Lowering Your Arsenic Intake from Rice
The level of arsenic found in rice is once again in the news. Avoid buying the least expensive packages, since they are likely to contain American grown rice with much higher arsenic levels.
Back in November 2012, Consumer Reports published an article on arsenic in your food. Then during September 2013, the FDA issued a PDF file on arsenic in rice. As a result, the alternative media has been engaged in yet another toxin fear mongering campaign on the Internet. Here at the Natural Health Perspective, however, we believe in providing practical and constructive information.
Food Nor Rice is Never Perfect
The plant-based food that you eat will never be perfect. As far as toxins go, arsenic is found everywhere in the ground. It is naturally found in all the plant-based foods that you eat. It has always been like that, and always will be in your food to some extent. Nor, is the level of arsenic found in your food changing, let alone increasing. The public is simply becoming more aware of the arsenic content of their foods.
"The FDA has been monitoring arsenic levels in rice for more than 20 years and has seen no evidence of change in levels of total arsenic in rice." [Consumer Reports Article]
How to Lower Your Arsenic Intake from Rice
Even for a core food, like rice, implementing variety in your diet is still possible. First, buy your rice from a variety of different brands or sources. Second, try different forms of bulk dried rice. Finally, you can vary your cooking techniques when preparing rice.
Routinely rotate the source of the rice that you are eating with your meals.
Buy foreign non-Chinese brands of rice from Thailand, India, and Vietnam. Jasmine rice comes from Thailand and Vietnam. Basmati rice comes from India. Avoid buying the least expensive packages, since they are likely to contain American grown rice with much higher arsenic levels.[Consumer Reports Article]
Most whole grains, including rice, contain phytic acid an anti-nutrient that blocks mineral absorption from the food that you consume.
Routinely rotate the form of rice that you are eating with your meals.
You can buy white, parboiled, or brown rice. However, it is advised that you avoid buying the instant and enriched forms of rice. If you look around you can even find parboiled versions of expensive Basmati rice, for example. Periodically, rotate what you have been eating with a different form of rice. White rice contains the least amount of both phytic acid and arsenic, which is concentrated in the hull or bran.
Basmati white rice was reported to contain the lowest levels of arsenic by Consumer Reports, while American grown rice can contain more than 3 times as much arsenic.[Consumer Reports PDF & Article] The expensive Basmati variety of rice is widely believed to take up the least amount of arsenic from the soil and water in which it is grown.
"White rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas, which account for 76 percent of domestic rice, generally had higher levels of total arsenic and inorganic arsenic in our tests than rice samples from elsewhere." [Consumer Reports Article]
Routinely rotate your method of cooking rice that you are eating with your meals.
You will need to be able to drain off water from rice using some kind of a big wire mesh strainer. You can cut your exposure to inorganic arsenic in rice by soaking and then rinsing raw rice thoroughly in fresh clean water before cooking. You can also try immersing raw rice into boiling water for one or two minutes and then discard all the arsenic laden water before the final cooking.
Traditional Pasta Method
Then there is always the traditional Asian method of boiling rice where you would use twice the volume of water as your usual full-absorption method of cooking. This works out to one cup of rice added to six cups of water. After adding the rice to the water put on a lid and heat. When the water starts to boil, reduce the temperature to medium for a brisk boil, cook for an additional 15 minutes, then immediately drained off all excess water by dumping the rice into a large strainer. Let the rice drain for 3 or 4 minutes. Consumer Reports claims that using a traditional Asian boiling and draining the excess water cooking method lowers the arsenic levels of rice by 30%.[Consumer Reports Article]
How to cook the perfect Basmati rice using the boil and drain method.
You can even try soaking your rice overnight, and then rinsing. A lot of people believe that soaking grains, like rice, in water for 12 to 24 hours will eliminate much of the phytic acid and thus increases the bioavailability of the minerals that the grains contain. Of course, this method also manages to reduce the amount of minerals and other nutrients, along with the phytic acid, which is was not very high in in rice to begin with.
If you are the least bit concerned about arsenic being in your rice, then it turns out that using a full-absorption cooking method where all of the water is absorbed by the cooked rice, may not be such a great health idea after all.
- Arsenic in your food - Our findings show a real need for federal standards for this toxin.
Consumer Reports magazine: November 2012
- Results of our tests of rice and rice products (PDF)
Consumer Reports, 2012
- Analytical Results from Inorganic Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products Sampling (PDF)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration