Go figure…my kids are obsessed (understatement) with virtually any food that has rice.  You name it:

  • Pastas (made with rice)
  • Breads (made with rice)
  • Crackers (made with rice)
  • Pizza crusts (made with rice)
  • Sushi (made with rice)
  • Plain ol’ rice itself

The only rice-based food they don’t eat is Nums Nums.

Rice isn’t “bad” thought right?   Nope – but the levels of arsenic that grains of rice carry ARE a problem.  That’s why I’m here today…

 

arsenic in rice

First of all, what is arsenic?

Arsenic is a naturally present element found in soil, water, plants, and animals. It’s one of the world’s most toxic elements that has been seeping into the food chain for many years. It can pose serious health risks and has increasingly become more of a problem.

Recent studies have found high levels of arsenic in rice. Most of the rice today, whether it’s white, brown, wild, organic, or conventional, is tainted with arsenic which exists in two forms: organic and inorganic. [Note: In this usage, organic does not refer to a type of farming. It’s a chemistry term.]

Toxicity of arsenic varies widely — and both are considered public health concerns — inorganic arsenic is generally considered more toxic than organic arsenic.

Frequent exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause health concerns, including:

  • stomach aches
  • headaches
  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea.

Check out what the World Health Organization has to say about frequent arsenic exposure here.

 

Long-term arsenic exposure has been linked to many health issues including:

  • skin lesions
  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • dementia, and other neurological problems
  • cancer

Check out the study here.

Arsenic is also a human carcinogen. It has been linked to many cancers such as, skin, lung, bladder, liver, and kidney cancers with lung cancer being the most common cause of arsenic-related mortality. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified arsenic as a category 1 carcinogen, meaning it’s known to cause cancer in humans.

So…arsenic is definitely something we want to avoid (or at least limit) in our food.  Let’s talk about how next.

 

 

5 ways to protect your children (and yourself) from arsenic in rice

 

Choose low arsenic rice products

 

White rice contains less inorganic arsenic versus brown rice.

What a bummer, right?  Especially since brown rice contains more nutrients with the germ in tact.  Studies show that:

“Brown rice has 80 percent more inorganic arsenic on average than white rice of the same type. Arsenic accumulates in the grain’s outer layers, which are removed to make white rice. Brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan is the best choice; it has about a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices.”

I know what you’re thinking, “What about organic rice?” Well, organic rice may contain fewer pesticides, but all rice soaks up arsenic from the soil. Another bummer.

Since we want to keep as much of the nutrients and fibre as we can, which is found in brown rice, then we’ll want to choose brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan.

[This is a photo of a rice plantation in Thailand I stumbled on.  Too beautiful not to share!]

arsenic in rice

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Choose a reputable company

Lundberg Family Farms (a California company) is my favourite brand. It can be found at most grocery stores and the company is very transparent when it comes to their test results.

Though their rice is lower in arsenic than other brands, it still contains some arsenic and should be properly prepared to reduce arsenic even more. Keep reading to find out how to prepare rice properly!

 

Choose non-rice products

 

 

There are so many products out there with rice in them. Take a look in your cupboards and see if you might want to start limiting how much of it you consume. For example: rice milk, brown rice syrup, rice-based pasta, bread with rice, cereals/crackers made with rice, etc.

Don’t go overboard with rice products. Vary your grains. As they say, variety is the spice of life! 🙂

Consumer Reports analyzed the data and came up with new rules around rice consumption. It involves a 7 point system. Basically, they recommend consuming 7 points or less per week. The analysis is based on weight which means one serving of rice will give children more points than adults.

Here are some other, nutrient-dense grains you can try that have negligible levels of inorganic arsenic:

Gluten-free grains:

  • amaranth
  • buckwheat
  • millet
  • quinoa
  • polenta

Gluten-containing grains:

  • bulgar
  • barley
  • farro

Or you can give cauliflower rice a go! Here’s a recipe you can try!

How to cook rice to lower arsenic levels

They might be on to something in Asia.  Their traditional cooking methods for rice may reduce exposure to inorganic arsenic in any type of rice.

  • Use a ratio of 6 cups (water) to 1 cup (rice) when cooking rice. Drain excess water afterwards.  This allows arsenic to be washed away vs. absorbed into the cooked rice.
  • Rinse the raw rice thoroughly before cooking.

Rinsing and using more water removes about 30% of the rice’s inorganic arsenic content.

Healthy eating can protect you 

Eating nutrient-dense foods and keeping the digestive system happy and healthy will help your little ones (and yourself!) eliminate toxins and have extra protection from harm.

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, and arugula can help because they contain a compound called sulforaphane. Studies have shown that sulforaphane can assist with protection from and elimination of arsenic, other heavy metals, and pesticides.

 

So, what’s the take away message?

The more rice you eat, the higher your risk is.

Overall, it’s best to reduce your family’s rice consumption to about one time per week, rotate in other grains, and aim for a healthy, balanced diet.

What rice products does your family love?  How often is it consumed?