I am still trying to deal with the news that most rice products have high levels of arsenic and therefore should be limited if not altogether avoided, especially by children. A study released by the Consumers Union last month showed that rice has dangerous amounts of a carcinogenic chemical, arsenic, which was widely used as a pesticide in previous decades and has leeched into the soil where rice is grown, especially in the US. Arsenic levels were higher than expected across the board in rice products, even in organic rice. In fact, brown rice, the expected staple for any health conscious hippy wannabee nutritionist, typically had higher arsenic contents because of the presence of the outer husk and its increased exposure to the contaminated soil. The news of poisonous rice has come and gone without much of a public outcry as far as I can tell, but the nutritional foundations of our household have been shaken and I am still trying to pick up the pieces from these ghastly findings.
I’ve come to notice in the past few weeks how much rice we actually eat. My wife’s parents immigrated to the US from Ecuador and she is practically made of rice. Many times there was rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner in her house growing up. The study about rice also showed that Latinos in the US are at a higher risk for exposure to arsenic through rice. While our own family does not eat rice every day, we do eat rice at least two or three times a week. We eat a lot of Latino food that is paired with rice as well as Indian food where rice is often called for. A lot of our favorite vegetable dishes are usually accompanied by rice as well. I have found myself turning to quinoa as a natural alternative to rice in many instances but I’m not a huge fan of the softer texture.
It is not just cooked rice that has been implicated in this study, as there are other forms of rice we eat such as rice cereals, hot and cold. Cocoa Pebbles (crispy rice) is my all time favorite cereal! That brings me to another area where we have been consuming a lot of rice in our family and that is rice milk. Just last month my wife alerted me to the dangers of estrogen in soymilk which some studies have shown to affect male fertility. We had been trying to vary our milk intake with cow milk and soy before this. Having two young sons freaked us out enough to find an alternative to the soy and I was happy to find that Costco carried organic rice milk in the non-refrigerated aisle. Literally two days later I read about the study that says my kids should not eat rice often and probably avoid rice milk altogether. So here I am stuck with all this rice milk. Since my wife has probably ingested more rice than the kids and l combined we decided she should not expose herself any further. The kids, of course, are too young and fragile for any added exposure to arsenic, so here I am lapping up all the rice milk myself. Part of me feels like a great protector as I slurp down this cereal, taking on the brunt of this attack on my family’s nutrition as I dip a cookie into the rice milk after everyone has gone to bed. This is how I am living with this latest inconvenient truth, the world and its occupants have conspired against us again, and here I am, after hours, taking refuge with a cookie.