:Do you eat brown rice? Or white rice? Or really any type of food product with rice in the ingredients (cereal, baby food, etc.)?
If so, and you haven’t been living under a rock, you may have noticed the big fuss taking place recently thanks to a report from Consumer Reports showing that all rice products contain “substantial” and “worrisome” levels of arsenic.
Yes, the same toxic arsenic considered to be a group 1 carcinogen and capable of causing various health issues (e.g. cancer).
Holy Crap, Is This For Real?
Yup. We’ve actually known long before this report came out that all forms of rice contain higher amounts of arsenic than other foods. That’s right, MANY other common foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.) also contain some amount of arsenic, as does water. It’s just that rice contains a whole lot more of it.
What this report did is basically confirm this and, through pretty comprehensive testing, give us more details and specifics than we’ve ever had before.
Not to be left out, the FDA then did their own batch of testing using 200 different rice products, and their results were “consistent” with what Consumer Reports found. So long story short, these high levels of arsenic appear to be fully confirmed and legit.
So What Now?
Well, that depends who you listen to. If you’ve been watching the various news reports and daytime talk shows, you’ve probably seen all sorts of “experts” come on and tell you to start greatly limiting your rice intake or possibly just eliminate it from your diet completely.
They’re likely even more adamant about those recommendations when it comes to feeding rice products to your kids.
Considering how cheap and easily available rice is, how ideal it is for those with wheat and/or gluten issues, how tasty it is, and how it’s a staple in most of the population’s diet… this is easier said than done.
If you listen to the FDA however, they actually say not to worry too much about any of this… or at least don’t worry enough to start eating any differently. Here’s a direct quote:
Based on the available data and scientific literature the FDA is not recommending changes by consumers regarding their consumption of rice and rice products. Our advice for consumers is to eat a balanced diet including a wide variety of grains, not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food.
It’s probably also worth mentioning that the FDA’s track record with diet and nutrition recommendations over the years sometimes ranges from “seriously dude?” to “total horseshit,” so they may not be the best source to listen to.
Then again, the same could often be said for those aforementioned “experts” on your daytime talk shows.
As for the rice industry, it fully agrees with what the FDA says. Surprising, right? After all, their business (and really, their lives) are built around the fact that people are buying and eating rice. It would be pretty strange if they came out and suggested we cut down on the amount of rice we consume.
I’m not saying they’re being evil and trying to kill you… I’m just pointing out the obvious.
So I guess the real question is, who are you supposed to listen to and trust? Just what the hell are you supposed to do here?
My Advice About Rice
My suggestion is to review all of the information out there for yourself and then make your own informed decisions rather than just blindly listening to any one source. That’s actually what I’d recommend when it comes to any aspect of your diet (or workout).
Of course, if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’d probably still like to hear my take on it anyway. Fair enough. Here goes…
The long term health effects of consuming the specific amount and form of arsenic found in rice isn’t something we know all that much about. That makes knowing anything “for sure” virtually impossible at this point. However, I’m the kind of person who’d rather be safe than sorry. This is especially true when it comes to food and supplements. I guess I’m just a little cautious about what I’m putting into my body.
And in my opinion, if you are eating significant amounts of rice on a fairly regular basis, I’d recommend changing that in some way.
What way exactly? Well…
How To Reduce The Amount Of Arsenic In Your Rice
- Choose White Rice Instead Of Brown
While all types of rice were tested and shown to contain high amounts of arsenic, one clear observation can be made: brown rice contains much more arsenic than white. Literally all of the products that came back with the highest levels were brown rice products. And every time they tested a brown and white rice from the same brand, the brown version always had a lot more than the white. Why is this? Well, you know that outer layer brown rice has that contains all of that extra nutritional value that supposedly makes it better than white rice (which is a fun topic I cover here: Brown Rice vs White Rice)? It turns out this outer layer also allows it to retain more arsenic. In this regard, white rice seems to be a much better choice.
- Choose Rice Grown In California, India and Thailand
Studies consistently show that rice grown in certain parts of the world are higher in arsenic than others. The main reason for this appears to be the fact that pesticides containing arsenic were commonly used in cotton fields back in the day, and that very same arsenic is still in the soil of those same fields. And, wouldn’t ya know, it turns out that’s where much of our rice is now grown. For this reason, it would be a good idea to avoid rice grown in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Missouri. Instead, look for rice from California, India and Thailand.
- Rinse Rice Thoroughly Before Cooking and Cook It With More Water
Studies show that rinsing your rice well before you cook it and using more water during cooking can reduce arsenic levels by 30%. Specifically, use 6 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice and then dump the leftover water afterwards like you would when cooking pasta.
- Eat Less Of It/Eat It Less Often
Now for the most obvious “tip” so far. Again, we just don’t know enough to say with 100% certainty that eating X amount of X type of rice X times per week is or isn’t safe. The only real assumption we can make in an attempt to consume less arsenic is that eating less rice less often can only help. I wish I could get more specific than that, but I can’t. Consumer Reports tries (e.g. a maximum of 2 servings of rice per week for adults), but this isn’t anything more than a guess right now.
- Stop Eating Rice Altogether
And finally, if you are concerned about the arsenic in rice AND incorporating all of the above tips still doesn’t feel like enough for you, then the final option is to just stop eating rice, period. Whether that’s going overboard is mostly a matter of opinion at this stage, and I honestly can’t tell you if that’s the right or wrong decision for you.
Here’s What I Plan To Do…
As for me personally, I won’t be eliminating rice from my diet. I may however limit how often I eat it and opt for more white potatoes, sweet potatoes/yams, quinoa and fresh fruit in its place.
Coincidentally, due to my never ending love for all forms of white potatoes (roasted especially), this is something that has been naturally happening in my diet for quite some time already.
As for the rice I continue to eat, I think I’ll officially stop eating brown. Yup, just like that. I’ve always eaten both white and brown rice, but at this point sticking entirely with white and/or white basmati (which is probably my favorite of them all) feels right to me.
I’ll also follow the tips outlined above. I’ll rinse it first, maybe see what happens if I cook it with extra water, and I’ll avoid rice grown in the southern states mentioned earlier in favor of California grown products.
But again, that’s just me. How about you?
46 thoughts on “There Is Arsenic In Your Rice: Here’s What You Should Do About It”
This is definatly a hot topic….I’m hispanic and we grew up eating rice….meal isn’t a meal without it in my family…now that i’ve been training i eat a lot more….i love it…all this does scare me…epecially since it’s something that’s always been around……but like you i love patatoes too!!! I’m definatly gonna cut back!….buying rice from Cali!!
Potatoes > rice in my book. One of my top 3 favorite foods.
And for California grown rice, look for a brand called Lundberg. That’s what I eat.
Thanks for the tip about Lundberg. Can I find it in Whole Foods?
I’m like 95% sure I’ve seen Lundberg in Whole Foods.
I’m kind of tired about this studies that come up every once in a while and says X food is BAD and you should not be eating it. Milk is a great source of calcium, but then milk gives you a higher chance of getting cancer. That’s the last one I remember, because honestly I’ve stopped paying attention to this kind of stuff.
People have been eating rice since ages, I don’t think we should worry about those arsenic levels.
I just try to avoid excesses of any kind. If you only eat rice every day, of course it won’t be good for you. Just eat a balanced diet, listen to your body, do regular medical checks and that’s it.
Everything else is pretty obsessive and neurotic. You end up listening to what they say about food that have been among us since ages and thinking “oh no, I’ve been eating this my entire life, I’ll have cancer!” Nah… chill out.
More good points, similar to what Richard mentioned below.
You’re right though. If you do enough research, you can find something potentially wrong with literally EVERY single food when eaten regularly… even the ones typically thought of as “the best.”
On one hand it’s good to know this stuff so you can adjust your diet accordingly and eat a variety of different foods. On the other hand, this shit will drive people nuts.
I agree with Emiliano; there was the egg scandal=COLESTEROL, now it doesn’t…sardines are BAD, now they’re good…mad cow disease=accumulation of toxins due to feed being given to the MOOS…we just have to be reasonable and eat things in moderation! Processed foods are what I worry about!
When I visited friends in the Philippines I noticed they ate rice morning, noon and evening. The grandmother, 85 years old, walks everyday, has been eating rice all her life. I perhaps will change to white rice, but I am not overly concerned with the danger, if any really exists. I wonder who paid for the comprehensive testing? And why?
