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Think Rice

Are you being poisoned by rice?

I was – here is how to fix it.

Ok that might sound a bit dramatic but over the long term, eaten in big enough portions, it can be toxic; Rice has a very dangerous poison inside it called Arsenic. It’s a compound more commonly found in car batteries and ammunition but in very small quantities it’s also found in rice. It has found its way there by the rice having been grown under water, an anaerobic process which allows arsenic from the surrounding rocks to find its way into the developing rice.

The amount of arsenic in it is minute – about 0.1 parts per million. But in larger amounts it can cause metabolism damage and lead to organ failure.

Like me, you may be wondering why a lot of eastern countries such as India, Pakistan, China and Japan, who’s diets consist largely of rice, don’t have an arsenic poisoning epidemic on their hands.

The reason lies in how it’s cooked and prepared.

The most popular way of cooking and preparing rice in these countries is to pre-soak the rice before cooking and then to boil the rice with a 5:1 ratio of water to rice. When the rice has cooked, the water is then drained off, taking with it the majority of the arsenic released from the rice.

Now compare that to the way western countries (in general) prepare and cook rice. Speaking from my personal experience I would not pre-soak the rice. I would use a rice cooker with a ratio of 1:1 water to rice. I would then give it a rinse with cold water to cool and wash it and store in the fridge to serve as needed.

The problem with this way of cooking it was that first, I wasn’t pre-soaking the rice, which helps remove some of the arsenic before being cooked. Second, I was only using a 1:1 ratio of water to rice. By doing this I wasn’t giving the rice enough water to remove adequate amounts of arsenic from the rice. And third, I was rinsing the rice in cold water, this is good in the way that it instantly cools the rice giving bacteria significantly less chance to grow in the cooling process but it also removes the starch, reducing my bodies’ capacity for absorbing the nutrients from the rice by about 50%.

Arsenic poisoning is cumulative, meaning it will slowly build up in your system over a period of years and decades. But it is still a real danger in the long term.

If you’re only eating rice a couple of times a week then the chances are you probably have nothing to worry about but I had to make a change as I was eating over 1kg per day! And by using the above ‘western’ method of cooking it.

I have been doing this for years and haven’t noticed any adverse side-effects but the same could be said about smoking, the damage it’s doing can go unseen until it’s too late.

But don’t worry, if you are! There are a few things you can do about it:


Pre-soak the rice – the longer the better. 24 hours is a good amount of time

o Boil the rice in a larger amount of water – try a ratio of 5:1 water to rice

o Don’t burn it

o Don’t rinse the rice when cooked - not quite as important as the others but keep in mind this will limit your digestion of the nutrients you’re taking in

This advice applies mainly to those eating large amounts of rice – 1+ servings per day, and children under 4yrs. Those that do not apply will probably be fine but it’s good to be aware of what you’re putting in your body.

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