The Toxic Ingredient in Rice—and How to Get Rid of It

Sacha Strebe

It's one of the world's most popular grains, billions of people eat it every day, but did you know about rice's deadly secret ingredient? As it grows, rice soaks up more of the toxic chemical arsenic than other grains do. Arsenic is found "naturally in water and soil as part of an inorganic compound," and high levels have been linked to cancer and other health-related issues. But thankfully, Andrew Meharg, a plant and soil scientist at Queen’s University Belfast in the U.K., has discovered two ways to rid much of the grain's stored arsenic. The Scientific American reports that simply flushing the grain repeatedly with fresh hot water has been found to reduce toxic levels of arsenic; however, there is a unique way of cooking it out too. 

Meharg found that cooking the rice in a lab apparatus that "continually condenses steam to produce a fresh supply of distilled hot water" removed as much as 85% of arsenic. You can achieve these results by using a regular coffee percolator with a filter. Why? It allows cooking water to drip out of the rice. About half of the arsenic was removed using the "coffeepot percolation" technique. While he doesn't expect everyone to start cooking their rice in their coffeemakers, he does hope these findings encourage the development of new rice cookers that also decrease the arsenic levels, similar to the percolator method. Margaret Karagas, an epidemiologist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, says we need to "breed low-arsenic strains and alter growing techniques."

To read more of about arsenic in rice, visit Scientific American

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Did you know about arsenic in rice? Will you try the coffee percolator method of cooking the popular grain? Let us know in the comments.

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