Rice and Arsenic — What You Need to Know

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This post is part of a series I am doing for Positively Positive.

I first heard of arsenic from the movies. It was an effective way to poison someone, and it went with old lace. Recently, we were warned about arsenic content in apple and grape juices, and now Consumer Reports has published findings about “troublesome” levels of arsenic in rice and rice products, from baby cereal to pasta. Reports such as these often lead people to question what foods are actually safe these days—and specifically with rice—can we still eat it?

A more fundamental question is what is arsenic and where does it comes from?

There are actually two different types of arsenic at play here: organic arsenic, which occurs naturally in the Earth and is supposedly not quite as toxic to our bodies as inorganic arsenic, which is manmade and the result of practices such as coal-burning or pesticide use. The danger is that inorganic arsenic has been linked to several different types of cancers, including skin, bladder, and lung, as well as heart disease and developmental problems.

Inorganic arsenic is actually present in many healthful foods as well as our drinking water but in amounts generally regarded as safe by the FDA (that is ten parts per billion).  However, rice absorbs much more arsenic than other foods at levels above what is considered safe, thereby putting rice under the proverbial microscope.

Click here to read my recommendations and the rest of the post at Positively Positive’s website.


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  1. Jen says

    Just recently discovered your site and what a treasure! So much information and wonderful recipes – I love it. Honestly, this is the first time reading about rice and arsenic, so I have a question. I went gluten free a year ago, and dairy free about 6 months ago. I have found that almond milk (and almond butter and flour too) gives me wicked gas (ugh). Really terrible. So, I’ve been using organic rice milk. I suppose I should be concerned now? Any advice would be so helpful. Thanks!

    • Pamela says

      Thank you, Jen. So happy you’re here. I know several people who have an intolerance to almonds. If you’re up for it, would you consider trying to make your own almond milk? It’s really easy and I have step-by-step directions on my site. If the almonds are soaked and you take the skins off, I know that will help the digestibility of the almonds, which sounds like your issue, as opposed to an allergy. Just a thought. And yes, I would be concerned about rice milk, especially if you are consuming it regularly. Have you tried other nut milks or hemp milk? You can make non-dairy milk with any nut or seed the same way you make almond milk. I’ve made hazelnut milk before and that was tasty! I use hemp milk a lot in place of regular milk. Cashew milk is also awesome, but a little richer so I use a tad more water. Of course you can buy these at the store as well ;). Just stay away from soy milk — not healthful!

      • Jen says

        I’m going to try hemp milk and making my own almond milk! I must admit to consuming a significant amount of rice milk..which I will stop! Thanks for your reply and advice. x

  2. Carrie says

    Thank you, Pamela, for making me aware of this. This is perhaps an obvious/dumb question but I’m wondering if I need to also soak organic brown rice?

    • Pamela says

      Excellent question! Organic rice and conventionally-grown have equal amounts of arsenic. And brown rice has more arsenic than white. So, YES, you should soak brown rice. :)

    • Pamela says

      I have yet to see Mexican rice named in any of the studies I have seen. With respect to produce, Mexico is considered to have the most widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers, so if I were to guess, rice grown in Mexico would be quite contaminated with arsenic. This is just a hypothesis, however.

  3. says

    This is great information and truly worthy of a post. In my own research on this topic, I agree that buying rice from Asian countries is the best way to go as their farming practices, especially those concerning livestock, differ greatly from those in the US. I also agree that rinsing is very important. Rice, brown rice in particular, is an excellent dietary staple that we should not feel a need to omit from our meals.

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