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Tips for Preventing Arsenic Toxicity From Your Food

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rice bowlAs I stated in my previous post, worrisome levels of arsenic have been found in rice as well as grape and apple juice.  If this concerns you, like it does me, here are a few tips to limit your risk of arsenic poisoning:

First of all, test your water.  If your home is not on a public water system, have your have your water tested for arsenic and lead. To find a certified lab, contact your local health department or call the Federal Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.  If you are on public water, check your municipal water report for arsenic.

Secondly, change the way you cook rice.  You may be able to cut your exposure to inorganic arsenic in rice by rinsing raw rice thoroughly before cooking – make sure the water runs clean.  Use a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup rice for cooking and draining the excess water afterward. That is a traditional method of cooking rice in Asia. The modern technique of cooking rice in water that is entirely absorbed by the grains has been promoted because it allows rice to retain more of its vitamins and other nutrients. But even though you may sacrifice some of the rice’s nutritional value, research has shown that rinsing and using more water removes about 30 percent of the rice’s inorganic arsenic contents.  And children should not drink rice milk & serve infant rice cereal no more than once a day.

Thirdly, be picky about what rice you eat.  Eat more aromatic rice such as basmati and jasmine since they have been shown to have the lowest levels of inorganic arsenic.  Limit brown rice consumption, even though it is healthy for you, because bran holds on to higher levels of arsenic.  Choose California rice over other states because their arsenic levels were lower.

Also, experiment with other grains.  Vary your grains, especially if you eat more than two or three servings of rice per week. Though not arsenic-free, wheat and oats tend to have lower levels than rice. And quinoa, millet, and amaranth are among other options for those on a gluten-free diet, though they have not been studied as much

Finally, eat a varied diet.  Some vegetables can accumulate arsenic when grown in contaminated soil.  Make sure you clean vegetables thoroughly, especially potato skins.  Some fruit juices such as apple and grape juice are high in arsenic, as our previous post discussed. To prevent obesity and tooth decay, pediatricians advise that infants younger than 6 months shouldn’t drink juice, children up to age 6 should have no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day and older children no more than 8 to 12 ounces. Like grape juice, wine also can be a source of exposure, according to data collected in the FDA’s Total Diet Study, which provides more complete information about arsenic content in a variety of goods. Go to fda.gov and search for “total diet study analytical results.

If you eat a lot of rice and are concerned about arsenic toxicity, here are some symptoms to watch out for:  dermatitis, respiratory tract infection, muscle aches, headaches, weakness, convulsions, neuropathy, anemia, pigmentation of nails, drowsiness and confusion.  If you have any of these symptoms, make sure you contact your healthcare provider.

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