Here’s the short version of the story:
Arsenic in drinking water causes cancer—lung, probably skin, possibly kidney and bladder, according to an international consortium of scientists who study the many studies on diet and cancer.
So what’s arsenic doing in rice? Rice loves water; it’s grown in low, flooded conditions. And arsenic makes it way into our soil and water and travels downstream—arsenic from coal burning facilities and metal mines, from long-banned pesticides once used on cotton fields, and arsenic in feed that’s given to chickens to turn the flesh pink and help ward off a common bug.
Again with the chickens! Yes, large scale industrial chicken farmers (as well as smaller scale ones) then dump the arsenic-filled poop onto fields for fertilizer, and the arsenic accumulates in the soil.
According to Consumer Reports, rice grown in the US mid-South region (Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas) has the highest levels of arsenic, possibly due to the concentration of chicken farms and the cultivation of rice on fields where cotton once ruled. On the other hand, rice from India rates much cleaner.
And brown rice fares worse than white, not surprising because white is stripped of many body parts.
Is organic rice any better? The answer’s a resounding “No!,” likely because organic farmers often use chicken poop instead of chemical-based fertilizers.
So what’s a rice eater to do? Easy. Choose quinoa instead, the sacred grain of the Incas (although it’s really the seed of a broadleaf plant, while true grains are the seeds of grasses.)
Unlike rice, quinoa prefers sandy, well-drained soil and is best cultivated at higher altitudes. Plus, quinoa has another benefit. Unlike rice and other true grains, it’s a complete protein, and the presence of protein will slow down your absorption of sugars from the carbs. That’s a good thing.
RIP, rice. Harboring any tasty quinoa recipes you’ll share? Contact us via the comments section of this post, and you could get featured in our upcoming anti-cancer cookbook.