Black Rice vs. Brown Rice: Which Is More Nutritious? - Old School Labs
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Home » OSL Blog » Black Rice vs. Brown Rice: Which Is More Nutritious?

Black Rice vs. Brown Rice: Which Is More Nutritious?

February 7, 2020

Key Takeaways

  1. Both black rice and brown rice are high in fiber and minimally processed, offering a hefty nutritional punch. White rice, by contrast, is heavily processed and contains little fiber and fewer nutrients.
  2. Black rice gets its color from anthocyanins, a class of antioxidants with neuroprotective, anti-cancer, and hypoglycemic properties. These bioactive compounds may help lower cholesterol levels, improve endothelial function, and inhibit tumor growth.
  3. The glycemic index of black rice is lower than that of brown rice. Therefore, black rice is a healthier choice for those with high blood sugar, diabetes, or insulin resistance
  4. Both rice varieties boast minerals and phytonutrients that support optimal health. Most nutrients are found in the bran. White rice has the bran removed, so it lacks these beneficial compounds.
  5. A potential drawback is their high content of phytic acid. This anti-nutrient binds to calcium, magnesium, manganese, and other minerals, affecting your body’s ability to absorb and use them.

Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel. When consumed as part of a balanced diet, they can supercharge your workouts and speed up recovery after training. Not all carbs are created equal, though.

As an aspiring bodybuilder, you already know the drill: eat slow-digesting carbs before hitting the gym and simple carbs once you’re done training. Complex carbs provide steady energy and keep you fueled for hours, while simple carbs help replenish your glycogen stores and support the recovery process.

Soft, sticky, and filling, rice has emerged as one of the best sources of carbohydrates. Several varieties exist, and each has a different nutritional value.

White rice, for example, has the bran and germ removed during processing. Therefore, it’s higher in simple carbs than brown rice, which is minimally processed.

What about black rice vs. brown rice? Is there any difference between the two? While both varieties are minimally processed and pack a hefty nutritional punch, they’re not the same.

This may come as a surprise, but black rice is higher in fiber than brown rice. It’s also an excellent source of antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and flavonoids. These nutrients may protect against cancer, fight diabetes, and keep your heart healthy, among other benefits.

Let’s take a closer look at this superfood and see how it compares to brown rice, one of the most popular sources of carbs!

What You Should Know about the “Forbidden Rice”

Also known as the “forbidden rice” or purple rice, black rice is chock-full of antioxidants and phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and cholesterol-lowering properties.

Centuries ago, this superfood was only available to Chinese royalty. Its deep black color, which turns purple during cooking, is due to anthocyanins, a class of antioxidants.

This rice variety has a nutty flavor and can add flavor to any dish. It belongs to the species Oryza sativa and has been used as both food and medicine in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years.

Black Rice Grains

Like white rice, it comes in several varieties, including Thai jasmine black rice, Indonesian black rice, and others.

According to a research article published in The Plant Cell, all varieties of black rice originates from Japanese rice. Their unusual color and high anthocyanin content are due to a genetic mutation.

As it turns out, the forbidden rice contains more antioxidants than other grains, reports a study featured in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

After comparing several different grains, researchers concluded that black and red rice varieties are the highest in cyanidin 3-glucoside, an anthocyanin pigment.

In clinical trials, this compound has been shown to suppress tumor growth and stop cancer cells from spreading. Animal studies suggest that it may reduce insulin resistance and protect against oxidative stress.

Black Rice — A Nutrition Powerhouse

A quarter-half of uncooked black rice, or one cooked cup, provides 180 calories, 4 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 39 grams of carbs, including 5 grams of fiber. It’s also a good source of iron and potassium, according to the USDA.

Black Rice Nutrition

What makes it stand out is its high content of phytonutrients. The anthocyanins in black rice may induce cancer cell death and suppress metastasis in breast cancer cells, points out a recent review published in Food & Nutrition Research.

Furthermore, these bioactive compounds exhibit antimicrobial, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects.

Black rice isn’t the only source of anthocyanins, though. If you’re on a low-carb or ketogenic diet, you can get these nutrients from other foods, such as:

  • Acai berries
  • Bilberries
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Red cabbage
  • Elderberries
  • Red wine

According to the above review, anthocyanins may protect against heart disease. These antioxidants inhibit platelet aggregation and improve blood lipids, which in turn, may lower your risk of cardiac events.

On top of that, they support eye health, suppress weight gain, and ward off metabolic disorders.

Clinical evidence has found that anthocyanins may help prevent obesity and aid in weight loss. However, most studies were conducted on mice, so it’s hard to tell how these findings translate to humans. Black rice is high in carbs, so it may lead to weight gain when consumed in excess.

