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Arsenic in Rice

A method of cooking rice reduces arsenic yet retains nutrients.

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Cooking rice with arsenic

Rice is a dietary staple for millions around the globe and a favorite dinner grain for many people. But the grainy dark side is that rice often contains arsenic—a classified carcinogen that can contribute to health problems, including cancer and heart disease.

Regular consumption of rice can lead to prolonged low-level arsenic exposure, increasing the risk for premature death. Compared with other grains, rice tends to accumulate more arsenic because it is grown in flooded fields, and arsenic is water-soluble. Since arsenic concentrates in the outer bran layer surrounding the endosperm, more nutrient-dense brown rice can contain more of the carcinogen than white rice, which has had the bran layer removed.

Fortunately, you needn’t take rice off your menu. Just prepare it differently! A study in Science of the Total Environment recommends cooking rice using the “parboiling with absorption” method. Parboil the rice in pre-boiled water for 5 minutes (4 cups of water for each cup of rice) before draining and refreshing the water (2 cups of water for each cup of rice). Then cook it on a lower heat to absorb all the water. This turns the grains tender and removes 54% of the arsenic in brown rice and 73% in white rice. Importantly, this alternative cooking method does a good job of retaining micronutrients like zinc and magnesium.

See also: There Is Arsenic in Your Rice

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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