How to Reduce the Arsenic in Your Rice by 80%

March 1, 2017 Updated: March 1, 2017
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By Organic Lifestyle Magazine

In the past year, many articles have been published to raise concern about the alarming levels of arsenic found in rice. Although arsenic levels should be a health concern for anyone who consumes rice, it is certainly more of a concern for those who eat rice frequently or on a daily basis.

High levels of arsenic are toxic to humans, and arsenic is associated with cancer, heart problems, developmental problems, and diabetes.

The Telegraph has published an interesting article about the safest way to prepare rice to eliminate most of the arsenic. Andy Meharg, a much-published scientist and a professor at the school of Biological Sciences, Queens University Belfast, conducted an experiment comparing methods to cook rice. The telegraph article outlines the following methods:

(Lesterman/Shutterstock)
(Lesterman/Shutterstock)
  1. Cook with 2 parts water to 1 part rice. Water is “steamed out” during cooking.
  2. Cook with 5 parts water to 1 part rice. Excess water is washed off.
  3. Soak rice overnight, then thoroughly rinse before cooking.

The article, which is sourced below, reported the results incorrectly. The article stated that choice #2 removed close to 50% of the arsenic while soaking (#3) removed 80%.

I was curious as to what percentage would be removed if the rice were soaked and it was cooked with a 5:1 water ratio so I questioned Professor Meharg directly. He stated that soaking and cooking with 5 parts water removed 80% of the arsenic (a combination of #3 and #2) was the action that resulted in the 80% reduction. He said he couldn’t tell me what soaking alone would do to reduce arsenic as that particular test was not conducted. He stated, “We did not check the intermediate stage, primarily as we were concerned with levels in the final product.” 

I’ve asked him to please let us know if he ever does test the arsenic levels after soaking before cooking. In the meantime, if we want to remove 80% of the arsenic, we need to do the following:

  • Soak rice overnight and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear.
  • Cook with 5 parts water and pour off the excess water after the rice is done.

There you have it: an 80% reduction in arsenic.