White? Brown? Wild? Black?
Until not long ago, I believed that wild and black rice are the healthiest and white rice is the most useless one. Well I could give a credit to white rice for being a good substitute to wheat for people concerned about gluten... Oh, wait a moment... is it?
Recently (since 2017), high levels of arsenic were detected in rice. (For the Russian speaking readers: arsenic is мышьяк.) Arsenic is very well known in Europe for its smell, which is so strong that could wake up even a dead. It is used by people and hospitals in emergency situations when need to wake up someone who fall unconscious. Most of the time it takes less than a second to activate brain and quickly return a person to consciousness. It works magic in such situations, but what is arsenic really? Arsenic is one of the world’s most toxic elements. In later years, the situation in food industry is getting worse as arsenic is found in more and more foods. Scientists report it as the consequence of environmental pollution that rises levels of arsenic in foods and causes serious health risk. Especially in countries where rice is the main carbohydrate.
There are two types of arsenic. One is organic and one inorganic. Both are not good but inorganic is the more toxic form. These both forms are natural in environment but lately due to increasing pollution their levels go up significantly.
Rice has an ability to absorb much bigger amounts of inorganic arsenic from water and soil than other plants. As you know, rice grows on fields covered with water. And the more water a plant needs the higher chance for it to absorb more arsenic.
Other than in rice, high levels of this toxic arsenic are also found in seafood, animal products, and drinking water (especially in Asia and South America water has high chance to be contaminated with inorganic arsenic.)
Although, let us focus on rice right now. You may believe you are not big on eating rice, but do you eat rice bran, rice cereal, rice pasta, rice crackers, granola bars with rice, or drink rice milk, use rice syrup? There are so many products with rice on the market that it's not always easy to realize how much of it we actually eat. Especially in processed foods and ready to go meals.
The main sources of arsenic include pesticides and herbicides, preservatives, fertilizers, industrial waste, mining activities, coal burning and smelting. As a result of what people do to this Earth, arsenic pollution has been rapidly rising.
If you consume rice on regular basis, it may cause different health problems such as: various types of cancer, heart diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, damaged nerve system and even brain functioning can be affected.
Arsenic is very bad for children and teenagers. It causes mental disorders, loss of concentration, weakened memory, inability to learn and understand things fast, lowers intelligence and results in social problems. It can even affect health of a child before he/she is born. There are 43 studies proving that if a pregnant woman consumes high amounts of arsenic it has effects on the fetus and increases risk of birth defects.
Does all of this mean you need to cut down on rice? The answer is - Yes! Absolutely! It especially applies to those who eat rice every day or is on gluten-free diet. It also applies to baby formulas, rice puddings, and other products for infants. You will be surprised how much rice they put in all foods for babies and infants. That is why it's important to educate yourself and to read ALL labels.
Here are my few tips on how to consume less arsenic from rice.
1. Eat rice very occasionally and in small amounts.
2. Only choose aromatic rice, such as Jasmine or Basmati, since they have the lowest levels of inorganic arsenic.
3. Choose rice from North India, Nepal, and North Pakistan as those areas show less levels of arsenic.
4. Wash rice many times, until water is crystal clear, before you cook it.
5. Brown, wild, and black rice contain 3 times higher amounts of arsenic than white rice. Oops! Did not see this coming? Me neither! It was a great surprise for me too.
6. Make sure you are using water which does not have high levels of inorganic arsenic, as everything above can be trashed in a big trash can, if you cook your rice in such water.
7. Eat different foods each meal. Do not eat just one type of food in order to avoid the food dominance and diversify your diet. It will prevent you from getting too much of something and also provides nutrients you need. If you eat rice in moderation as a part of a varied diet, you should be fine.