There has been tons of alarming news of late about the high arsenic content in rice, which is throwing consumers into a bit of a frenzy. So what’s the real deal? Is the arsenic content in rice a reason to cut it out of your diet?
First, a fact that may surprise you. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element present in soil and water, which means that there are trace amounts of arsenic in almost all fruits and vegetables! Exposure to low levels of arsenic is an inevitable factor of eating foods grown in the United States, and the effects of these low levels is pretty unclear, but we do know that exposure to higher levels of arsenic has been linked to several different types of cancer, skin conditions, and birth defects.
Because it is grown in water (which has high arsenic levels in the U.S.), rice is susceptible to higher levels of arsenic, which is definitely a concern for people that eat rice every single day. People that eat rice a few times a week are not exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic.
What can you do to limit your exposure to arsenic?
- Keep rice consumption to a few times a week, and vary the type of rice you eat. Jasmine and basmati rice not grown in the U.S. has very little if any arsenic content, whereas American-grown brown rice has the highest. As long as you are eating a variety of rices, your overall exposure will remain minimal! (For kids, limit consumption of American-grown white or brown rice to about a 1/4 cup of uncooked rice a week).
- Rinse your rice before cooking it. This actually applies to most grains, and is a great cooking habit to stick to!
- Stock up on other grains. Keep the majority of your grain consumption to other healthy whole grains that have little to no arsenic content. Quinoa, oatmeal, barley, amaranth, and millet are all great options!
- Stay away from store-bought juices, particularly apple and grape juices. Store-bought juices have very little nutritional value anyway (being mostly sugar, with no fiber, and often times a lot of additives), so you may find that omitting them from your diet will actually benefit your waistline!
- Wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
- Always drink filtered water. Invest in a high quality filtration system like ZeroWater to make sure your aren’t ingesting high levels of arsenic and other toxic substances.
- Eat a varied diet. Every week there’s a new study about what food is now going to kill you. Instead of falling prey to all the hype, stick to eating a varied, healthy diet of many different types of organic produce, whole grains, and lean and plant proteins and avoid any diet that goes overboard on any one food or food group (ie: high protein, high carb, powders, shakes or super high fruit-based diets).
Natasha Uspensky, chhc
Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor
NU Health & Wellness