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The antioxidant-rich black rice bowl that fights disease

Reach for black rice, instead of white, to add fibre and extra health benefits to your meals.

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Healthy rice bowl from Tara Miller

Photo, Tara Miller.

Black rice was once called ‘forbidden rice.’ The superfood is so high in nutrients that the ancient Chinese nobles wanted to keep it for themselves — and out of the hands of the commoners. And even though we’re not exactly fighting over it at the grocery store, you may want to start making more room in your pantry for this dark grain.

Anthocyanin is the antioxidant responsible for the purple pigment in berries, cabbage, cherries, pomegranate, grapes and eggplant. It also gives black rice its colour and is what makes it great at decreasing the risk of cancer, heart disease and other degenerative diseases in those who consume enough of it.

Zhumin Xu, a professor in the U.S. who has done extensive research on the grain, found that spoonful for spoonful, black rice bran actually contains more anthocyanin than blueberries, but with less sugar, more fibre and vitamin E. He adds that black rice and black rice bran can be an economical way to add more antioxidants to your diet with the price of berries being so high.

Where do we find it and how do we eat it?
Whereas black rice used to be quite difficult to find, you can now purchase it at health food stores and most regular grocery stores. Cook and serve it as you would white or brown rice (leaving a little extra cooking time) and enjoy this slightly nutty, healthier version.

My favourite weeknight go-to is a simple grain bowl, so I decided to experiment with a black rice variety. My requirements are simple: at least one cooked vegetable, at least one raw vegetable and a scoop of cooked grain, all topped with a some sort of delicious dressing like this sesame miso dressing or my garlicky immune-boosting green dressing. Depending on the night, I will add a little chicken or fish, chickpeas or lentils or even some hemp hearts or chia seeds for added protein. The options are endless and it definitely doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s one of my favourite combinations:

Black rice veggie bowls with a sesame miso dressing
Ingredients
1 cup uncooked black rice
2 cups water
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice plus a splash more
1½ tsp miso paste
1 clove garlic, chopped
Pinch of chili peppers (add more or less to achieve desired spice level)
½ head of kale
1 carrot
Splash of olive oil
Pinch sea salt
1 head broccolini (or regular broccoli)
Small handful of sprouts (garnish)
1 radish, thinly sliced (garnish)

Directions
1. In a small pot, combine 1 cup of black rice with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and let simmer until all water is evaporated (approximately 30 min).

2. While rice is cooking, combine sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, lemon, miso paste, garlic and chili peppers in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Finely slice kale and peel and grate carrot and place in another bowl. Toss with a splash of lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of sea salt to soften. Set aside.

4. Very lightly steam broccolini.

5. Add a scoop of black rice, a helping of shredded kale and carrots and a few broccolini flowerets to each bowl, top with sprouts, radishes and a drizzle of dressing (alternatively use my immune-boosting dressing) and enjoy!

Will make three hearty bowls or four smaller ones.

Tara Miller is a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist. Her educational background is from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition combined with a degree in psychology from the University of Guelph. This combination allows Tara to address the challenges individuals face when it comes to everyday healthy living. Tara is also the owner of the Health Hut Boutique in Muskoka where she offers effective and toxic-free beauty, household and specialty food items. You can follow her blog for holistic recipes and tips at taramillernutrition.com.