White and brown rice contain traces of arsenic— a carcinogen

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Insider magazine reported that in the past decade, rice has gotten attention for being a grain that is naturally contaminated with arsenic, a carcinogen.

In 2012 Consumer Reports tested brown rice, white rice, and rice products available in the supermarket and found a wide variety had measurable levels of arsenic in them. In a follow-up, in 2014, it reported that one serving of many rice and pasta products contained arsenic, and can “put kids over the maximum amount of rice recommended they should have in a week.”

Both white and brown rice contain arsenic from the environment. The amount of arsenic that is incorporated into the rice depends on how much of the element is in the soil, which varies regionally. For example, Consumer Reports found the lowest levels of arsenic in basmati rice from California, while the highest levels were in rice from Texas.

In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued draft guidance to manufacturers to limit arsenic in rice cereal for infants. The FDA recommends that adults and children continue to eat rice products, but make sure they are also eating a varied diet of whole grains like wheat, oats, and barley, saying that “if there are substances in food (like arsenic) where reducing exposure is prudent, you’re minimizing that exposure.”

Washing brown rice, cooking it in extra water, and then rinsing it again will get rid of around 50% of arsenic, but will also wash away some of the more beneficial nutrients.

And to top it all, experts also say eating white rice ‘has almost the same effect as eating pure table sugar.’

Harvard Medical School has said white rice has a similar effect as eating “pure table sugar” because, they explain, white rice is highly processed and can spike blood sugar levels.

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