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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit on May 18, 2022

Health Benefits Of Black Rice And Other Dark Foods

If you commonly eat brown rice or lighter colored goods, then it's time to try black rice. Learn more about the amazing health benefits of black foods here.

Black rice min scaled

Black rice and other dark-colored foods play an important role in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) due to their holistic properties.

However, these foods tend to take a backseat to brighter-colored fruits and vegetables based on their appearance alone.

In this guide, we’ll explain the many ways adding black rice and other dark foods to your diet can improve your health.

Health Benefits Of Black Rice And Other Black Foods, According To TCM

Black rice is an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet.

In the Five Element Theory of TCM, each element relates to a natural aspect. These aspects are color, taste, emotions, seasons, sensory organs, and yin (passive energy) and yang (active energy) organs.

The Water element is associated with the Kidneys. Subsequently, the Kidneys connect to the color black. Hence, black-colored foods are believed to have a direct effect on the organ system.

“The Kidney is responsible for storing jing (essence), which determines our health and vitality. It also governs birth, growth, reproduction, and sexual health. As such, it’s important to ensure that our Kidneys are healthy and functioning optimally. Consuming black-colored foods can strengthen the organs and protect them,” explains TCM Physician Vong U Chan.

Black Rice

A native of Southeast Asian cuisine, you can also mix it with white rice or other grains to balance out its flavor and texture. The fiber in black rice is especially helpful in preventing bloating, constipation, and other digestive disorders. It’s abundant with vitamin E, which can boost the immune system and fend off cell damage.

Research also shows that black rice demonstrates multiple activities, such as: 

  • Antiproliferative 
  • Anti-atherosclerotic 
  • Anti-cancer 
  • Anti-hyperlipidaemia 
  • Anti-inflammatory 
  • Anti-tumor 

It’s also capable of metabolizing cholesterol and lipids and inhibiting tyrosinase from triggering skin diseases. Tyrosinase affects the pigment (known as melanin) in your skin. Separately, physicians use black rice in TCM to nourish the Spleen, strengthen the Liver and Kidneys, regulate a person’s appetite, and improve vision and blood circulation.

Black lentils

Dark-colored lentils are low-fat but have high amounts of fiber. The fiber content of this ingredient can aid weight management by suppressing appetite. Meanwhile, the tannins – a type of phytochemical – in black lentils may halt the growth of cancer cells. It’s also a healthy source of: 

  • Manganese 
  • Magnesium 
  • Phosphorus 
  • Vitamin C 
  • B vitamins 
  • Amino acids like isoleucine, lysine, and tryptophan 

The consumption of one cup of black lentils can have a remarkable effect on regulating cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels. 

Black garlic

Black garlic is raw, white garlic that has undergone a fermentation process to boost its health benefits.
Like black rice, black garlic has numerous proven health benefits, including cholesterol support.

Black garlic has a sweet, syrup-like taste. It also has hints of tamarind or balsamic vinegar. To achieve this unique combination of flavors, the ingredient it’s fermented in a controlled environment over several weeks. Though, it’s not only highly sought after for its ability to enhance the taste of dishes like Bak Kut Teh, but also for its therapeutic benefits.

In fact, multiple studies have found that black garlic contains more than 100 active compounds. These include an antioxidant called S-allyl-cysteine, which helps prevent aging and damage to the cells. Consumption of the ingredient also helps increase HDL cholesterol levels. This cholesterol type can minimize a person’s susceptibility to cardiovascular disease.

Black sesame seeds

This versatile ingredient can be used in baked goods like mooncakes or combined with oats and milk to prepare a breakfast meal. Black sesame seeds are rich in calcium, magnesium, vitamin B1 (thiamine), and dietary fibers.

It has many medicinal uses and plays a significant role in lowering a person’s risk of cardiovascular conditions. Black sesame seeds also have protective effects on the kidneys, and against neurodegeneration, osteoporosis, and chronic liver injury. Studies also exhibit the antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties of the ingredient. 

According to Physician Vong, she often uses black sesame seeds in her clinical practice. She prescribes the ingredient to patients who present with constipation and Blood Deficiency. As black sesame seeds are mild in nature, they also have the ability to nourish blood and lubricate the Intestines, plus helping with premature greying of hair.

Black fungus

TCM favors the use of black fungus for its ability to promote positive emotions and treat Liver, Lung, and Stomach conditions. It can also help avert hemorrhoids, remedy Dryness, encourage blood circulation and reduce cholesterol levels.

You can eat black rice and dark-colored foods daily. However, it’s necessary to moderate the amount consumed. Do speak to a TCM practitioner if you’re unsure about the suitability of specific ingredients, particularly if you experience symptoms like diarrhea after consumption.

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