FROM THE GRIO — New studies from Consumer Reports and the Food and Drug Administration are fueling the debate over acceptable limits of arsenic in rice and rice products.
Late last month, the FDA released preliminary data on arsenic levels in rice — data which, by the way, was consistent with Consumer Reports research. Both agencies found significant levels of arsenic in certain varieties of rice and rice products.
But, that’s where they part ways. Consumer Reports says their findings show a real need for federal standards on arsenic. The FDA feels more research is needed before changes can be recommended regarding safe levels of arsenic in rice or any other food.
Concerned? Most people are. But before you ditch rice forever consider the facts:
What is arsenic?
Arsenic is a natural element found in soil and minerals – known as inorganic arsenic. The type of arsenic found in plants and animals is called organic arsenic, which is usually less harmful than inorganic arsenic.
The inorganic forms of arsenic have been associated with long term health effects. Since both forms of arsenic have been found in soil and ground water for many years, it’s inevitable that some arsenic will be found in certain food and beverage products, including rice, fruit juices and juice concentrates.
Is there less arsenic in organic food?
Organic foods are generally thought of as healthier, but when it comes to arsenic, that is not the case. Plants, regardless of whether they are grown under conventional or organic farming methods, can absorb arsenic.
“Although some evaluations say produce which is organic is not much different from commercially grown, I generally advocate for it [organic],” says Registered Dietitian Marlisa Brown, author of Gluten-Free, Hassel-Free and Easy Gluten-Free.
Reduce your arsenic exposure
Brown agrees with the recommendations from the FDA – encouraging consumers to eat a balanced and varied diet.
“A variety of fresh fruit, veggies and grains, can ensure the most nutrients and limit over exposure from any contaminated food group,” she says.
Experiment with heritage grains
Now might be a good time to reclaim traditions from the past. Heritage grains provide an abundance of vitamins, mineral, antioxidants and fiber — all essential to good health. Moreover, eating a variety of heritage grains can minimize the potential consequences from consuming too much of any one particular grain.
Traditionally, all grains eaten were whole grains. In fact, studies show that including whole grains in the diet can significantly lower risk for chronic diseases such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.