A Preppers Guide To Removing Arsenic From Rice

Rice has long been a staple food to put back. A lot of preppers have a considerable amount of calories tied up in the form of rice or rice based products.

While consuming rice in small amounts after cooking the way most of us in the United States do, it is not going to cause arsenic poisoning, it is worth learning how to cook it like those in countries where rice is the mainstay food.

If you are in a survival situation or long emergency then is is possible that you may find that you and your family are getting a lot of calories from rice. Women of childbearing age and children are particularly susceptible to arsenic poisoning and it can cause a myriad of problems in anyone over time.

Taking a portion of the arsenic out of rice is not hard and you should not go and throw out all your rice or anything extreme. All foods have some safety issues and you have to learn how to handle them properly. Rice is no different.

Chicken has to be handled in a way that doesn’t cross contaminate other areas of your kitchen or eating areas for example. Tomatoes have to be canned correctly to prevent botulism. The thing about rice is that since it is just a dried commodity staple food, most people never think that it could have anything harmful in it.

What does regular exposure to arsenic lead to?

Exposure to arsenic over time increases the chance of bladder, skin, and lung cancer. The risk of heart disease goes up as well. Children can have developmental effects. Expectant mothers can pass arsenic on to their children in utero so it is very important to watch exposure during pregnancy.

Since so many foods, especially cereals for infants, contain rice, there is concern about overall levels in foods. This is one of the reasons that the FDA put a lot of research into determining average levels in popular products and setting guidelines to prevent problems.

Consumer Reports did a major study testing many of the common name brands of rice. They found that the highest ranking rices on the list when eaten at a rate of 2-3 servings per day for an infant or child, could potentially double the risk of cancers. This was enough to make a lot of people take notice of this issue and take steps to reduce the exposure of their child.

Which rice has the highest levels?

The arsenic content of different rices can vary a lot. The rice grown in the United States has a tendency to accumulate arsenic more readily than that in some other countries. This is not caused by any unethical practices.

Brown rice has higher levels of arsenic than white. This is because a lot of the accumulated arsenic is resident in the husk of the rice. This is important because so many people assume that brown rice is better for you nutritionally. If you eat a lot of it you may want to mix in more white rice into your diet part of the time.

The FDA and Consumer Reports have both done extensive studies on arsenic in rice. Their data is very interesting and shows just how much one brand or type of rice can vary from another.

Rice With The Most

Unfortunately, the rice that consistently tests the highest for arsenic is that that is grown in the United States and so readily available at a good price to the public. The rice that has the highest levels are grown in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Balsamati rice from India has the least amount of arsenic of any rice that was tested. This style of rice grown in California also tests low in terms of inorganic arsenic.

Source: Consumer Reports Study Arsenic In Your Food. You can also see the test results of various rice samples using this link.

Is there a major difference in arsenic levels in organic versus conventional rice?

Rice takes up naturally occurring arsenic from the soil and water so organic and conventional rices can all have arsenic. Buying organic rice does not solve the arsenic issue for you.

Nutrient loss: Rinsing or boiling rice and pouring off the excess water does help with arsenic levels. The tables that follow show the nutrient loss and reduction in arsenic that occurred in different rice types using these methods.

Boil with with more water and pour off water

The typical guidelines for rice usually involve adding a set ratio of water and then allowing everything to boil off.

Add water in a 6 to 1 ratio so 6 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. When rice is cooked, pour off the excess water. This easy method has been shown to remove up to 60% of the arsenic in the rice.

Reduction Of Inorganic Arsenic and Nutrient Levels Using Boil and Pour Off Method

Water is added at a ratio 6 cups water to one cup rice or 10 cups water to 1 cup of rice

Rice Type

Inorganic Arsenic

Iron

Niacin

Thiamine

Folate

Brown

50

0

0

42

45

Polished

43

46

42

39

43

Parboiled

61

75

53

64

62

All Statistics Courtesy of US FDA Study Released in 2016. You can view original document here.

