Rice is a staple food for more than half the world’s population. But this comforting food grain contains a toxic ingredient — arsenic. According to some studies, alarming levels of arsenic are common in rice. It means you need to handle rice carefully before adding it to your regular diet.
Whether it’s brown, white, organic, wild, or basmati rice, each variety contains arsenic. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on your staple food. Here, we will discuss some ways to remove arsenic from rice. But before that, let's understand what arsenic is.
What is arsenic?
Arsenic is found naturally in the environment. The Earth's crust is said to have arsenic, and it is found in water, soil, plants, and even in animals.
Now, here comes the question — how arsenic is considered harmful if it occurs naturally?
Well, humans have made this issue a bit complicated by using pesticides and fertilizers. In nature, arsenic exists in organic and inorganic forms. Here, arsenic doesn't relate to farming but is a term in chemistry.
Organic arsenic has its molecules combined with carbon, and it’s found in plants and animal tissues. Inorganic arsenic, on the other hand, has no carbon elements combined. It is found in water, rock, or soil.
Here comes the main thing — toxicity levels of arsenic vary hugely. Both organic and inorganic variants of arsenic are considered hazardous, but inorganic arsenic is more harmful. It is most commonly used in fertilizers and pesticides. This toxic element is found in various foods such as chickens that are fed arsenic-laden drugs. But rice is one of the most common food sources for inorganic arsenic.
How to remove arsenic from rice?
You can wash off arsenic to some extent as it is water-soluble. But this process is said to remove some valuable nutrients from your basmati rice or any other rice as well. As per a report from FDA, rinsing rice may wash off nutrients like iron, folate, thiamin, and niacin by 50-70 percent.
Also, the published reports show that using the excess water for rice cooking and draining the excess water can reduce the inorganic arsenic level by 40 to 60 percent. It depends on the type of rice you use.
One such study published in PLOS ONE in 2015 stated a cooking method that removed about 85% arsenic from rice. In this method, a filter coffee maker was used to let the hot water pass through the rice as it cooks. But this experiment resulted in nutrient depletion. It saw a significant 50% reduction in potassium and 7% in phosphorus. But the levels of calcium, iron, manganese, copper, sulfur, and zinc remained unchanged.
The Parboiling Method
Well, in 2020, the University of Sheffield introduced perhaps the most effective way to remove arsenic from rice at home. Researchers came out with four cooking methods:
- Unwashed rice and absorbed water
- Washed rice and absorbed water
- Pre-soaked rice and absorbed water
- Parboiled rice and absorbed water
Out of these four methods, the last one — parboiled rice and absorbed water — proved to be the most efficient method for removing about 50 percent of the arsenic from brown rice and 74 percent of the arsenic from white rice while preserving the valuable nutrients.
This method includes two steps: pre-boiling the water and cooking the rice in the boiled water for five minutes. It's just like the method of pasta cooking.
Once the rice is boiled, it is drained off. Then, the rice is added back to the pot with fresh water (boiled). You can use 2 cups of water for each cup of rice. After that, it is boiled again. Now, reduce the heat and let it simmer until the water is absorbed.
Steps to reduce arsenic in rice
If you love rice, whether basmati rice, brown rice, or any other variety and can’t resist eating it, don’t worry.
Follow these steps to reduce arsenic from it:
- First, choose organic basmati rice from Jashn or any brand of your choice.
- Rinse rice thoroughly. If possible, soak it for about 48 hours or overnight before cooking. Then, keep draining the water and rinsing it every eight to twelve hours.
- Add six to ten parts water for one part rice and cook it.
- Once cooked, drain off the extra water.
- Or, you can try the parboiling water with the absorption method.
Remember, water also contains arsenic, so use filtered water.
Rice alternatives to include in your diet
Even after removing arsenic, you are not feeling good about using rice as your staple food, don’t worry.
You can try these rice alternatives.
Oats and oatmeal are great sources of protein. They are great for your digestion and help you feel full. You can include oatmeal into your breakfast, but that doesn't mean you can't have a bowl full of oats when you are hungry!
Another way to consume oats is to add it to your smoothie.
Millet is a prized seed in South America and Africa, and the credit goes to its culinary flexibility and nutrient content. The fluffy texture of millet makes it perfect for sides, porridges, and gluten-free bases for baked products.
It's a pseudo-grain said to contain more protein and fiber than rice. Like rice, you can serve quinoa in stir-fry, plain, or seasoned forms.
Unlike brown rice, it doesn’t take more time to cook. But it needs a thorough rinse before cooking. Rinsing will help remove its bitter taste and feel sweeter and tastier.
Giving up on the rice isn’t the solution if you love this staple so much. There are many alternatives available for you to include in your diet. Or, you can use the methods discussed earlier to remove arsenic from your rice. Also, make sure to cut your rice portion to avoid arsenic toxicity.
If you know of any other way to remove arsenic from basmati rice or any other rice, please let us know in the comment section below.