I was raised on rice, maybe more so than others because of my heritage. My mum learned to cook from my Iranian grandmother, rice is a staple of Persian cuisine, so I would say I have had more than my fair share of rice.
So I was shocked to learn that eating rice once a day can increase arsenic levels in the body by up to 44%.
What’s going on then?
Arsenic can be found in the water we drink, the air we breathe and the soil we used to roll around in! It is found naturally in the Earth’s crust, it is released from erupting volcanoes, and it is eroded from mineral deposits into our water supplies
But as humans we have added inorganic arsenic to our environment on a scale much more devastating. Burning coal, oil, gas and wood, mining, and the use of arsenic in pesticides and fertilizers are a few of our crimes.
So arsenic is unavoidable, it is absorbed by plants and crops as they grow, but rice is so much more vulnerable to this because it is grown in water flooded fields. Some genetically modified crops are even designed to make maximum use of nutrients in the soil and water are therefore absorbing even more inorganic arsenic that others.
Now I love rice, but from the minute I started researching baby led weaning, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would under no circumstance spoon feed my child any form of slop…especially not baby rice. I figured it had no nutritional value whatsoever and I was determined not to damage his virgin gut for a full six months. Boy am I pleased, now that I know at three servings a day of baby rice, I would have effectively been poisoning him without even realising. As is the fad with baby rice, starting at four months old, such a tiny system handling such a hefty dose of arsenic, are you so eager to start weaning in this way any more?
So what can you do?
- As with anything in life, moderation is the key and a varied diet is the best protection. Try using other grains and get experimental…couscous, bulgar wheat, barley, quinoa, try them.
- Consumer Reports recommends limiting your rice consumption to a quarter cup serving of plain rice twice a week for adults, but remember also to go easy on rice crackers, rice based drinks and cereals too.
- The recommendation for children is a quarter cup serving of baby rice cereal a day, but given that the effects of arsenic are heightened, and given my aversion to feeding babies slop at four months, I think once a day is too much. Try wheat, oatmeal, or corn to change things up.
- Finally change your cooking method. Rinse rice under running water, then cook it in excess water, six parts water to one part rice. Either drain off the water and serve, or like my mum taught me, cook in excess water, then drain off the water and finish cooking by steaming with the lid on.