Most of us eat rice, but most of us don’t know that rice is the leading food source of arsenic, an element that occurs naturally in air, soil and water—and from contamination from industrial waste, pesticides and fertilizers.
The arsenic content of rice varies by where it is grown. For example, rice grown in California tends to have less arsenic than rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas. White rice tends to have less arsenic than brown rice.
Regular exposure to inorganic arsenic, the primary form of arsenic in rice grain, is linked to an increased risk for bladder, lung and skin cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Good news: Cooking rice a certain way can eliminate most of the arsenic.
New study: Scientists from Queen’s University Belfast tested three different methods of cooking rice to determine how they affected levels of arsenic.
Method #1. Researchers used a ratio of two parts water to one part rice, cooking the rice until all the water was either absorbed or steamed out.
Result: Most of the arsenic still was present in the rice after cooking.
Method #2. Rice was cooked with five parts water to one part rice. After cooking, excess water was drained off, and then the rice was rinsed under a running tap until the water ran clear.
Result: Arsenic was reduced by 50% compared with method #1.
Method #3. The rice was soaked in water overnight at room temperature. It then was rinsed under a running tap until the water ran clear, drained and transferred to a saucepan with a ratio of five parts water to one part rice. The rice was then cooked and drained.
Result: Arsenic was reduced by up to 82% compared with method #1.
Bottom line: Use method #3. Cooking instructions: Bring rice and water to a rapid boil over high heat, uncovered—this takes seven to eight minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-high. Boil white rice 10 minutes more. Boil brown rice 20 minutes more. Drain.