(CBS) Is black the new blue?
New research shows that black rice packs a bigger antioxidant punch even than blueberries, which have long been celebrated as antioxidant powerhouses.
And that's not the only advantage of the little-known grain.
"Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants," researcher Dr. Zhimin Xu, associate professor of food science at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge, said in a written statement.
Black rice also costs less than blueberries or blackberries, another antioxidant-rich fruit.
Anthocyanin antioxidants - also found in red grapes, strawberries, red wine, red cabbage, red onion, and blood orange juice - have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Dr. Xu's research also showed that pigments in black rice bran can produce a variety of different colors, ranging from pink to black, and may provide a healthier alternative to artificial food colorings now used in some foods and beverages. Studies have linked some artificial colorants to cancer, behavioral problems in children, and other health problems.
Black rice is used mainly in Asia for food decoration, noodles, sushi, and pudding. Dr. Xu said that farmers are interested in growing black rice in Louisiana and that he would like to see people in the country embrace its use.