Did you know that the innocent bowl of rice on your plate might have a hidden secret? It turns out that rice can contain high levels of arsenic, a chemical linked to various types of cancer and other health problems. In this blog post, we will delve into the rice controversy, explore who should be concerned about arsenic, reveal the best rice choices from around the globe, discuss proper cooking techniques, and provide recommended serving amounts to ensure a safe rice consumption experience.
What is Arsenic?
Arsenic, the 33rd element on the periodic table, is naturally present in the Earth's crust, soil, groundwater, and even in the air. However, the focus here is on the arsenic found in soil and groundwater, as it can make its way into our food chain and end up on our plates. Rice, a crop often grown in wetlands that get flooded, has the ability to absorb arsenic like a sponge. Arsenic exists in two forms: organic and inorganic. The organic form is harmless, while the inorganic form can be highly toxic to humans in relatively larger amounts. Distinguishing between the two forms is challenging, making it crucial to identify foods that contain high levels of arsenic and learn how to minimize exposure.
The Impact of Arsenic:
We are exposed to arsenic in various ways, including through drinking water, soil, and certain foods. While arsenic is not immediately poisonous, repeated exposure over a long period can lead to health issues as it accumulates in organs and tissues such as the liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin. The dose, duration of exposure, metabolism, and overall health play significant roles in the accumulation of arsenic. Constant exposure to arsenic has been linked to different types of cancer, neurological effects, and skin lesions.
Who Should Be Concerned?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has set maximum levels for arsenic in drinking water, and it is essential to trust that they monitor the arsenic levels. However, urine and blood tests for arsenic exposure are not routinely conducted, so it is crucial to be aware of potential sources of exposure and take steps to minimize it. Children, in particular, are exposed to arsenic through rice and rice products, contributing to 50% of their arsenic exposure. It is advisable to pay attention to packaged products such as cereals, cookies, sweets, granola, puddings, crackers, rice cakes, pastas, and rice noodles, which may contain rice or rice syrup.
Arsenic Levels in Rice:
Contrary to what some may think, even white rice contains arsenic. Brown rice, however, tends to contain higher levels of arsenic compared to white rice of the same variety. Some sources suggest that removing the outer layers of rice can significantly reduce arsenic levels by almost 80%. Therefore, if you consume a lot of rice, it may be advisable to consider using white rice. However, it is important to note that white rice can still contain arsenic.
The levels of arsenic in rice do not primarily depend on farming methods but rather on geographical location, soil composition, and water sources used for irrigation. Organic rice does not necessarily contain less arsenic compared to non-organic rice. Research has shown that different regions have varying levels of arsenic in their rice. Studies have ranked the United States, followed by Thailand, Pakistan, India, and Egypt in terms of arsenic concentration. Basmati rice from India, Pakistan, or California, as well as sushi rice from the United States, were found to have lower levels of inorganic arsenic compared to other types of rice.
Making Informed Choices:
To minimize exposure to arsenic, it is essential to check the source of the rice you consume. Buying from trusted sources that prioritize product sourcing, such as Whole Foods, can help ensure safer rice options. The Lundberg company's website provides a helpful chart showing the levels of inorganic arsenic in their rice products, indicating that even white rice contains arsenic. Basmati and Jasmine rice tend to have the least amount of inorganic arsenic.
To reduce arsenic levels in cooked rice, the Iranian way of cooking rice has been found to be effective. This method involves rinsing and soaking the rice for 15-24 hours, boiling it in water, draining, washing with cold water, and then cooking for 20-30 minutes. While this technique can minimize arsenic, it also removes some of the rice's nutritional value.
In conclusion, moderation is key when it comes to rice consumption. If you consume rice once or twice a week in moderate amounts, there is no need to be overly concerned about arsenic levels. However, if you regularly consume large amounts of rice, especially brown rice, it is important to be mindful of the origin of your rice and adopt cooking techniques that help minimize arsenic. Incorporating a mix of grains like oats, buckwheat, and millet into your diet can provide variety and reduce exposure to arsenic.
Remember, it is always best to stay informed and make choices that align with your personal health goals. By understanding the potential risks associated with rice consumption and taking appropriate measures, you can continue to enjoy this staple food in a healthy and balanced way. Embrace the joy of mindful eating and savor every bite!
Check out how to eat your rice and lose weight: