Many people believe that eating rice, along with a bit of meat and lots of vegetables, is a healthy alternative to Western meals that are often loaded with fat and sugars.
However, did you know that studies have found that rice is typically contaminated with arsenic?
This is especially frightening when you consider that most people feed rice based cereals and snacks to infants and children. Those who are allergic to other types of milk are given rice milk as an alternative.
Just how dangerous is the rice in your Chinese takeout? Let’s take a look at the facts.
What Exactly Is Arsenic?
Inorganic arsenic is a toxic trace element that is often found in rocks, soil, and water. When found in this form, inorganic arsenic is the most toxic.
Organic arsenic is found in many plant and animal tissues. While both types are naturally found in our environment, the accumulation of inorganic arsenic is becoming a problem due to pollution.
In this article, we will be addressing the problem of inorganic arsenic in rice.
Why is Rice So Contaminated?
Because arsenic is found in rocks, soil, and water, rice tends to absorb arsenic more than crops grown in drier climates or with less water.
Arsenic pollution is increasing in our soil and water due to pesticides, herbicides, industrial waste, coal burning plants, smelting, and phosphate based fertilizers, and wood preservatives.
Arsenic drains into the soil and groundwater, which is then used on crops. Since rice is grown in swamp like conditions, the plants are able to absorb much of what is in the soil and water, unfortunately in this case, it’s arsenic.
Do I Have Reason to be Concerned?
Yes. If you or your children consume large amounts of rice, this could be a problem for you and your family members. Many people who consume Asian based diets, or Asian people themselves, consume great quantities of rice. Also, persons who need to consume a dairy free or gluten free diet often consume large portions of rice as an alternative.
Young children are also at a greater risk because of their small body size.
Many infant and baby foods are made from rice, as well as brown rice syrup, which are often used as a sweetener in baby formula.
What are the Health Risks of Arsenic?
Our bodies are able to handle small amounts of arsenic with no long term effects; however, for those who consume large quantities, arsenic is extremely toxic. It can cause a wide range of negative health problems and even death!
Common health problems due to high levels of inorganic arsenic include:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Reduced intelligence
- Impaired cognitive skills
- Some types of cancer
How Can I Reduce My Risk?
The best way to greatly reduce the arsenic in rice is to soak it first in clean water. Drain the water out after a few hours, and then cook it in another batch of clean water. This alone can cut the amount of arsenic in rice by as much as 57 percent.
Keep in mind that brown rice is higher in arsenic than white rice. Also, rice grown in areas around the Himalayans, such as North India, Nepal, and North Pakistan, have lower levels of arsenic. Choosing aromatic rice, such as jasmine rice or basmati rice, will help to cut down on the amount of arsenic in your meal.
If you have small children or infants that regularly eat rice snacks, cereals or formula, be certain to limit the amounts that they consume each day. Consider changing your baby’s formula to one that does not include rice or brown rice syrup.
Eating rice in moderation is a healthy part of a varied diet. Remember, the dose makes the poison. Enjoy rice dishes in moderation and everything will be just fine.