Should I be worried about arsenic in rice?

There have been lots of reports in the press about arsenic levels in rice, and I’ve heard many people say ‘Oh but Asians eat rice all the time and they are fine, so it can’t be serious’ – and sadly , it is serious and is a cause for concern. Especially if you know that your body cannot detoxify very well.

Our planet is increasingly more polluted. There is more arsenic contamination in the water supply and that is how arsenic is getting onto our plates. Whether you buy organic or not does not matter because the arsenic is in the water and is absorbed into the rice through the roots whether pesticides are used or not.

However, here are some things which you CAN do to minimize your/your family’s health risks:

👉Choose rice that has lower arsenic levels – California Basmati rice has been found to have the lowest level. A lot of the arsenic is in the bran of the rice and therefore brown rice has been found to contain higher arsenic levels. However, the arsenic from brown rice appears to be less absorbable than arsenic from white rice because the fiber in brown rice seems to delay the absorption.

👉Cook your rice differently – (sorry for those of you who love your rice cookers!!!) if time allows, soak your rice for 2-3 hours (or overnight) – then cook your rice with a water to rice ratio of 6:1, and drain the water away. I use the instant pot to cook my rice using a 6:1 ratio for 13 minutes, release the pressure and drain the water.

This can reduce the arsenic content of your rice by up to 80%If you have kids, watch out for baby food, rice cereals, rice noodles and rice snacks, watch out for rice milk – these can ALL contain arsenic too. Instead of rice noodles, try mung bean noodles or sweet potato noodles.

Have a read of the FDA recommendations for baby food here. and a helpful points system to calculate your exposure based on servings here.

What do I do?

I have reduced my family’s consumption of rice. We used to eat rice almost daily, but now we eat alternative grains like buckwheat, quinoa and millet which all can accompany typical asian dishes (just a matter of getting used to) a couple of times a week.

We have increased our consumption of sweet potatoes and potatoes, but we still eat rice 3-4 times a week. I prepare it in the above way (can’t always get to soak them but always in the high 6:1 water ratio to try and flush out the toxins)

I also optimize our chances at detoxification by ensuring an overall high anti-oxidant diet full of vegetables/fruits, regular bowel habits, drinking plenty of water and sweating when we can (e.g. through exercise, sauna for adults). Subscribe to my newsletter and receive informative health content weekly.