Is Arsenic In Rice Problematic?

Plant-Based Diet
Plant-Based Diet
Plant-Based Diet
Plant-Based Diet

Rice is a staple food of many people following plant-based diet and there is much discussion about the presence of arsenic in rice. You might have also heard about arsenic in rice and may be wondering if you should take it seriously. With all the health, food, and environmental concerns out there, it can be difficult for a person to understand what should be considered seriously. Inorganic arsenic is a naturally occurring trace element and can be dangerous to our health. Therefore, its presence in rice is a matter worth paying attention to. Continue reading to get more information on the level of arsenic content in rice.

Arsenic In Rice

Inorganic arsenic is observed in rocks and soil. Furthermore, it is also present in water in dissolved form. The levels of arsenic have increased much due to environmental pollution and the use of pesticides containing arsenic adds to the problem. We can find organic arsenic in seafood and plant tissues, but it is less toxic when compared to the inorganic version.

Plant roots can absorb inorganic arsenic and can be found in all types of plant food in very small quantities. However, rice plants absorb a lot of water as it grows and it bioaccumulates in the plants. These plants absorb arsenic more readily than other crop plants like rye or wheat. As per the experts, high levels of arsenic are found in rice bran and products like brown rice syrup, rice-based cereals, rice milk, and rice crackers.

In the case of other grains like quinoa, arsenic is found in lower levels than in rice. Barley, millet, bulgur wheat, amaranth, and corn also have very small amounts of arsenic in them. As per the reports of the World Health Organization, long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic from food items and drinking water can lead to skin lesions and even skin cancer. It can also result in birth defects, negative impacts on the health and cognitive development of unborn babies, infant mortality, neurotoxicity, heart and lung issues, and diabetes. However, this does not inescapably mean that you must cut off rice from your plant-based meal plan altogether.

Reducing Arsenic Exposure From Rice 

You may not avoid rice completely from your plant-based diet plan just for the fear of arsenic poisoning. There are certain methods for decreasing arsenic exposure from eating rice. Ensure that you follow the below-discussed precautions in full.

Reduce Consumption Of Brown Rice 

Arsenic accumulates in the rice hull and therefore you should avoid brown rice that retains the hull. It is estimated that brown rice has 80% more arsenic than white rice and so you should avoid brown rice from your plant-based meal plan despite its nutritional advantages. The level of arsenic present in rice varies with the type of rice and the area where it has been cultivated. Brown basmati rice from India, California, and Pakistan has about a third less arsenic when compared to brown rice varieties from Texas, Arkansas, or rice labeled “The United States.” Likewise, White basmati rice from India, Pakistan, and California has about half the arsenic content of other rice types.

Modify The Method Of Preparing Rice 

The method used to prepare rice can potentially decrease the exposure to arsenic by nearly 30%. You need to rinse the rice well and cook it in water at a ratio of 6:1; that is, six cups of water for every cup of rice. Cooking rice by allowing it to absorb the water can retain more arsenic and so, it should be avoided. Boiling the rice in water can help reduce the level of arsenic in white rice by 75% and brown rice by 50%.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil for every cup of rice you will be cooking. After adding the raw rice to boiling water, let it boil for a whole five minutes. After that, you may drain the rice into a pan. To every cup of rice, add 2 cups of water and cook. Brown rice can take about an hour to cook and white rice will take about half an hour. Following this preparation method can help in removing arsenic from rice.

Rice Is Still A Part Of Plant-Based Diet 

Rice continues to have a good place in plant-based meal plans. As long as the rice is sourced and prepared properly, and consumed in moderation, you need not worry about arsenic poisoning from rice. It is a very good source of vitamins like vitamin D and B vitamins, and minerals like iron and calcium. Brown rice has a rich dietary fiber profile.

While following a plant-based diet, you should not overly rely on rice and make sure to eat a varied diet. This can not only avoid harmful metals like arsenic but also help ensure proper nutrition for your body. You can also add rice alternatives like amaranth, millet, quinoa, teff, corn, rye, buckwheat, barley, and wheat to your plant-based diet.