Many authorities single out rice as a special problem because of its propensity to harbor arsenic. While all plants can absorb some arsenic, rice plants, due to their physiology and growing conditions, accumulate 10 times more arsenic than other grain crops (Sohn 2014). Rice cereal is babies’ top source of arsenic exposure (I actually don’t recommend any grains for babies until age 1-2).
One study found the highest levels of arsenic were in non-organic rice, but organic rice can take up arsenic the same way conventional rices do, so don’t assume it will always have less arsenic. And in general it’s important to know that organic food isn’t necessarily better in terms of heavy metals, but it’s also not necessarily worse. I still would buy organic rice, but for all of these stats, keep in mind the levels can vary between studies.
-Brown rice has 80 percent more Arsenic on average than white rice of the same type. But that this is dependent upon where the rice is grown and harvested, and it’s possible that less arsenic is absorbed from it because of the extra fiber.
-The highest levels were found in rice grown in Italy.
-All types of rice (except sushi and quick-cooking) with a label indicating they’re from Arkansas, Louisiana or Texas had the highest levels of arsenic in Consumer Reports’ tests.
-White basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan and sushi rice from the U.S. carry, on average, half the amount of arsenic than that found in most other types of rice.
-Lundberg is one rice brand that tests for arsenic. Amazon affiliates link for white California basmati (listed above as a safer choice): https://amzn.to/33KRAYh
-Brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan has about a third less than other brown rices.
-White rices from California have 38 percent less arsenic than white rice from other parts of the country.
-Wild rice grown in Canada – which isn’t really rice at all – is very low.
Gluten-free grains, including amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and polenta (or grits) have much lower average levels of arsenic. Bulgur, barley and farro, which contain gluten, also have very little arsenic. Consumer Reports recommends that consumers vary the type of grains they eat.
Tips to Reduce Arsenic During Cooking
New study with parboiling method to remove some arsenic but retain nutrients:
Another method using soaking to reduce arsenic:
Links About Arsenic in Rice
Remember to Avoid Other Toxicants
Don’t forget about what cookware you are using. Rice cookers use aluminum pots with nonstick coating, which is highly toxic. I personally use an instant pot to cook rice. Other options are safer pots and pans discussed in my cookware post:
Additionally, be aware that many “natural”and gluten free products contain rice flour, rice meal, rice syrup, etc. I avoid these. Brown rice syrup is typically highly contaminated with heavy metals, particularly arsenic (inorganic arsenic is the real toxicity concern).
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