Yup, another good point that people always bring up when it comes to whatever supposed “bad” effects of whatever supposed “bad” food. Like the 105 year old guy who ate bacon for breakfast every morning since he was 20.
Was he lucky? Maybe. Genetically built differently? Maybe. Would anyone else (or everyone else) be able to pull that off? Who knows.
Although it is worth pointing out that in your example of the woman in the Philippines, it’s doubtful she was eating rice grown in the southern US states which is where the primary arsenic concern is. Your point is still valid, though.
Like I say in the article, no one actually knows anything. All we can do is take whatever info we have and try to make the best decisions… even if it’s just switching from brown rice to white.
Yes, I think it’s wise to be cautious and read about various studies. However it’s not wise to get neurotic about what to eat. Better to be moderate in all things and enjoy life. Thanks for your great articles.
Call me a sheep, but the first thing that I thought that I would do when I read the beginning of the article was, “I’ll just go with whatever Jay decides…”
Is that lazy? Perhaps.
But maybe it’s just being economical with my time and deciding to let someone else (who I consider to be the expert in this) do the work and me relying on that. If it was any other source I wouldn’t have even clicked on the link, but there is only one source that I actually trust in the worlds of nutrition and fitness, and that’s this guy.
In the end though I live in South Africa and so we either get our rice from local sources or India/Thailand.
Awaiting your parallel book on your other website ACalorieCounter, where you can let me know what is so good about potatoes (since I always seem to feel hungry soon after eating them, which is not the case with oats/wheat/rice)
Ha! That may be a little lazy, but considering how flattered I am to hear it, I will gladly let your laziness slide.
But seriously, I do understand your point. And that is kinda why I write everything I write in the first place… to (hopefully) be that trusted source. But at the same time, blindly following the advice of any one person about anything isn’t something I’d recommend.
But if you’re gonna do it, I applaud your choice. 😉
As for the potatoes, what (if anything) are you eating them with? They have a higher GI than a food like oatmeal which can potentially cause what you’re describing. But the solution then is simple. Eat the potatoes with protein, fat and/or fiber and the GI of the meal will decrease significantly, likely even lower than oatmeal by itself.
Is oatmeal an excellent dietary choice? I’ve been having the cooking type for breakfast, but I wonder if it’s making me bloat a bit more…barley definitely bloats me up & it saddens because I love the stuff! I wonder if these cereals are also GMO’d?
Oatmeal is fine assuming you like it and can digest it. I think it looks and tastes like crap… AND I don’t digest it well. So, I personally never eat it.
Well, this sucks. My addiction to Chipotle’s cilantro-lime rice will have to be less frequent. I guess I will be switching to potatoes then.
Stupid foods and their stupid arsenic. Although, potatoes consistently rank high in the “foods containing the highest amounts of pesticides” category (one of the few foods I always buy organic to avoid this), so there’s really something that sucks about every single food.
Interesting. I hadn’t heard of this. Not because i live under a rock. More likely because I now live in Port Morseby, Papua New Guinea and there’s more real threats that grab the headlines. So thanks for bringing this to my attention.
My initial reaction is… no loss. I find brown rice pretty boring and tasteless unless I douse it in tobacco or soy sauce and take on that unwanted sodium. Plus brown rice is almost impossible (in my experience – but I’m no chef) to get nice and fluffy, and I invariably burn the bottom of my rice cooker and have to soak it overnight.
Give me potatoes, yams, oats, fruit and veg any day.
At this point I barely remember what rice tastes like by itself. I always eat it with something in it (chicken, vegetables, etc.), so whether it’s white or brown is much less noticeable to me. Although if you did put them all side by side, my vote goes to white basmati. Not just in taste, but smell. Good stuff right there.
Interesting to know, though it will be very difficult to stop eating rice but might try to cut down.
I wonder what’s the opinion of people who never eat simple carbs food when they know that their beloved brown rice contains more arsenic than white rice.
I’d guess something like “the nutritional benefits of brown rice outweigh any arsenic risk!”
Not that I’m anti-brown rice or anything. It’s a great carb source that I’ve eaten tons of. But the people who think brown rice is the greatest thing on earth and white rice will instantly make you fat and/or kill you are out of their minds.
I’ll be doing a white vs brown article in the future for sure.
