If you knew there was arsenic in your food would you feed it to your family? Probably not because arsenic is a toxic heavy metal. If there was an easy way to reduce arsenic levels would you do it? I think so. It's what I've done for years and thought I would share with you. Here's how to reduce arsenic in rice through cooking, so rice can still be part of a healthy diet.
There's Arsenic in Rice?
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in soil and water. While it's natural it's not safe. In fact arsenic is a notorious toxin. While rice grows in water flooded paddy's, it absorbs arsenic from the ground and water.
Different kinds of rice and areas of the world produce rice with varying levels of arsenic. While arsenic is in the earth's crust, banned farming practices and industrial usage are more to blame for the contamination.
Because arsenic is a confirmed carcinogen, it's best to reduce exposure whenever possible. It's not just in rice, but in rice products and foods such as:
- Rice cereal
- Rice milk
- Brown rice syrup
- Rice-based baby formula
- Rice pasta (gluten free)
- Rice protein powder and blends with rice
- Packaged foods containing rice
If you want to read more, check out the links at the end of this post. So how do you cook rice to reduce arsenic levels? It's really very simple: cook it like pasta.
How to Reduce Arsenic
While many people forgo eating rice for a low-carb or grain-free diet, rice is one of the world's most widely consumed and important grains. With high arsenic levels and rice consumption what it is, this is a world-wide concern.
- Cook it like pasta in a lot of water (see below).
- For the lowest levels, choose basmati rice from either California, India, or Pakistan or sushi rice from the U.S.
- If you love brown rice and not so much white, try mixing them half and half after cooking.
Because I've had heavy metals toxicity with unsafe levels of mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic in my system, my concern climbed when I read reports about high arsenic in rice. It can also be a source of lead and chromium.
I didn't want to give up rice, so I started cooking it like pasta.
Cooking Rice Like Pasta
Cooking rice like pasta reduces arsenic as it releases into the cooking water and drains off after cooking because arsenic is water soluble. If you cook rice the traditional way with approximately a 2:1 ratio of water to rice, the arsenic stays in the rice. It's actually easier because there is no measuring and the rice comes out perfectly. Remember, this is more important for brown rice than white.
Rinse or Not?
To rinse or not to rinse? Yes. It's a good idea to rinse your rice well in cold water before cooking. If you have a sprayer attachment, that's is what I do. If you buy from bulk bins rinsing removes possible dust, unwanted material, and some of the starch.
Some articles mention soaking it over night, but I don't. If you do soak it might reduce the amount of time you cook the rice. Test and see for yourself.
Unfortunately rinsing does not have much of an effect on arsenic levels. It's how you cook it, and neither does whether it is organic or not.
Bring a large pot (7-8 quarts) of water to a boil. Add a little salt and pour in a 1 pound bag of rice. A pound of rice yields about 10 standard servings (not crazy restaurant sized).
Cook rice for the time recommended on the package and then drain off the water. Optionally, place the rice back into the pot on top of the warm stove and allow to steam dry for a few minutes.
Cool and Freeze
Either eat rice hot or spread the drained rice flat on a rimmed half sheet pan and cool, then portion and freeze (a great prep ahead step). I freeze it in 1 cup portions for two servings. I always cook both brown rice this way.
As white rice is naturally lower in arsenic due to the polishing off of the outer surface at processing (but lower in fiber and nutrients), I usually cook white rice the standard way on the package, but use the pasta method as well.
What I Buy
Rice grown in the Southern USA reported higher arsenic levels, probably because many of the fields were once used to grow cotton with arsenic pesticide use. Rice grown in California has lower levels, so I always buy California grown rice. Lundberg Farms is my favorite.
Our favorite Lundberg variety is their organic sprouted short grain brown. Sprouted rice digests more easily offering more nutritional availability too. Lundberg basmati is what I buy for white rice.
Brown Rice vs. White Rice
Arsenic concentrates in the outer part of the grain called the bran. The bran is why brown rice is brown and more nutritious. The bran (fiber) and germ (nutrients) are polished off to produce white rice leaving nothing but the starchy endosperm.
Without the bran and germ, white rice has lower levels of arsenic. It cooks faster and is easier to digest than brown rice, but it also has a higher glycemic index and load.
If you love rice like we do, ever make risotto? Try this risotto Milanese. And here is the best rice to use.
If you suffer with histamine intolerance (HIT), rice is generally considered a safe food.
- The Consumer Reports report on Arsenic in Your Food (original) and followup a few years later
- The World Health Report on Arsenic
- Arsenic in Food FAQ by WebMD
- Here's another method to reduce arsenic
- 2020 info on brands with lowest levels
- Dartmouth College article
How to Reduce Arsenic in Rice (through cooking)
- 1 pound rice well rinsed
- enough water to fill a large pot
- Wash the rice well in cold water through a sieve. Fill a large pot, 7-8 quarts, ¾ full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add a sprinkle of salt and carefully add the rice. Turn the heat down to a low boil and cook rice according to the time on the package. When rice is done, strain off water through a fine sieve or colander.
