Depending on where it is grown, rice can contain one of the world’s most toxic elements: arsenic. Arsenic can be passed into the human body and build up in body tissue over time. This can lead to impairments in the nervous system and brain functioning, as well as birth defects, cancer, and a whole slew of other health problems.
As always, information is your best defense. Read on to learn more about what exactly arsenic is, which types of rice products are most likely to have it—and, of course, tips to reduce your exposure to arsenic in rice.
What is arsenic?
Arsenic is a trace element found naturally in the environment in two forms: (1) Organic, found in plant and animal tissue, and (2) Inorganic, found in rocks, soil, or water. The inorganic form is more toxic. Arsenic also gets into the soil through pollution and runoff from manufacturing.
Why does rice contain arsenic?
Because rice is grown under flooded conditions, it easily absorbs arsenic in the soil. This is particularly true of rice grown in South America and Asia, as their drinking water contains arsenic. Also, some regions of the U.S.—most of Texas, the Midwest and parts of the west coast—have high arsenic levels, impacting rice grown in those areas.
Because of this, rice and rice products (including milk, cereal, crackers, and rice syrups) contain more arsenic than any other food crop.
What can I do to reduce my exposure to arsenic?
To reduce your exposure to arsenic in rice, follow these tips:
- Rinse the rice before cooking; this can remove 10-28% of arsenic. When cooking any type of rice, use plenty of water.
- Consider decreasing your rice consumption by introducing other types of grains.
- For rice cakes, purchase wild rice varieties.
- Buy Basmati, Jasmine, or other aromatic varieties. Lundberg is a brand name of rice grown in the U.S. and recent reports show it has lower arsenic levels.
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