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Better Than Blueberries but Punishable by Death!
There’s a hot new superfood receiving a lot of attention long known to the immortality-seeking emperors of ancient China. This superfood is higher in antioxidants than the superstar health food blueberries and so revered by the emperors of ancient China that they kept it solely for themselves. Sneaking even a handful was punishable by death. These days it’s readily available at supermarkets and health stores in Kelowna and more good news, there is no death penalty for eating it. In fact, the opposite may be true as many studies on this superfood are proving it to prevent disease, delay the aging, heal your vision, prevent cancer and even extend life.
If you haven’t guessed the food by now it’s forbidden rice also known as emperor’s rice or black rice due to its dark black colour. In traditional Chinese medicine theory, longevity is determined by the strength and amount of kidney essence with which you are born. Kidney essence from our modern point of view has a lot of similarities to genetics, DNA and even stem cells. Kidney energy is the vitality and ability to resist stress and disease with which you are born. According to traditional Chinese medicine this essence slowly erodes over your life and once it’s exhausted, that’s it! TCM kidneys are the water element in Chinese medicine theory and pertain to the colour black. Generally speaking, naturally black foods are thought to be good for the kidneys and provide anti-aging and life-extending properties. Emperors in ancient China were obsessed with living long lives and even becoming immortal. Royal acupuncturists and herbalists primary jobs in old China were to prevent their emperors from getting sick and help them live well… forever! Forbidden rice was so revered for this purpose that it was strictly forbidden to commoners (hence the name) and reserved only for the Chinese emperors as it strengthened, replenished, and preserved kidney essence.
According to acupuncture theory, black rice regulates appetite, strengthens the kidney and liver, improves vision, nourishes the spleen, and invigorates blood circulation. Black/emperor’s rice also has been shown to strengthen the heart and blood vessels, prevent cancer, and reduce blood pressure. Heart disease, stroke, and cancer are currently the top three causes of death in the west. Forbidden rice helps with them all. Maybe the ancient acupuncturists were on to something?
In the lab black rice has shown to possess more antioxidants than blueberries. One of the antioxidants, anthocyanin, imparts its black colour to the grain. This is a well researched antioxidant shown to have a myriad of health benefits. In fact, the bran of black rice is the most concentrated source of anthocyanin of any known food.
Forbidden rice is great for your eyes!. Black rice has also been shown to benefit vision including age related visual decline such as macular degeneration. Forbidden rice contains high amounts of vitamin E, aforementioned anthocyanin and other carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin have been show to protect the retina by filtering out harmful blue light. Other research has show lutein and zeaxanthin to be the most effective phytochemicals in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration which is the leading cause of age-related blindness. Another study demonstrated anthocyanin prevented retinal damage from fluorescent lighting. As I use Microacupuncture for treating eye conditions such as ARMD in our Kelowna clinic, I am always on the lookout for new foods that can help improve and protect the vision of our patients.
Black rice is also good for sexual and reproductive health. It’s considered a mild aphrodisiac and has long been considered a fertility food. We treat a lot of fertility patients with acupuncture and herbal medicine in our Kelowna clinic and forbidden rice is a delicious way to promote fertility for both men and women through strengthening the TCM Kidneys.
Some other purported benefits of forbidden rice are: it supports liver detoxification, prevents diabetes, treats asthma, improves digestion (naturally gluten free) and aids in healthy brain function. The acupuncture and herbal doctors of ancient China really did seem to know what they were doing!
When buying Forbidden rice try to buy the blackest version you can find. Some varieties I’ve seen aren’t as dark and look more purply, especially after cooking. Included below is a recipe I make at home for snacks and breakfast for my kids. They love it!
This recipe takes just a minute or two to prepare and lasts in the fridge for a few days. My family enjoys it hot during Kelowna winters and cold during Kelowna summers.
Forbidden Rice Pudding Recipe
1 cup of Forbidden rice. (rinsed)
1.5 cups of water
1 can of coconut milk
Instant Pot - cook on high pressure for 22 minutes. (this is how I do it)
Rice cooker - cook like regular rice.
Stovetop - Bring water and coconut milk to a boil, add rinsed rice and other ingredients. Cook covered on low heat for 18 minutes or until the rice is tender. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for five minutes.
Optional black foods that could be added before or after cooking depends how you like it.
1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses.
1 tablespoon of Black Sesames
1 tablespoon of poppyseeds
1 cup of frozen blueberries, wild blueberries, black cherries.
A tablespoon or two of dried black currents, or dried prunes.
Top with fresh fruit, coconut flakes or walnuts (also a kidney tonic in TCM and acupuncture theory) and your favourite non-dairy milk. Make it taste good!
By Travis McIndoe