Rice is a good source of protein, vitamins and micronutrient. However, scientist have proved it is contaminated with arsenic. For humans arsenic is toxic. Apart from rice, higher concentration of arsenic has been found in apple juice, wine and seafood.
So, what is arsenic?
Arsenic is a metalloid which naturally occurs on earth. Small quantities of arsenic can be found in air, food and drinking water. It occurs in organic and inorganic forms. The second one is considered more toxic. Now we could do a revision from chemistry classes but I’m pretty sure nobody wants to read that. Please feel free to comment on this article if you want to know more about this topic – or ask your teacher 🙂
Is arsenic toxic for humans?
Yes, it is. Also for animals and plants. Long-term exposure to arsenic can cause skin diseases, diabetes and several types of cancer, e.g. skin, lung and bladder cancer. Symptoms of its toxicity may appear immediately but also after many years.
How are we exposed to arsenic?
By eating these types of food (rice, seafood, apple juice made of concentrate and some wine) which contain a higher concentration of this dangerous element.
Also by drinking contaminated water. In several countries, there is a naturally higher concentration of arsenic in drinking water. These countries are Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, India, Mexico and the USA.
Unfortunately, nowadays the soil is contaminated with arsenic mainly because of usage of pesticides, fertilizers and very poorly disposed arsenic waste. And what happens next? Over time arsenic is released from soil into groundwater. And as a result it filters in our food and drinks.
Arsenic is also used in industry, for instance: in pesticides, dyes and paper or wood preservative.
Let’s not forget about cigarettes. Tobacco, like rice, absorbs arsenic from soil. Now (I hope) there is another reason for you not to smoke cigarettes.
Where does arsenic come from in rice?
Rice absorbs arsenic from soil and water as it grows. In this regard, it’s quite special. Rice absorbs this dangerous element even from areas with only trace amounts of arsenic. Unfortunately, that’s why even eco-farming rice is contaminated with it. For this reason, rice is one of the biggest sources of arsenic in our diet. Apart from rice itself, let’s remember about its products: rice milk, cakes, flour or rice porridge for infants and toddlers. For them, even the lowest amount of arsenic can be harmful because of their low body weight as well as immaturity of their bodies.
That’s why I don’t give my little one rice products as s snack but fruits. So, imagine the look on my face when I saw my son with a rice waffle in his hand while I was picking him up from the nursery school the other day. Of course, he ate it 🙂
Where does arsenic come from in wine?
Some kinds of wine exceed the concentration of arsenic considered as safe for drinking water. Why is that? It turned out that arsenic can affect wine at every stage of its production. Its concentration depends on a type of soil, grape species, water and harvesting time. Types of filters used during wine production are also important because some of them may contain arsenic. However, wine is not a major source of arsenic for us because of the amount we consume. Of course, except for those who drink wine like water, but they probably don’t care about arsenic.
Arsenic in apple juice?
Over the last few years, different kinds of fruit juices, especially apple juice, have been tested for arsenic. It turned out that juices made from concentrate may contain this dangerous element. It’s because apples used for concentrate production come from different parts of the world, also from places with a higher level of arsenic contamination. Producers don’t always provide information about the origin of apples used to make juice.
How can we reduce exposure to arsenic in our daily life?
It’s not all as scary as it seems. We won’t be hurt after drinking a few liters of apple juice or eating an apple like Snow White. However, I strongly believe that it’s better to choose products from a well-known source. Or better yet – squeeze juice at home.
When you buy juice in a shop, you can also try to thin it with water, especially when you prepare it for kids and toddlers to drink.
In seafood arsenic is mainly found in its less toxic organic form.
Rice should be well rinsed and soaked before cooking, at least that’s what I’ve heard from my Asian friend. Researchers recommend adding more water while cooking and then pouring it out before it’s absorbed by rice. It seems the more water for cooking, the better. However, we have to remember that nutrients are also poured out with water.
Apparently, white rice as well as rice from sunny California is considered the least contaminated one.
Groats seem to be an option. Millet, for example, has the same amount of vitamins and even more protein as rice.
We have to ask ourselves whether we want to eat rice with a lower amount of arsenic in it or not. Fortunately, everyone can decide for themselves.
Know it and decide it
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