Properties and Benefits of Red Rice: Although not so popular as white or brown rice, red rice is a far more nutritious variety than the two. Red rice is a good source of vitamins B1, B2 and B6 and contains moderate amounts of iron and calcium. It is especially recommended for diabetics and heart disease sufferers due to having anti-inflammatory, glucose-regulating, cholesterol-lowering as well as antioxidant properties. According to researchers, red rice consumption can help delay aging signs.
What is red rice and why is it red? Simply put, red rice is a rice variety that comes in a different color: red (and sometimes a slightly lighter pink-red color). There are in fact several varieties of red rice but, irrespective of where they are cultivated, how sticky the seeds are or whether they are longer or shorter, red rice is full of antioxidants.
To be more exact, the red pigment in this rice variety is given by anthocyanins, a group of natural antioxidant compounds. Both red and black rice owe their impressive medicinal properties to their high antioxidant content. What does red rice taste like? Red rice has a slightly nutty flavor (tastes a bit like hazelnuts to me) with some varieties being stickier when cooked.
Need to read: While most red rice varieties have a natural red pigment, there is one type of red rice that is obtained with the help of a mold: red yeast rice. Red fermented rice or red yeast rice is obtained by treating normal rice with a mold called Monascus purpureus, which gives rice a dark red (slightly purple) color.
Red rice obtained by means of this mold is shown to actively lower cholesterol levels due to the fact that the mold produces monacolin K, a compound with the same action as the drug Lovastatin. Both Lovastatin and monacolin K reduce cholesterol in a similar manner which is why red yeast rice is also sold as a sort of food supplement or superfood with cholesterol-lowering properties.
Be careful: there is evidence that red yeast rice marketed for medicinal purposes has very little amounts of this wonder-ingredient monacolin K. Although you may purchase the rice, you have no guarantee it is fermented in such a way that it contains what you need. Even worse, red yeast rice may very well be contaminated with a compound that can cause kidney damage (if handled wrong). Also, because monacolin K and Lovastatin act in pretty much the same way, reducing the amount of cholesterol our liver produces, they have the same side effects.
Signs and symptoms of red yeast rice intoxication include: kidney toxicity, liver toxicity, muscle pain and muscle weakness and birth defects in newborns. Remember:
1) Avoid eating red yeast rice before and during pregnancy or if you are nursing.
2) Never take red yeast rice supplements in combination with Lovastatin or other similar cholesterol-lowering drugs. It is like taking a double dose of the same drug.
3) Red yeast rice can pose serious health risks because it is possible to contain high amounts of monacolin K, in which case it may interact with cholesterol, HIV and depression medication.
Regular red rice on the other hand poses far less health risks while boasting rather impressive health benefits as well:
1) Because it contains moderate amounts of fiber and complex carbohydrates, red rice contributes to digestive health and ensures good energy levels.
2) According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, eating foods which contain complex carbohydrates such as red rice makes you feel full faster. Red rice is indeed more satiating than other rice varieties, meaning that you will eat smaller portions, ingest less calories and thus maintain a healthy weight.
3) Red rice is a good source of both iron and manganese. Iron contributes to the formation of red blood cells. Manganese is a powerful antioxidant-mineral which prevents free radical damage from building up and causing cell damage possibly resulting in tumors or other diseases.
4) Being rich in vitamin B6, red rice helps prevent cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties and important role in carbohydrate synthesis. For more information on vitamins and minerals, feel free to read more on this page.
5) Red rice consumption is said to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Keeping cholesterol under control is one of the best methods of heart disease prevention.
6) Last but not least, red rice is rich in antioxidant anthocyanins which promote cardiovascular health and play a role in tumor prevention. Antioxidants are also said to help us look young and fresh by delaying the aging process at cell level. Red yeast rice is a good source of antioxidants as well.
Conclusion. Overall, red rice is a soothing and nutritious food. What makes it healthy is its generous content of B vitamins, iron and manganese with benefits on the cardiovascular, digestive and nervous systems, but also bone health and blood glucose metabolism. However, truth be told, it might be rather scarce or even pricey outside Asia or the US so don’t hesitate to resort to other similarly nutritious, more affordable and readily available foods instead.