Boost Your Fiber Intake

This functional food is also a good source of fiber. High-fiber diets support digestive health and may reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, notes the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, they may protect against cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.

Foods with Fiber

Dietary fiber can make it easier to eat clean and lose stubborn fat. This nutrient promotes satiety and keeps you full longer, which may help reduce your food intake. Studies have also linked fiber intake to lower risk of metabolic syndrome, but more research is needed on that subject.

However, if you’re trying to lose fat, it doesn’t make sense to eat rice just because it’s rich in fiber. Compared to broccoli and other foods, black rice (or any type of rice) is significantly lower in fiber and higher in carbs and calories.

Cooked broccoli, for instance, has only 55 calories, 11 grams of carbs, and more than 5 grams of fiber per cup. Avocado is higher in calories than black rice, but it contains just 12.8 grams of carbs, including 10 grams of fiber per cup. That’s 2 grams of net carbs.

With nearly 10 grams of fiber per ounce, chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition. Plus, they have only 138 calories and 2.2 grams of net carbs.

All in all, black rice is a fantastic source of carbs for those trying to bulk up or maintain their weight. Unfortunately, it’s not the best choice for those who carry a few extra pounds.

If that’s your case, fill up on leafy greens, legumes, and other low-calorie, high-fiber foods. Better yet, consider switching to a ketogenic diet.

How to Cook Black Rice

With its earthy, nutty flavor and sticky texture, black rice can turn any meal into a feast. It’s versatile and can be used in a multitude of recipes, from black rice risotto and paella to breakfast porridge.

It also makes a great addition to salads, steaks, and casseroles.

Black Rice Dish

Depending on your preferences, you may cook black rice on the stovetop or use an electric rice cooker. Another option is to steam it.

Start with this simple recipe and improvise along the way:

Easy Black Rice Recipe (4 servings)


  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of black rice
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • A pinch of salt
  • Black pepper


  1. Add water to a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil.
  2. Add the rice, salt, and pepper.
  3. Reduce the temperature, cover with a lid, and cook for about one hour. Enjoy!

Another way to cook black rice is to boil it in water for about 20 minutes. As a rule of thumb, use two cups of water for one cup of rice. Once it’s ready, add it to your favorite salads or mix it with either veggies or fruits.

Beware that black rice takes longer to cook than white rice. If you’re short on time, make a large batch and plan your meals for the week ahead.

Is Brown Rice Good for You?

Brown rice has emerged as a healthier alternative to white rice. It’s chewy and has a mild nutty flavor, making it ideal for a wide range of dishes. Unlike white rice, it only has the husk removed. This helps preserve its nutritional value.

This grain belongs to the Oryza sativa species and contains no cholesterol, glutes, or trans fats. Compared to black rice, it’s slightly lower in calories and carbs, but it also contains less fiber.

Brown Rice Good

According to a 2017 study published in PLOS One, brown rice may improve endothelial function when consumed as part of a high-fiber diet.

As the scientists note, this grain also provides large doses of magnesium and B-complex vitamins, which may further help improve insulin resistance and endothelial function in people with diabetes.

Another study, which was featured in the British Journal of Nutrition, points out that white rice and brown rice affects blood sugar levels differently.

Due to its high fiber content, brown rice increases blood glucose and insulin levels to a lesser extent than refined rice. Furthermore, it may help lower total and LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol levels and improve metabolic health.

A third study conducted on overweight subjects without diabetes has found that swapping white rice for brown rice may help reduce blood sugar and fasting insulin levels.

The Glycemic Index of Rice

Both black rice and brown rice are higher in fiber than white rice and hence boast lower GI (glycemic index) values. High GI foods, such as white bread, white pasta, cookies, and sugary snacks, cause blood glucose spikes followed by crashes, which may lead to diabetes in the long run.

Glycemic Index of Rice

The glycemic index of boiled brown rice is 55, as reported by the UCSF Diabetes Center. However, some varieties have a GI of 87 ± 5, depending on the crop and cooking method.

Boiled white rice, by comparison, has a GI of 64 to 87.

Black rice porridge boasts a GI of 42.3, so it has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. GI values of 55 or less are considered low, those between 56 and 69 are considered medium, and those above 70 are considered high.

The glycemic index of rice depends on which variety of use as well as on how it’s cooked and how much you eat in one sitting. Most researchers agree, though, that black rice has lower GI values than brown rice.

If you want to see how brown rice compared to white rice, check out our post.

