As most folks know, that delicious white fluffy grain can be unfavorable to our health if it is enjoyed too often, or at least that was the case until a local LSU Agriculture Center retiree developed a new, healthy variety that is known as Blanca Isabel Purple Rice.
Dr. M.C. Rush worked for 12 years at LSU developing this variety and was successful after combining rice from Nepal with a long-grain variety. Dr. Rush was working to develop a disease resistant variety when he discovered Blanca Isabel.
Blanca Isabel is a high yielding, early long-grain rice that is purplish in color and boasts several powerful health benefits, including cancer-fighting qualities. All rights to the breeding line that became the Blanca Isabel variety were released by the LSU Ag Center to Dr. Rush following his retirement after teaching and researching at LSU for 38 years as a rice pathologist. Dr. Rush promised his wife that if he ever developed a new variety that he would name it after her, so the name Blanca Isabel was the obvious choice.
The Blanca Isabel variety has a dark purple outside bran layer with a slightly lighter grain inside. The actual corn kernels are light purple to lavender in color.
The colorful compounds in the rice have been recognized as health-enhancing substances due to their antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-atherogenic and anti-hypoglycemic effects.
“No other rice has ever had the components that can be found in this purple rice,” said Dr. Rush. “There is no other rice like this in the world.”
Certain elements in the rice, namely the anthocyanins, are also known to have positive health effects. They have excellent antioxidant properties and help prevent or even reverse damage to cells. Antioxidants have been shown to help prevent a number of long-term illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and an eye disorder called macular degeneration.
Other beneficial elements found in the rice, Catechins, can also be found in green tea and chocolate. The health benefits of Catechins have been studied extensively and have been found to reduce the risk of four of the major health problems: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. One study done by Norman Hollenbert, a professor of medicine at Harvard, observed people that drank up to 40 cups of cocoa a week. The study found that the prevalence of the “big four” was less than 10 percent, and the determining factor was decidedly the Catechins. These elements, when combined with habitual exercise, have been shown to delay some forms of aging.
The LSU Ag Center and the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center have studied the rice as well. They found the rice to contain resveratol, a cancer-fighting agent that can also be found in red wine. Anti-diabetic effects have been found to be associated with resveratol. Other studies have shown that resveratol possesses hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects and has been known to lower blood sugar levels. This is the first rice discovered to contain resveratol.
Although the levels of these elements in the Blanca Isabel rice are low, their presence shows that the rice can be grown to contain higher concentrations.
Aside from the health benefits of the rice, it tastes great. “My wife usually cooks the rice, and she does a wonderful job. Everyone that comes over to try it tells us they just love it. It tastes like white rice, only a little bit better,” said Dr. Rush. The rice cooks like white rice and since it is naturally purple, the rice retains its hue even after being cooked.
Blanca Isabel is grown in Louisiana by local farmers. Last years crop completely sold out in stores, so the family has planted more for the upcoming season. “Last year was our first year, so now we have worked out some of the kinks and we really know what we are doing. It’s going to be a good year,” said Dr. Rush.
Dr. Rush and his wife Blanca Isabela are the owners of the company and their children Claudia, Ana and Tomas are sub-managers. The family owned business set out to provide a low-fat, low-sodium product with natural health benefits. Since the discovery of this healthy, colorful variety of rice, their motto has become, “Eat purple for your health.”
For now, the rice is only being sold locally, but Dr. Rush has said that he has several extremely interested national distributors.
The family has other healthy projects in mind and is considering brewing a purple beer as their next endeavor. “These great nutrients would go into the beer, too, so you could drink beer and get healthy!” said Dr. Rush.
The rice is available in one, three and five pound bags in many local stores. Visit the Blanca Isabel website at www.purpleblackrice.com to find out where you can pick up a bag, learn how to become a distributor or download a recipe.