Every day, it seems like a new superfood or must-try ingredient is bubbling up out of nowhere. One day it's turmeric, another it's matcha, and yesterday it was oat milk. Praised for health benefits and healing properties, these ancient discoveries have all become relevant and new again with time. So what ingredient do wellness lovers have their eye on today, you might be wondering? Black rice, which is also known as "forbidden" rice.
First discovered in ancient Asia, black rice was immediately touted for its superior health advantages in comparison to other rice variations. Those who tried the grain raved about its ability to cure kidney, liver, and stomach ailments, quickly catching the attention of the Chinese royal family. It wasn't long before they deemed it off limits — or "forbidden" — to everyone but the wealthy and elite.
Luckily, things are a little different these days, and the once-restricted grain is making a comeback for everyone to enjoy, consume, and — of course — Instagram. But this added perk may come as a shock: it can work wonders for your beauty routine, too. Intrigued yet? Keep reading to find out how this up-and-coming food will reinvent your diet, hair, and skin.
So what makes a food good enough to be "claimed" by royals? Let's take a closer look. Perhaps the most notable benefit of black rice is its antioxidant count — the very reason for its so-dark-purple-it's-almost-black color. The bran hull (aka outer layer) of the rice has a higher dosage of a cardiovascular disease-preventing antioxidant known as anthocyanin than any other grain. The antioxidant is also linked to stopping or slowing disease-causing free radical movements, reducing inflammation, and improving overall brain function. Whew! Other impressive benefits of eating black rice include its extremely high fiber count and ability to improve heart health, naturally detoxifying the body and preventing obesity.
When it comes to incorporating some superfoods into your diet, a certain level of commitment and experimentation is required. This probably isn't the case with black rice. Not only can you find it at local health food stores, but it's also available at a handful of mass retailers — online and IRL. Then, it's as simple as swapping it out for your go-to grain base — say, white or brown rice, quinoa, or farro. Whether you favor veggie and protein-packed lunch bowls or are even the type to DIY your own sushi (a particularly trendy use for the grain), if you like rice, there's a dish out there for you. Best of all, you don't even have to adjust your taste buds and train yourself to like a new flavor — black rice tastes similar to (though slightly more "nutty" than) brown rice.
Like most other superfood ingredients, the power of black rice isn't limited to consumption. Beauty products infused with the miracle grain come with a myriad of benefits, too. Haircare is a leading example.
Across Asia, washing hair in rice water is an age-old tradition believed to be a secret to growing long, strong, and healthy locks. And in the Chinese village of Huangluo specifically (home to world record holders for the longest hair), fermented rice water is the real game-changer. It's been found that damaged hair is severely lacking in the protein building block glutamic acid. Because rice — particularly black rice — contains glutamic acid, scientists at Nexxus selected the ingredient to create the Keraphix line. Also infused with the brand's exclusive PROTEINFUSION blend, the full haircare regimen features shampoo, conditioner, a masque, and a gel treatment to visibly heal signs of severe hair damage. What's more, there's even a dry shampoo to reboot your second or third day hair. Consider this your new holy grail lineup.
If you're an avid superfood connoisseur or general wellness junkie, you know your diet can directly affect your skin. Similar to how black rice can reduce inflammation throughout your body, detox your liver, and improve your overall health thanks to its high dose of nutrients, it can also improve your complexion. But to fully ensure your face is reaping the benefits of black rice, how about applying it topically? A handful of niche skincare brands create skincare products that contain the game-changing grain. For those craving serious skin rejuvenation, consider scoping out your options and giving them a try.
Credits: Photographer: Philip Friedman; Art Director: Colleen Lennon; Prop Stylist: Jenny Wichman; Food Stylist: Julia Choi; Producer: Sasha Bar-Tur