One trick you can use to keep your blood sugar stable is to serve rice with poultry, lean meat, fish, or other protein sources. High-fiber foods, such as leafy greens, have a similar effect and may help lower the glycemic index of your meal, points out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Brown Rice Is Chock-Full of Antioxidants

The most important thing to consider when comparing black rice vs. brown rice is the nutritional value.

A quarter cup of uncooked brown rice (or one cooked cup) provides 150 calories, 3 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat, and 32 grams of carbs, including 2 grams of fiber. Compared to black rice, it’s slightly higher in calcium and iron while being lower in calories and carbs.

Brown Rice Antioxidants

What you may not know is that brown rice is also a great source of phytonutrients, especially phytosterols, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds, according to a 2018 review published in the journal Antioxidants.

It’s rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, B-complex vitamins, quercetin, kaempferol, ellagic acid, vanillic acid, and amino acids.

Most of these nutrients are found in its bran layers. White rice has the bran removed, so it lacks these naturally occurring compounds.

Phenolic acids, the most abundant phytochemicals in brown rice, fight inflammation, reduce plaque buildup in the arteries, regulate blood sugar, and may protect against cancer, as noted in the above review.

Get More Selenium and Magnesium in Your Diet

This grain also contains selenium and magnesium, two essential minerals.

Selenium scavenges oxidative stress and helps your body produce antioxidants that may prevent cell damage. According to a meta-analysis of 69 studies, this nutrient is particularly effective against colon, lung, prostate, bladder, and gastric cancers.

Foods with Magnesium

Another review, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has found that a 50% increase in blood selenium levels decreased heart disease risk by a staggering 24%.

Furthermore, selenium supports thyroid function and may protect against hypothyroidism and other diseases affecting this gland.

Magnesium, on the other hand, contributes to over 300 chemical reactions in the human body. It plays a vital role in energy production, bone development, protein synthesis, and glycemic control.

Foods with selenium

This mineral also allows your muscles to contract and relax and may help improve physical performance.

In one study, competitive triathletes who took magnesium supplements for four weeks experienced a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol levels. Their insulin levels decreased too.

Another study has shown that magnesium may help improve anaerobic metabolism. It also appears to benefit older adults, preventing or delaying the decline in physical performance that comes with age.

Black Rice vs. Brown Rice: Nutritional Value

Now that you know more about black rice vs. brown rice, let’s compare the two and pick a winner!

Black rice (1/4 cup, uncooked)

  • 180 calories
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 1 gram of fat
  • 39 grams of carbs
  • 5 grams of fiber
  • 2% of the DV (daily value) of iron
  • 2% of the DV of potassium

Brown rice (1/4 cup, uncooked)

  • 150 calories
  • 3 grams of protein
  • 1.5 grams of fat
  • 32 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 4.2 grams of calcium
  • 6% of the DV of iron
  • 2% of the DV of potassium

These numbers show that black rice and brown rice have similar nutritional values. The biggest difference between the two lies in their carb content and number of calories. Black rice provides 180 calories and 34 grams of net carbs, while brown rice has 150 calories and 30 grams of net carbs.

Brown Rice Nutritional Value

Both rice varieties are chock-full of nutrients and healthier than white rice. Unless you’re counting every calorie, you can choose either option.

There’s a catch, though. Despite their high nutritional value, black rice and brown rice contain phytic acid. This naturally occurring compound exhibits antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, but it also reduces mineral absorption in the body.

According to the Journal of Food Science and Technology, phytic acid binds to calcium, magnesium, iron, and other minerals, making them unavailable. Although both rice varieties are higher in minerals than white rice, your body might not be able to use these nutrients.

However, phytic acid doesn’t affect the antioxidants and macronutrients in rice. Therefore, you’ll still get more protein, carbs, fiber, and phytochemicals than you’d do when eating white rice.

Fuel Your Workouts with Quality Carbs

When it comes to black rice vs. brown rice, you don’t have to choose between the two. Both types of grains are rich in fiber and slow-digesting carbs as well as minerals and phytonutrients. If you’re concerned about phytic acid, you can always switch to white rice or sweet potatoes.

For other helpful insights, see how brown rice compares to basmati rice. Or check out our guide to jasmine rice vs. white rice so you can make an informed decision.

Quality Carbs for Gym

At the end of the day, rice is a good source of carbs and micronutrients. It all comes down to how you cook it, how much you eat, and what your diet looks like. Your workout plan matters too.

It’s one thing to eat rice at every meal and hit the gym once or twice a week, and another thing to work out every day or every other day and cycle your carbs accordingly.

What kind of rice do you prefer? Have you ever switched to brown rice or black rice for a longer time? Did it have any impact on your gains? Share your experience below!

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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