While rice is a healthy component of a balanced diet, it has more arsenic in it than other grains. If you eat rice or rice products regularly, you may be increasing your chances of long-term health problems.
Should you be concerned about arsenic in rice?
It depends. Rice is healthy, doesn’t cost much, is in many dishes and is an important part of many traditional diets. But it can also have high amounts of arsenic. .You might be eating a lot of rice or having it often. If you or someone in your family has special dietary needs, you probably eat even more rice in rice products, such as:
- Gluten-free foods made with rice
- Rice milk
- Rice cereal
- Rice-based baby formula
- Brown rice syrup
- Rice-based snack foods
You don’t need to take rice completely out of your diet, but it’s good to know how much arsenic you and your family may be eating in your foods.
What you can do:
- When you can, choose lower arsenic types of rice. White rice is lower in arsenic than brown rice, but it is also lower in fiber and vitamins.
- Check to see where your rice is grown. Look for rice from regions that have rice lower in arsenic.
- White basmati rice from California, India, and Pakistan, and sushi rice from the U.S. may have less arsenic than other types of rice.
- Vary your grains, especially if rice is a big part of your diet. Consider lower-arsenic grains such as amaranth, quinoa, bulgur.
- Check the labels on the snacks you like to see if they are made with rice, rice flour, or rice syrup. If they are, try to find new snack options that don’t have rice in them.
- Be sure the water you use for cooking rice does not contain high arsenic, since rice absorbs water as it cooks. You should not use water with more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic for cooking.
- Rinse your rice before cooking. Rinsing your rice with lots of water also reduces the arsenic concentration.
- Cook your rice like you cook pasta (use six times as much water as rice and drain the rice after it’s finished cooking) to get rid of about half the arsenic.
Keep a Balance
- Don’t eliminate rice completely from your diet, but find out how much arsenic you and your family may be consuming through food, water, and other sources.
- If you eat a lot of rice or other foods that are higher in arsenic, eat them less often or vary with other types of food that are lower in arsenic.
Are there types of rice with less arsenic?
Yes. Some rice types have more arsenic in them than others. To lower the amount of arsenic you get from rice, here are some tips:
- Organic and non-organic rice have about the same amount of arsenic, so choose the kind you prefer.
- Think about swapping some of your brown rice for white rice. While white rice has less fiber and vitamins, it also has 50% less arsenic than brown rice.
When you buy white rice, choose from these types that are lower in arsenic:
Basmati rice from India, Pakistan, or California
Sushi rice from the U.S.
- When you buy brown rice, choose a Basmati rice from India, Pakistan, or California. These types are lower in arsenic.
Is There Regulation of Arsenic in Rice?
The U.S.Food and Drug Administration FDA has an action level for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal of 100 parts per billion, which is the same as the international standard for arsenic in rice products for children. Other rice products are not regulated in the U.S., although international standards exist for arsenic levels in rice.
What if you’re gluten-free?
Rice is the main gluten-free food containing arsenic. If you eat a gluten-free diet, you may eat a lot of rice or foods made with rice such as:
- Plain rice
- Rice in dishes
- Rice-based pasta
- Rice cereal
- Rice cakes
- Rice-based baking mixes
- Gluten-free baked goods made with rice flour like:
Choose ones without rice or with less rice, rinse and cook your rice in excess water (see below) and be sure to eat a varied diet.
Be sure to find out if you are exposed to arsenic from well water, other foods and other sources.
Is arsenic a bigger problem for my kids?
Even though babies and kids younger than five have little bodies, they need a lot of energy—which they get from food. Babies and kids eat about three times more food per pound of body weight than adults. That means that when a baby or kid eats a food with arsenic in it, they may have three times more exposure to arsenic. Also, babies and young children can be more sensitive to the harmful effects of arsenic because their bodies are rapidly growing and they may not have fully developed systems to get rid of harmful chemicals as well as adults.
Many baby foods and kid foods are made with rice, such as:
- Rice cereals
- Rice-based baby formula
- Rice milk
- Lower arsenic in rice through cooking
Also, be sure that you are cooking with safe water.
Why is there arsenic in rice?
When they’re growing, rice plants take in more arsenic than other plants do. The plants absorb the arsenic from the soil, from the irrigation water when it is grown in flooded fields, and from farming chemicals that used to be used in rice fields.
“Rice can be part of a low arsenic diet, but it’s important to vary your grains. If you do eat rice, there are lower arsenic varieties to choose from, and cooking your rice like you cook pasta reduces arsenic even more. Anything that reduces your arsenic exposure is a good choice, especially for pregnant women and children.”