How to Avoid Arsenic in Your Rice

There's arsenic in the rice you're eating every day. It could possibly be a considerable amount, depending upon the type of rice, how you cook it, and where it's from.  

That's problematic, because too much arsenic in someone's diet can lead to a lot of health issues like cancer, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease.

You might be wondering why the government even allows for elevated levels of arsenic or heavy metals in rice, or in any food at all. Unfortunately, it's very low on their priority list; they have bigger things they're going after, which is why things like arsenic fall through the cracks.

Why Does Rice Have Arsenic in the First Place?

One reason is that natural arsenic already exists in the ground in many of the places we live. Some regions of the world have more arsenic than others.

However,  the bigger reason is man-made pollution, particularly farming. Modern-day farming uses a lot of chemicals and pesticides, and that contributes to more heavy metals (like arsenic) in the ground.

The problem with rice is that it’s grown in a rice paddy (water-saturated soil), so it absorbs up to ten times more heavy metals than all other grains.

You might say, “Bobby, it doesn't matter because I don't eat white rice; I eat brown rice.” Surprisingly, brown rice can actually have up to 80% more arsenic than white rice. Brown rice absorbs more arsenic because of its exterior hull, bran, and fiber. This is a bummer because brown rice has more nutrition than white rice.

You might say, “Bobby, it doesn’t matter, because I eat organic rice.” Unfortunately, organic doesn't mean anything when it comes to the amount of arsenic in food. So, what good is it?

Know Where Your Rice Comes From

The first step to avoiding arsenic in rice is knowing where it was grown. The trouble with getting rice from many developing countries is that they have a lot of pollution in their farming system and water table, and that affects the rice growing in the paddies.

I really like to stick to USA-grown rice, and particularly California-grown. California’s Central Valley has one of the lowest heavy metal levels in the entire world, and fortunately they produce a lot of rice. I'd highly recommend buying any kind of rice that comes from California.

Southern states like Texas are actually a bad source of rice because of their history of cotton farming. Cotton uses a ton of chemicals during the refinement process, including arsenic, so the soil in those regions are heavily contaminated. 

Stick with California-grown, if you can find it.

“You need to wash your rice. This process will rinse away up to 40% of the arsenic.”

Reducing Arsenic While Preparing Your Rice

First, you need to wash your rice. This process will rinse away up to 40% of the arsenic:

  1. Fill a large bowl with six parts cold water to one part rice.
  2. Stir it with your hand until the water is very cloudy.
  3. Drain the liquid, and repeat the process until the water is completely clear.

To remove even more arsenic, cook your rice like you cook pasta. Use a large amount of boiling water and strain the rice afterwards.

How to Avoid Arsenic in Your Rice Altogether

There is a better rice option to avoid 100% of heavy metals and arsenic – wild rice. Technically, wild rice isn’t even rice; it’s an aquatic grass that’s classified as a grain. As a result, it has zero pollutants. When it comes to nutrition, it beats the pants off of any kind of rice. It has more fiber, more nutrition, and it's easier on your tummy.