much does black rice cost? About double the cost as the same brand/type for brown (for example, Lundberg organic black Japonica versus Lundberg organic brown). If you buy it in the tiny packages such as those from Lotus Foods at a higher-end grocery store, it may be exponentially more expensive versus white or brown rice. Even if you buy it in bulk online, a one pound bag will still probably cost you around $5 or $6, at minimum.

Compare that to brown. You can buy a bag of brown from the same brand and get double the size (2 lbs) for still less at around $4 total. Does it really offer significantly more health benefits to justify such a price difference? We will answer that in a moment.

Where can you buy it aside from the hoity-toity health food stores? Here's a run down of your options...

Trader Joes - Sorry TJ's doesn't sell it at any of their locations. They do sell something that looks like it called aquatic rice, but that's technically a grass! (2)

Walmart - They sell it, but it appears only available on their website. Being that they require a bulk purchase of 6 bags (14 oz. bags x6) it's not a great deal, as you are still paying over $5 per pound.

Meijers - You might have a good chance at finding it here, depending on your location.

Target - Their grocery department is limited and varies greatly by region. In Los Angeles they might have it, probably not the case in Missouri.

Other Supermarkets - Again it varies a lot by location, but any of the mid-tier and up regional grocery store chains throughout the United States might carry it.

Online - This is where we buy ours, often picking it up for as low as around $5 to $6 per pound when we buy multiple bags at once. That compares to the $8+ per pound it costs at our local Whole Foods and Ralph's, which is a California grocery chain.
Nutrition and health benefits

Cooking it is a much bigger hassle. It takes as long time; up to one full hour in boiling water. If you have pre-soaked the rice in water overnight, it still takes around 30 minutes in order to fully cook. Is it worth that trouble?

Over the past decade or so there have been a handful of ORAC value tests done on purple rice. Even though they represent the same species, as with any plant, regional variants can affect their antioxidant content. The good news is that the results seen for the purple or black rice have been quite similar, regardless of a the geographic region they come from.

For the ORAC reflected above, we used a study published in 2014 because we felt it most accurately evaluated the grain. Why? They tested the rice throughout its growth on four different occasions; at 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, and fully matured. We chose the latter for the above because obviously, that best represents what you eat.

Here's a comparison of how much antioxidants are in black, red, and brown rice.

ORAC in umol TE/100g of free/conjugated phenolic fractions (antioxidant content)
Growth Stage Black Rice White Rice Red Rice
1 week 2,045 534 17,563
2 weeks 2,188 473 16,718
3 weeks 2,121 207 12,701
fully matured 2,125 208 3,598
Is black rice healthier than brown? Although not reflected in this table from the study, we can tell you based on other tests that brown usually tests out with an ORAC value that is approximately 50% higher than the white reading listed above (at most). Since forbidden rice is approximately 10 fold higher than white, it also implies it's roughly 6 to 7 times higher than brown. For that reason we can conclude the purple is much healthier for you, at least in terms of how much antioxidants it has. Though the biggest benefit will come from red rice, which is the highest of all varieties by a significant margin due to it being a rich source of anthocyanins.

Keep in mind that cooked rice will have a lower ORAC. Not only does cooking destroy some amount of antioxidants, but also it adds a high amount of water, especially with cooked rice! ORAC is evaluating based on how much antioxidants there are by weight; 100 grams or about 3.5 ounces of uncooked black in this particular test. Obviously after you cook that same amount of dry, it will weigh a multiple more due to the absorbed water and as a result, the antioxidant concentration (and ORAC value) will drop.

We also want to note that there is a false value of 21,900 floating around online for the black. We're not sure where this came from, all we can conclude is that whatever test they based it off of, they made a multiplication error when converting mmol to umol.

ORAC Source

Shao Y, Xu F, Sun X, Bao J, Beta T. Phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and antioxidant capacity in rice (Oryza sativa L.) grains at four stages of development after flowering. Food Chem. 143:90-6. NIH Jan 2014