Did you know that people eat more rice than any other grain there is? It’s true. Did you also happen to know, that all rice is NOT created equal? From the how and where its grown to the process it goes through, there’s definitely a “better” when it comes to choosing the best rice to feed you and your family.
There are actually more than 40,000 different varieties of rice. While most of us are familiar with just white, brown, and maybe basmati or jasmine, there are many more arrays of rice to choose from than a lot of us are even aware of. Yellow, purple, black, and red rice are just a few different options. Wild rice is another variety that lends a superiornutritional contentthan typical white or brown rice, and is something to take into consideration when choosing what rice you want to offer your family.
You’ve probably heard that brown rice is better for you than white rice, but do you know why? It’s because white rice isn’t naturally white. It’s processed in order to get rid of the germ and bran, and then polished to look more appealing. In this process, rice is stripped from its natural state and loses its B vitamin and fiber content.
Brown rice contains 10 percent of daily recommended protein and is considered to have one of the highest nutritional contents of many grain varieties. Brown rice is great for cardiovascular health, the digestive system, the central nervous system, and the brain. Because of all the nutrients it contains, it’s shown to be beneficial for a host of different medical conditions including diabetes, cancer, obesity, neurodegenerative conditions, insomnia, hypertension, stress, high cholesterol levels, and more.
When you’re choosing rice (as far as nutritional content is concerned) you should stay away from the white and stick with the brown. Making a point to purchase organic varieties will reduce the risk of pesticides. You’ll also want to be sure to buy sprouted varieties of brown rice whenever possible. Sprouted grains contain numerous health benefits, with brown rice offering a reduction in cardiovascular risk, a way to fight diabetes, and more nutrition to expecting mothers. But before you swear to stick with brown rice only, there’s something you should know.
Because arsenic is a natural component of the Earth’s crust (and present in our soil), the FDA has been monitoring arsenic levels in food for decades. And as it turns out, rice has higher levels of arsenic than any other food there is. Consistent exposure to small amounts of arsenic can increase the risk of getting lung, skin, or bladder cancer AND puts people at a higher risk of developing type II diabetes. Studies have also shown that arsenic exposure in utero could possibly have a negative effect on the baby’s immune system.
What’s worse is there’s no federal limit on arsenic levels in rice and rice products. Short of swearing off rice forever, there are some things to be aware of when eating rice. Limiting your intake to just a couple days a week is a great place to start. You might want to consider other grains like polenta, amaranth, millet or grits, which all have very little arsenic content and are also gluten-free. If you’re not gluten-intolerant, think about farro, barley, and bulgur, all of which contain little arsenic.
If you are going to eat rice, there is a safer way to do so. According to Consumer Reports, the amount of arsenic in rice is largely dependent on the type of rice and where it’s grown. The safest bet is white basmati rice from California, Pakistan, and India, as well as sushi rice grown in the US. These varieties contain about half the arsenic as other types of rice.
The highest levels of arsenic in rice come from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. For example, rice grown in California contains almost 40 percent less arsenic than rice grown in other parts of the country. Brown rice also contains more arsenic than white rice. This is because arsenic collects on the outer layers of the grain, which is taken off in the process of making white rice. But seeing as brown rice is so good for you, you probably want to keep it as a part of your regular diet. Your best option is to purchase brown basmati rice that was harvested in Pakistan, India, or California.
When it comes down to it, it’s recommended that consumers eat a variety of grains and maintain a well-balanced diet. It’s also suggested that parents of young children should consider a different route than offering their baby rice cereal as their first solid food.
If you’re going to keep rice in your life, limit your consumption to 2-3 servings a week. Children should receive no more than 1-1.5 servings a week, and pregnant moms might want to consider staying away from rice all together during their pregnancy. Rinsing rice before you cook it can also help some, and you might also consider cooking your rice in a lot more water than you’re currently used to. Rather than 2 parts water to 1 part rice, think more like 6 parts water to 1 part rice and draining the excess water when the rice is cooked. Doing so can reduce arsenic levels up to 60 percent.