All the controversy of arsenic in rice is solved by science with three very simple tricks

In recent years (and by surprise) rice has become a most controversial topic. And it is something really surprising because, finally, we are talking about one of the most produced and consumed cereals of the world. Furthermore: it is fascinating because, although there is indeed a problem, the solution in countries like ours is so simple that the controversy practically dissolves on its own.

What’s wrong with the rice? I mean, let’s start at the beginning. Yes, rice has arsenic. Is something characteristic of this cereal: “As they grow, the plant and grain tend to take up arsenic more easily than other food crops.”

On top of that, we could do little more than process the rice: “make it white.” like arsenic tends to accumulate in bran, the process of removing the husk, bran, germ, and leaving only the endosperm reduces levels of inorganic arsenic. However, it does not solve a problem that is indeed real.

Especially in specific cases. precisely because of this, not recommended introducing foods derived from rice (such as drinks or pancakes) in children under six years of age and in pregnant women can be recommendable the use of enriched white rice. However, for the rest of the population, the moderate consumption of rice (either white or integral) does not present any problem.

How to oversize a problem. A few months ago, the OCU carried out an analysis on the presence of arsenic in rice and derived products in Spain. He reviewed white rice (short and long grain), basmatis, wholegrain; precooked rice, cereal porridge, infant formula, pancakes, drinks, noodles and even breakfast cereals.

Their conclusions were that “no product, consumed at the rate of one serving per day, can pose a risk to health, although higher consumptions could imply exceeding the thresholds established by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)”.

That is key: as soon as we review the studies that exist on the subject, we find that they all refer to an enormous consumption of rice. Normally, in fact, the works refer to Asian populations with diets based on this cereal and consumptions much higher than those typical in Spain.

And, despite everything, we can reduce the arsenic content. The fact is that, if we are restless, we have a handful of very simple tricks that allow us to lower the arsenic content of rice. The first is to wash it: there are different ways to prepare the rice and, if we do not plan to discard the cooking water, washing it is a simple and effective measure. In addition, by the way, it reduces the time necessary for cooking.

On the other hand, if we do not need the rice broth (or we are not looking for a dry rice), we can add more water (to maximize the dissolving options) and discard it at the end of cooking.

However, the best way to prevent excessive consumption of arsenic is to have a balanced diet. That is to say: not basing our diet on rice or on any other product. This is how we compensate some foods with others.

Image | Faris Mohammed

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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