- If eating right away, add a little butter, ghee, olive or coconut oil as preferred plus salt. If meal prepping ahead, spread the rice on a rimmed half sheet baking pan and allow to cool. Once cool, portion and freeze. Rice will keep in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
I rinse my organic brown sprouted rice then soak it over night then rinse twice more before pressure cooking it in the insta pot turns out get and I Hope it’s helping with the toxins 🤷♀️
Sally Cameron says
I'm sure it is Cheryl! Good job! Any steps we can take help.
Thank you for all the information and great suggestions, Sally! I'm curious to know if you've been following Anthony William (Medical Medium)? He has a Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie listed in both his "Liver Rescue" and "Cleanse to Heal" books. I make the smoothie every morning and have found that it has definitely cleared up my neural dermatitis! Although I don't know how to test for the presence of toxic heavy metals in the body, I'm sure that the ingredients in the smoothie have probably eliminated a lot of those as well. Thank you.
Sally Cameron says
Hi Guidonna. I have read a few of his books, they are very interesting. I've battled a great deal wtih heavy metals in my past and am now finally much better. It's something I've wanted to write about for my site to help others. Through it I learned I am not a good detoxer genetically and thus had problems. Testing is usually done one of two ways (I've been through both multiple times). One is called a "provoked" test where you get an IV drip of a specific drug then do a urine collection for x hours then send the sample off to a lab. The other is a hair test. It is important to work with an experienced doctor. There are now a few home tests you can do that are inexpensive. I have not tried them. It could be a good start if you are curious about your levels. As contaminated as our environment and many foods are today I think everyone should be tested to know what their levels are. It's that important. Heavy metals have been linked to brain disease later in like such as demential, Parkinsons, etc. and many current health issues. Depending on your results a doctor might recommend chelation. I've done both oral and IV multiple times. After all I've been through I do not think I would recommend IV. Too hard on your body and very expensive. Low and slow with oral easier in my opinion. I am very careful about what I eat (no swordfish, no tuna, etc) and I use an infrared sauna at home which is a great detoxifier for heavy metals (something else I need to write about). I could go on and on, but I think you get the point! Any questions please let me know. Happy to help on this journey.
In paraboiling the rice, I think adding alpha lipoic acid to the rice,
should chealate the arsenic out of the rice.
This should reduce the arsenic in the rice by 100%
Sally Cameron says
Hi Randall, that is an interesting thought. I think that adding it to cooking water would not do as as good of a job as taking ALA in capsule form after cooking rice this way (pasta method) and eating it. I take ALA every day, along with other supplements to support my body's natural detox process because I've tested very high for levels of arsenic and have been through extreme detoxification. It seems the water would dilute the purpose and you don't really know if it works. Personally, I will stay with cooking rice this way and taking my supplements for more support. Thanks for your comment.
Michelle Kissel says
Hi Sal, I love using the IP, as I can put it in, walk away and come back up to 45 min later and my rice has always been perfect. Also, I always cook with chicken broth, but of course don't want to use that much and toss down drain, so I guess I'll rethink that part too. I do rinse my rice, but have not been soaking it.
My question is, are there any rice varieties (aside from Aborio you mentioned above) that this method does not work well with? My MIL loves basmati, so I tend to use that often, or at least when she is here. Thanks!
Sally Cameron says
Hi Michelle. Yep, the walk away part is so great, right? This should work with any rice except something like Arborio or Carnaroli which is risotto rice.
Nice article. Wish there was a way to reduce the levels in a rice cooker.
Sally Cameron says
Hi Rhonda. I know. All you can do is rinse real well, that will help. Thinking out loud...maybe if you par boil the rice for 5 minutes in boiling water then add to the rice cooker and cook as normal. That should reduce, but it's really an extra step. Although I've tried making rice in rice cookers, pressure cookers, Instant Pots, I prefer the stovetop. It's so easy like this (pasta method). I cook a pound at once and cool, portion and freeze so I don't make it very often.
Terry Brown says
Great recipe. I've cooked rice for years and years years. Did NOT realize there was arsenic in it. Is there any issue with nutrients in the unhulled rice my family prefers?
Sally Cameron says
I know, right? I was shocked. My understanding is that all rice is hulled because the hull is inedible. Are you talking about brown rice? That is a whole grain because the bran, germ and endosperm are all intact, but no hull. (and for other colored rices such as black, purple, red) and it's the most nutritious. Not true for white rice, which we rarely eat.Our favorite brown rice is from Lundberg Farms. It's brown so lower glycemic, lovely short plump grain, organic, and it's sprouted so easier to digest and you absorb more nutrition due to the sprouting. Plus take a look at those links at the bottom for more reading and info. There is one more I want to add but can't find it!
Deborah Wright says
Hi Sally... great article! Whenever I cook white rice, I soak it in cold water for 20 minutes, then rinse. Then soak again for another 20 minutes in cold water and then rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Does that help eliminate the arsenic as well?
Sally Cameron says
Hi Deb. Nice to hear from you. That probably helps a lot. Rinsing is a good idea. Forgot to add that so thanks, will note. Rinse well and cook like pasta. To me that saves time versus two rinse and soaks. If you don't mind the extra step do as you are, but try the pasta method as well. Let me know what you think. By some studies I've read that should reduce the arsenic by 50%-80%.