Arsenic in our Rice?
As a family we try to avoid eating grains daily. We are not 100% grain free, but I do try and limit our exposure to them, since grains are high in carbs and low in nutrients. When I was formulating my kid’s protein powder/health shake, I was often asked why I wasn’t using rice as a source of protein. I have 3 reasons for this:
- Because grains are high in carbs, they can spike insulin levels, and when eaten too often it can increase our chances of diabetes and obesity.
- Also, grains can be filling, and I don’t want my family eating them at the expense of foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, and beneficial fats.
- The third reason is because of the high levels of arsenic that can be found in rice. With the increase of gluten and dairy sensitivities, many people are turning to rice, rice flours, and rice protein as an alternative. In the general U.S. population, the main source of arsenic exposure is via ingestion of food containing arsenic (1). While rice isn’t the only food source containing arsenic, it is near the top of the list due to high levels in our water and soil. Rice absorbs more arsenic from these sources than other common food crops (2).
How Arsenic can be Harmful to our Health
Dietary arsenic will not cause immediate symptoms, but long-term ingestion can increase your risk for certain chronic diseases. These include:
- Cancers of skin, lung, urinary bladder, kidney and liver (3) (4).
- Hypertension and cardiovascular disorders (5) (6).
- Type II Diabetes (7).
- Neurological function, particularly in children, with emphasis on cognitive dysfunction, including learning and memory deficits and mood disorders (7).
Tips to Avoid Arsenic in your Food
While eating less rice and rice containing foods is a good idea, there are some things we can do to reduce the arsenic levels when you do want to indulge!
- Basmati rice from California was found to have the least amount arsenic, while brown rice and rice from Texas were found to have higher levels (8).
- To reduce arsenic content of cooked rice, specifically the inorganic component, rinse washing and high volume of cooking water are effective (cook your rice like you would pasta). High volume water rice cooking effectively removed both total and inorganic arsenic for the long-grain and basmati rice, by 35% and 45% for total and inorganic arsenic content (9). Beware though, that some of the nutrient content is lost during this process.
Also, I don’t recommend giving your baby rice cereal for their first food. Bone broth, avocados, and organic fruits and vegetables such as pureed sweet potatoes, squash and bananas are a much better option in my opinion.
– Dr. Steph