Arsenic in Rice and heavy metal toxins in foods and medicines in general is a genuine problem.
Organic Heavy Metals in Soil
Some soils are naturally rich in minerals, including, unfortunately toxic minerals, like organic arsenic and lead. Arsenic is not only deadly in high doses, but regular consumption of arsenic at low doses, from a food like rice, is highly carcinogenic, carrying even greater risk for children.
Inorganic Arsenic from Pesticide and Fertilizer
Inorganic Arsenic, even more toxic than naturally occurring organic Arsenic is found in soil that has been contaminated with arsenic from pesticides and fertilizer made from poultry poo. That’s right. Chickens, it seems, can be fed arsenic, so their feces, which is in many fertilizers, are high in arsenic.
Arsenic in Rice–Which Rice is Worst?
Unfortunately, Rice is a grain that tends to absorb arsenic much more readily than other plants, like wheat, corn, or quinoa, for example. This is true whether its organic arsenic found naturally in soil, or the inorganic arsenic polluted into the soil from air pollution, fertilizer, and pesticides.
So, basically, ALL rice is relatively high in arsenic. But SOME rice is higher in the especially carcinogenic inorganic arsenic–
–of the rice grown in the USA, rice from Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana has twice the arsenic as rice grown in California.
Brown rice, on the other hand, according to Consumer Reports, has a whopping “80 percent more inorganic arsenic on average than white rice of the same type. Arsenic accumulates in the grain’s outer layers, which are removed to make white rice.”
The Problem with Brown Rice
This is yet another reason to ignore the mythology promulgated by Japanese businessman and “macrobiotic teacher” Michio Kushi who introduced short grain brown rice to the American public in the 1960s. Kushi and other Japanese back to nature business-folk, like Mr. and Mrs. Oshawa did, in fact, introduce Americans to such exotic foods as mochi and sea vegetables and good quality soy sauce. But Kushi was a bit of a charlatan who claimed to be able to psychically infer what foods, (like cookies…some psychic) people were eating too much of and causing their health problems. He also claimed to be able to cure cancer with his strict brown rice diet, (sadly his wife and daughter both died of cancer).
The problem with brown rice is, that besides containing poorly digested non-soluble fiber which should be avoided by folk with gut issues, rice bran, which is removed to create white, or polished rice, while containing additional vitamins, also contains high amounts of Rice Bran oil, which oxidizes rapidly, and so becomes rancid very quickly. Rancid oil is itself a carcinogen.
I imagine that this must be why every single society in which Rice is the staple grain removes the bran and either gives it to the cattle and pigs, or in some cases makes some very special food stuffs with the fresh bran. In India people store rice for an entire year between harvest, so there is no way they could afford to have their staple grain spoiling.
So brown rice now has a third strike, arsenic, to add to rancidity, and difficult to digest non-soluable fiber. Non-soluable fiber is fine from some people, but folks who suffer from constipation and any kind of inflammatory bowel disease will do very well to steer clear of it.
Consumer Reports on Arsenic in Rice
Consumer Reports has an excellent article on Which Rice has the Least Arsenic which details how much rice they suggest is safe to eat per weak, which forms of rice are higher in it, like brown rice, rice noodles, and rice milk, and also ways to reduce the arsenic in your rice, by soaking, washing, and cooking in water that you then discard.
“…You may be able to cut your exposure to inorganic arsenic in any type of rice by rinsing raw rice thoroughly before cooking, using a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup rice, and draining the excess water afterward….”
Before people get all worried about missing nutrients, I think its worth considering that the number one nutrient we eat rice for is carbohydrate. The carb value of rice is unchanged by polishing or by cooking in extra discarded water. If you eat a balanced diet full of vegetables, seeds, and high quality protein foods, the amount of vitamins you lose by eating white vs. brown rice is negligable. And in the end, if you don’t want arsenic, eat other grains instead, all of which are lower in arsenic than rice.
Thank you to Dr. Jen Gunter, M.D., for reminding me of this important issue in her blog post about the Morning Matcha Smoothie on Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP website, which includes an expensive Rice Bran extract called TOCOS, which while perhaps high in Vitamin E, is also probably high in Arsenic. (Not to mention that this smoothie, with both banana and coconut water, is going to clock in with a very high dose of sugar. Natural sugar may have good things in it like electrolytes, but to the pancreas, all sugars are sugar).
copyright eyton shalom, july 2017, all rights reserved, use with permission.