Rice – a staple grain for thousands of years all over the world, a good source of fiber and nutrients, and allergies to it are rare in western countries. Not to mention that for gluten free individuals such as myself, it is a go-to grain. Pretty good news all around, right? So the recent data report released by the FDA about arsenic levels in rice products is quite concerning.
Why is there arsenic in our rice? Elemental arsenic is common in the environment, so a tiny amount would be expected to be found in a variety of plant and soil samples. Arsenic is also an ingredient in pesticides, particularly those that were used on cotton crops in the south. In addition, rice grows particularly well in water flooded areas, so it is more efficient at taking up arsenic and storing it, thereby passing it along to those of us who consume it. So what are rice-lovers to do?
Not consuming rice at all is, of course, an obvious way to avoid the arsenic in it, but for many of us who depend on rice and rice products, we may not want to take that step. Fortunately, there are a few other options.
1. Alternating rice with other grains can reduce exposure, and fortunately, even for gluten free individuals, there are other good grains out there, such as quinoa, amaranth, and teff, just to name a few. For gluten consumers, the options are even more varied.
2. Look at where the rice is grown. Rice grown in California tends to have lower levels than rice grown in the Southeastern U.S., and rice grown in India (such as basmati rice) also has lower levels.
3. Rinse rice well before cooking, and cook it in a lot of water. This can significantly lower the amount of arsenic. No Meat Athlete has detailed instructions on preparing and cooking rice to reduce arsenic levels.
4. Watch the supplemental foods, too. If you are vegan and use rice milk, consider almond, soy, or hemp substitutes. If you snack frequently on rice chips (as I do), consider potato or corn (preferably non-GMO) based snacks. If you are gluten free and bake a lot, look for potato or other non-gluten based flours sometimes instead of always using rice flour.
No doubt more testing will be done and further recommendations made. Until then, use your best judgement as to how much rice you and your family consume. And keep checking the FDA consumer update page for more information Personally, I am not giving up rice. But I will probably be alternating more with other grains and rinsing, rinsing, rinsing!