What confuses me is that everybody I know of who went to a nutrition clinic for weight loss, they always give him/her a diet that only contains brown rice, brown bread, brown sugar as carbs resources and with instructions like never eat white rice, white potatoes or white sugar, as if this stuff is related to wight loss goals.
Yup, that’s basically generic stereotypical weight loss tip #1 from people who don’t really know what they’re talking about.
Eat sweet potatoes and avoid white potatoes. Eat brown rice and avoid white rice. Blah blah blah.
I think the importance of calorie intake is mentioned somewhere between tip #50 and never at all.
I’ve been eating white and brown rice for years. Three times a week , every week. I’ve been do so for over fifty years with no complaints. Never withouts vegetable greens, fish, bread, rice and plenty of herbs and spices.
I have a feeling there’s a whole lot of people out there who have eaten similar amounts (if not more) at a similar frequency (if not more) for a similar amount of time (if not more) and lived happily ever after.
All part of the entertainment of trying to figure out what the hell you should or shouldn’t eat.
There are other great grains out there, quinoa, millet, barley… to name a few. I love brown rice and will still eat it on occasion. But I will buy from India, Thailand and California.
I think the positive that comes out of something like this is that your menu expands, which is a good thing. Too much of anything isn’t good. For me that means basmati rice. I am not a fan of white rice, too gummy and bland for my taste. But I love hearty breads and grains.
You can test for arsenic levels through urine, fingernails and hair. Might be worth it if you are worried.
Thanks for the Article. Good info and well written.
Do you happen to know anything about organic rice?
I have been eating organic brown rice for a long time and i feel sorry to dump it, but i will if i have no choice. Are lentils a good replacement?
In terms of arsenic content, organic contained just as much as non-organic as best as I remember.
Can i replace rice for lentils free of risk?
Thanks so much for writing a well informed article. I appreciate your suggestions & I am relieved that the rice I eat, (jasmine from thailand), is safer than other rice. I don’t eat it often really & it is very true that there is something bad in virtually everything we consume. I believe also that part of living well is keeping our emotions in check & limiting the amount of stress we needlessly endure. Life is too precious & short to worry over everything. Not much is within anyone’s entire direct control. So live according to what suits our own needs & wants & enjoy our time on this earth as much as we can. That’s not to say neglect ourselves or the care of our planet. Just keep a level head concerning all matters in this life.
Hey jay, was wondering if you have any reliable people or sources on the internet that you turn to for advice on what foods are healthy/unhealthy an beneficial/not beneficial etc for us in general. I know that food selection doesn’t matter in terms of weight loss/gain but just wanting to have a general look at what I’m eating on a regular basis to see what improvements could be made but it’s hard finding reliable sources to go by they all seem to contradict each other. Thanks a lot dude
I turn to myself for that one. 😉
What advice are you looking for?
Ahm well just general all round advice in terms of what foods are healthy/beneficial to be eating on a regular basis an what ones should try not to consume to much of. Probably abit to much to try answer in a reply, that’s why I was wondering if you have any sites you reference off that I could look through or something? Thanks
What your definition of “healthy?”
Food that’s beneficial to my overall health
That’s the thing… specific foods aren’t really beneficial. Nutrients are, as is your overall diet itself.
I am glad that I read this article. I wasn’t really concerned about the arsenic in rice but very curious. I love basmati white rice best, and will rinse it well before cooking and use more water also. I did notice in the past, when cooking some rice as per instructions on the bags, that there always is a “greyish foam” on top. I also love the yasemine rice, I guess it come from thailand?
thanks for the article.
You know what?! I couldn’t help to burst out in laughter at myself when I came across this info on rice. Can’t tell you how many changes I’ve been making in my family’s diet in an attempt to be healthier and safer!
It’s a relief to see I’m not the only (neurotic) one. It’s good to know about this stuff and even better to keep things in perspective and balance.
So anyway, thanks for the article!
Glad it helped!
Can you say that less arsenic is found in Organic rice vs non-organic?
No difference as best as I remember.
I appreciate this article but seriously God can’t put something on earth 4 us to eat if He knew it was dangerous.
Ummm, that is the scariest/dumbest logic I’ve ever heard in my life.
Interesting discussion about rice…..I was wondering, do Thailand and India have less arsenic in their soil
than the U.S.?
Yup… India, Thailand and California are the 3 best options.
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