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Arsenic in Rice

Ways to decrease one’s arsenic intake from rice.

December 31, 2009 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to Calgary Reviews.

Transcript

What about white rice? Came free with the broccoli in garlic sauce you just ordered. Better than nothing? And the answer is nope. Put some brown rice in your rice cooker and it will be done by the time the delivery person arrives
If brown rice is so good for you and white rice is pretty much a waste of calories, why not just eat rice bran, which is part of what is taken away from brown rice to make white rice. Bad idea, doesn’t matter either way, or great idea—you get all the good stuff concentrated together?
Unfortunately, you get all the bad stuff concentrated together as well. Plants grown in water-logged soil can absorb arsenic found naturally in the environment, and it concentrates in the bran.
Does that mean we shouldn’t eat brown rice? No, but if you eat a lot of rice, I would encourage you to buy U.S. grown rice, as it has lower arsenic levels than Asian or European-grown rice.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out theother videos on rice. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For more context, check out my associated blog post, How Much Arsenic In Rice Came From Chickens?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on rice. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/kathleen/ kathleen

    Does organic brown rice also contain arsenic? A lot of it?
    I eat organic brown rice maybe 4 to 5 times a week – and my dogs eat it almost everyday! So I’d like to know.
    Thanks for your posting. I had no idea that rice had any arsenic.
    Also, does organic white rice contain arsenic too? (I use it to make yellow rice).

    • Alexandra Georgiadis

      Hi Kathleen,
      See Toxins response below.  
      I hope this helps!
      Alexandra

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/AdamCapriola/ Adam Capriola

    I’m also interested in knowing if white rice has as much arsenic as brown rice. It seems that you’re suggesting it doesn’t if rice bran has a relatively high concentration of arsenic (as that’s the part white rice is missing).

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Hello Adam!

      It appears as though, based on the study, that united states brown rice has more arsenic than in US white rice because the bran is what absorbs the arsenic. I would assume that we should avoid white rice all together because, although it may have lower arsenic levels, it is a nutrient poor food and provides no real nutritional benefit anyway. Brown rice actually has a lot of health value to it http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/great-grain-robbery/

      Avoid rice from China though as this seems to have the most arsenic! For more on rice check out these videos http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=rice

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/rick/ Rick

        Hi: I eat rice 2 or 3 times a week. When i go out to eat, I eat brown rice. When I make it at home, it is generally a wild rice blend. Does wild rice contain the same levels of arsenic?

        • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

          It really depends on where its shipped from. Brown rice in most instances is lower in arsenic than white rice because of where its shipped from; I have seen wild rice getting shipped in bulk from China, and the rice shipped from there usually has higher arsenic levels. 2-3 times a week is not much cause for concern. If you ate it two meals a day, everyday (like i sometimes find myself doing) then I think it would be cause for worry.

        • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

          Wild rice appears to have levels of arsenic comparable to regular rice, whether sourced from China, sold in the U.S., or specifically from Wisconsin. Chicken appears to be a more important source of arsenic in the American diet though. See my video Arsenic in Chicken and blog Dr. Oz, Apple Juice, and Arsenic: Chicken May Have 10 Times More. Recently Consumer Reports vindicated Dr. Oz’s concerns about the unregulated levels of this toxic element in juice.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Hello Adam,

      I want to add on to my previous statement because it was misleading. White rice, it appears, had more arsenic in most cases than brown rice based on where it was shipped from.

      “Total arsenic levels in the 107 south central rice samples averaged 0.30 μg/g, compared to an average of 0.17 μg/g in the 27 California samples. A white rice sample from Louisiana ranked highest in total arsenic (0.66 μg/g), and an organic brown rice from California ranked lowest (0.10 μg/g). Organic growing conditions, however, do not guarantee low arsenic levels, since any rice growing in arsenic-laden soil soaks up arsenic, says Meharg…a daily limit at 10 μg/L from drinking water”
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1892142/

      We should not be concerned too much about brown rice it appears unless we eat a lot of it, which i tend to do.

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/AdamCapriola/ Adam Capriola

        Thanks for the info man, you’ve been very helpful. Kudos.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/shlomy07770/ Shlomy07770

    I’m getting conflicting information. Dr. Greger, you’re saying that US grown rice has less arsenic, but according to the article I’ve linked to below, John Duxbury, Professor of Soil Science and International Agriculture at Cornell University suggested eating basmati rice imported from India and Pakistan and jasmine rice from Thailand. And, Professor Meharg suggested sourcing from the Himalayas and Egypt. So, I’m still confused. Which is the best rice to buy. Or do we just not really know? http://www.green-talk.com/2012/02/23/arsenic-in-organic-brown-rice-syrup-and-rice-how-to-eat-rice-safely/

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Shlomy,

      The information you provided coincides with the information Dr. Greger presents. Where are you having confusion?

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/shlomy07770/ Shlomy07770

        Toxins,

        The source I referenced says rice from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Himalayas, Egypt has less arsinic. Dr. Greger says American rice has less arsenic. So the confusion is over which rice actually has less arsenic. U.S. grown rice or foreign rice?

        • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

          The information you are providing coincides with the information Dr. Greger is presenting. Here is the study Dr. Greger used.
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1892142/

          • Jenny Wells

            I agree with Shlomy – in this video Dr. Greger says U.S. grown rice has less, and Asian rice has more. Did he misspeak in this video? I was confused by this as well. I eat a lot of brown rice and want to make sure I’m getting it from low-arsenic locations :)

  • Alan

    A new study has found arsenic at worrisome levels in all rice, and its worst in american grown rice…. need a little update on the video me thinks :)

  • Pat tallman

    my bird is on a pellet made of rice and rice protein. should i be concern the brand name is Roudybush.

