How to Reduce the Arsenic in Your Rice

rice in straingerAlmost every day we are bombarded with posts telling us about some food, drink or habit that is harmful for our health.  So, when several years ago, I began seeing posts about rice having arsenic in it, I just ignored them.   Brown rice and other grains are my main staple and I feel better when I eat them regularly.  I certainly did not want to even contemplate the idea that brown rice might be toxic. 

When a friend visiting from the States showed surprise that I was “still” eating rice, I figured the rice she gets in the States is unhealthy like so many GMO products there.   However, when she told me that they no longer give rice cereal to babies in the States because the level of arsenic in the rice can be too high for young children, that red light finally flicked on.  

I did my research and yes you should be concerned!!!!  There is inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen, in rice.  For babies and young children the amount can be dangerous.  According to 2013 consumer report tests: 
“one serving of either [rice cereal or rice pasta] could put kids over the maximum amount of rice we recommend they should have in a week. Rice cakes supply close to a child's weekly limit in one serving. Rice drinks can also be high in arsenic, and children younger than 5 shouldn’t drink them instead of milk.1 
 
Rice crackers!  A child should not have more than one serving of rice crackers a week due to the high amount of arsenic found in them!   It’s also time to cut down on rice milk if you are using it as a milk substitute. 
 
Why is there arsenic in our rice?  You guessed it.  We have poisoned our soils and you might want to think twice about those chickens that are fed arsenic! 
Arsenic also has been released into the environment through the use of pesticides and poultry fertilizer. (Chickens can be fed arsenic.) Therefore, it’s in soil and water. Rice tends to absorb arsenic more readily than many other plants .
 
The bad news is that there are higher levels of arsenic in brown rice than in white rice since the arsenic accumulates in the outer layer of the grain.  On the consumer report site there is a 7 point/week system to make sure that you and your children are not getting too much arsenic from rice.
 
The arsenic levels vary depending on where the rice is grown.   Did you know rice is grown in California despite the drought and that rice is also grown in Texas? Lower levels of arsenic are found in brown rice grown in India, Pakistan and California. 1 The companies in Israel really couldn’t tell me where their rice came from, so I searched for another way to reduce arsenic levels.  
 
I discovered that rinsing the rice and cooking it in larger amounts of water rather than allowing the rice to soak up all the water, reduces the arsenic by 30%.1   So it is important to vary the grains that you eat, limit the amount of rice you eat and rinse well and cook the rice you do eat  in large amounts of water.  

This is my 5 step plan for cooking brown rice which is pretty simple and surprisingly makes it easier for me to cook rice.  I also don’t have to worry about forgetting the rice on the stove and burning it (if that happens to you too! :-) )    I based it on Skinnytaste. Com’s recipe

Rinse :
 Put a cup of rice in a bowl and rinse till  the water is clear.  This also gets rid of the dust and oxidation. 

Soak:
Put a cup of rice in a bowl, and soak for at least 1 hour.  I was fortunate to attend several of Macrobiotic cook and teacher Christina Pirellos classes when she was in Israel.  Christina explained that brown rice and black beans have phytic acid which stops absorption of calcium, so it is important to soak them for at least an hour (and yes, I also learned from Christina that you do not need to soak other beans before cooking them !)   Many soak their rice for longer so that it starts to sprout which increases the protein content .  

Boil: 
Bring 8 cups of water to boil with a bit of salt.  Drain and rinse the soaked rice. I use a large strainer.  Slowly add the rice to the boiling water.  Only partially cover or it will boil over. Cook for 30 minutes.  

Strain and Steam
Strain the rice again (without rinsing) and put it back in the pot and cover tightly to steam for 20 minutes.  I add salt at this point.   I put half the rice back in the pot add salt and then put the 2nd half in and add the rest of the salt. I use about a ½ tsp but adjust to your taste. 

Fluff with a fork and enjoy.   
 
It gets easier - I use 2 cups of soaked raw rice and just fill a large pot with boiling water when I cook so I don’t have to measure out the water.  

At least this should be reducing the arsenic by at least 30% so accroding to the 7point chart,one can eat more rice per week. 
How to cook brown rice to reduce arsenic levels
•Rinse 1 C rice till water is clear
•Soak for at least 1 hour and drain
•Put 1 C of soaked rice in 8 C of boiling water cook for 30 min partially covered
•Strain out water and put back in pot with salt
•Cover and let steam for 20 minutes 
•Fluff and Eat
 
 

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