Arsenic is a mineral which occurs naturally throughout the world and has a history of both medical use and as a murder weapon. Apart from the gastric problems it can cause, studies conducted by the National Academy of Sciences report that someone who ingests arsenic contaminated water or food at around a level of 10 parts per billion could increase their risk of cancer over a lifetime. The scary thing is that people can ingest arsenic at this level is just about every cup of rice that they consume. The issue of arsenic is rice and other foods, particularly in wake of studies by the Food and Drug Administration has raised concerns about how to reduce the exposure to arsenic in the diet. There are simple things that people can do at home to avoid exposure to this carcinogen.
Limit Rice Consumption
Rice is one of the main culprits for arsenic contamination; it is often grown in fields where arsenic-based pesticides have been used and the plants have the natural tendency towards arsenic uptake. Try alternatives such as corn-based products like grits or polenta, couscous, barley, bulgur wheat or quinoa to reduce the exposure to rice or rice-based foods.
Rinsing Rice Thoroughly When Used
If you are using rice, then rinsing it thoroughly before preparing it is also a good idea, as well as boiling it in a lot of water (the way you would cook pasta). While brown rice holds up better to this than white rice, it will help to lower arsenic levels by 30-40%.
Explore Your Options
Because of sensitivity to gluten, rice-based products like Rice Krispsies are becoming more popular. However, there are other options for you. Alternatives to this popular rice-based cereal include products based on whole grains, puffed corn or toasted oats.
Limit Products Sweetened with Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is a sweetener commonly used in “health foods”, but a study out of Dartmouth College found that this, too, contains high levels of arsenic and contaminates the foods that it is sued to sweeten. Read labels carefully on nutrition/energy bars, as these are common products that use this.
Check Drinking Water
Arsenic contamination in drinking water is unfortunately a problem in many areas of the United States. Getting your water checked – especially if you use a well – is a good idea; there are a number of filtration systems you can use if this contamination is a problem.
To Protect Children
Introducing soft fruits or vegetables to babies as their first solid food instead of rice-based cereals, choosing baby cereals based on oatmeal or other grains, limiting fruit juices (grape and apple juices are particularly vulnerable to arsenic contamination) and not using rice milk as a substitute for cow’s milk for kids who are lactose intolerant are all excellent ways to protect your children from arsenic contamination.
None of these steps are difficult or complicated to do and most of them just involve making simple changes in the diet. However, this small steps can have big pay-offs and keep your family healthier and safer.