  • daisy

    i am concerned about arsenic in brown rice/brown rice products that i eat often:lundberg brown rice cakes and nature’s path puffed (brown )rice.should i eliminate these foods from my diet ?would i be safer eating organic popcorn(air popped,plain ) and nature’s path organic corn puffs?

    • John Weissman

      I was a rice cake freek, and gave that silliness up. Ditto popcorn, rice puffs. THese are dead carbs and use valuable body resources to deal with. Don’t eat that junk. It’s junk food, despite the “whole” and “organic” on the label. Eat grains, if you must eat grains, cooked at low temp, steamed and boiled. If the arsenic don’t get ya the acrylimides from high temp processing will! Stop worrying and just do it!

  • Traxmom

    The Consumer Reports study that was recently published seems to go against your assertion that US grown rice has less arsenic than foreign-grown. They found exactly the opposite.

  • Chriscomments

    Here are some of the things we do at the High5Kitchen to address the arsenic issue.

    Limit processed rice foods (which we already do as a matter of preference) Be aware of how many products contain rice and rice syrup such as rice cereals, rice cakes, health bars, gluten-free pasta and bread products.

    Cook rice differently: Thoroughly rinse raw rice before cooking. Cook rice in excess water (1 part rice 6 parts water, once cooked drain excess water to reduce arsenic level by 30-45%) follow by steaming for 5 minutes for better texture. Levels of Aarsenic in Rice: Effects of Cooking.

    Purchase California rice which was found to have 41% lower arsenic levels than rice grown in the south central states were cotton was grown. Market Basket Survey Shows Elevated Levels of As in South Central U.S. Processed Rice Compared to California: Consequences for Human Dietary Exposure.

    For information covering Consumer Reports, FDA testing and the rice issue with source information you may wish to visit my blog at http://celebratewholefoods.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/rice-and-arsenic-should-you-be-concerned/. Apparently the links do not copy in this comment section. Sources are linked in the blog.

    Currently, we are experimenting with double cooking rice using the method described above until just al dente, then discarding the water and continuing to cook to obtain the texture we like so much.

  • John

    Asian grown rice has LESS arsenic not more. The worst is from the southeast US. If he’s got this wrong what else does he have wrong.

  • chrystea

    how about oat bran and other brans?

  • JenJen10

    We are told to eat more chicken, and rice has always been said to be healthy. Now we are told we have contaminated water & chicken & rice. Arsenic is the main ingredient in Roundup. Why is Roundup still on the market????

  • Sebastian

    Well, an online article published in 2007 for a popular and well known newspaper – The Telegraph – stated that rice with the lowest levels of Inorganic Arsenic levels were found in Egypt and India.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/food/3304831/Dangerous-levels-of-arsenic-in-10pc-of-rice.html

  • barbarabrussels

    Is this why we should wash our rice before cooking? Will it remove most of the arsenic? Thanks

  • Tobias Brown

    I used to eat short grain brown rice but now I’m grown a strong liking for basmati direct from Pakistan. This rice is aged for a year so I guess this gives it an amazingly good taste and texture. So, let’s say I eat a nutrient rich diet in most respects. Is it unhealthy to eat white rice? Sans the arsenic, could there be an argument that white is better than brown? I’m loath to give up this white rice. Tell me how it’s harmful, please.

    • Thea

      Tobias Brown: I’m no expert, but based on my understanding, I could not say that some white rice in the context of a nutrient rich whole plant food based diet would be any problem. After all, isn’t that pretty much was the rural Chinese used to eat? Ie, those people with low cancer rates, etc.?

      Having said that, I have an idea for you: I have happily eaten brown basmati rice that I got from the store. That seems to me to be the best solution since it involves both basmati and all the fiber and nutrients you get from the whole grain.

      Just an idea. :-)

      • Tobias Brown

        Maybe I will go back to mixing. But frankly the brown version does not have the wonderful fragrance, texture, or taste of the white version, as least from my perspective. And best of all, no arsenic? (I’ve heard that the asians did so well on white rice because… they walk their butts off normally. That’s a good point. :)

        • Thea

          Well, who am I to say, but I think that if you get so much pleasure from the white rice and you do everything else so well, then just enjoy your white rice! It is also important to get pleasure from your food.

          Now you have me curious about that white basmati rice. You may be a bad influence on me. ;-O

          • Tobias Brown

            Maybe add pick and we could fall in love. :) Seriously. I’ve recently realized that for weight control, it would not hurt me to minimize white rice and potatoes, the major “pure” starches. The quick conversion to sugar might make weight control more difficult.

  • invegat

    In the “What should I know about arsenic and food?” link at
    http://www.lotusfoods.com/Faq.aspx some rice arsenic levels are listed. I ordered 2 six-packs of http://www.lotusfoods.com/Organic-Madagascar-Pink-Rice/p/LOT-501581&c=LotusFoods@Organic, for the $9.95 shipping cost it came in a couple of days. It has a lighter color and taste than either red or forbidden rice, so I don’t know about the anti-oxidant levels. At 3 ppb it has the lowest arsenic level whole grain rice I have found. The “ALTER ECO RUBY RED” rice at Whole Foods has 213 ppb. According to the CDC arsenic concentrations as low as 300 ppb can cause “symptoms such as stomachache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea” http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=18&tid=3