Rinse before cooking

Rice can be flushed with generous amounts of water before cooking. In a survival situation it may seem challenging if you are limited in your water supply. One thing to consider is that since you will be boiling the rice, your water doesn’t have to be absolutely pristine and pure for this step.

Sure you don’t want mud in your food, but water from a clean stream so long as you are cooking everything well, would probably do in a pinch.

Reduction Of Inorganic Arsenic and Nutrient Levels Using Rinsing Method

Rice Type

Inorganic Arsenic

Iron

Niacin

Thiamine

Folate

Brown

0

10

0

0

12

Polished

16

71

85

83

87

Parboiled

9

81

28

51

73

All Statistics Courtesy of US FDA Study Released in 2016. You can view original document here.

So which method is best?

Boiling and pouring off excess water is most effective and usually an easier method than rinsing. For brown rice, rinsing is not effective in removing inorganic arsenic so if you want to eat brown rice and reduce arsenic levels then using more water to boil and pouring off excess is your best option.

What are the alternatives?

I didn’t want to end this discussion without offering some alternatives to rice that while not as inexpensive are still affordable and palatable.

There are a lot of different grains out there. Any dietary concerns or food allergies in your family may mean that some of those I list are not options for you. Those that cannot have a lot of fiber may want to avoid wheat berries for example.

My list is by no means complete and I encourage you to look at other alternative grains that meat your personal nutrition criteria.

First let’s look at the calorie and nutritional value of your standard white rice and then you can compare this to the alternative grains I have listed below.

Nutritional Facts For White Rice Per Dry LB

Calories

Fat

Carbs

Protein

1792

3.84 grams

388.32 grams

36.96 grams

Daily Value of Vitamins & Total Fiber In 1 lb Dry White Rice

Vitamin A

0%

Vitamin C

0%

Calcium

16%

Iron

96%

Fiber

4.8 grams =16%

 

Malted Barley

Since I live in an area with a lot of breweries, it is easy to go down to the malt house and pick up a 50 lb sack of malted barley for $50-$60 at Riverbend Malt House. This is a real bargain in terms of food value. The grain is grown within a small region here with good practices.

On Amazon, you can expect to pay $85 or so for 50 lbs of malted barley from Germany. You may be able to do better getting this from a local food coop or home brew supplier. This is our choice for alternative grain for putting back.

Nutritional Facts For Malted Barley Per Dry LB

Calories

Fat

Carbs

Protein

1637

8.35 grams

355.17 grams

46.63 grams

Daily Value of Vitamins & Total Fiber In 1 lb Dry Malted Barley

Vitamin A

2%

Vitamin C

4%

Calcium

17%

Iron

119%

Fiber

32.2 grams =129%

Oats

Nutritional Facts For Oats Per Dry LB

Calories

Fat

Carbs

Protein

1744

28.64 grams

303.84 grams

72.64 grams

Daily Value of Vitamins & Total Fiber In 1 lb Oats

Vitamin A

0%

Vitamin C

0%

Calcium

32%

Iron

112%

Fiber

44.8 grams =176%

Wheat Berries

Nutritional Facts For Wheat Berries Per Dry LB

Calories

Fat

Carbs

Protein

1500

5 grams

320 grams

60 grams

Daily Value of Vitamins & Total Fiber In 1 lb Wheat Berries

Vitamin A

0%

Vitamin C

0%

Calcium

20%

Iron

80%

Fiber

60 grams =240%

Cost Comparison

These figures are just a rough comparison of cost per lb of each of the grains I have discussed above. This does not take into account the difference in value you get on a nutritional basis.

Cost Comparison Per Lb

White Rice

$0.50-$0.60

Malted Barley

$1.00-$1.75

Oats

$1.34-$2.00

Wheat Berries

$1.35

These prices are based on what I could find on Amazon and what rice goes for at the average grocery store when bought in a 20 lb bag. Other grain prices are based on a 50 lb bag purchase with shipping. You may be able to do better locally on all these prices or through a bulk buying group.

Rethink how much you are relying on rice to get you through hard times!

I get it that rice is easy to put back and inexpensive but it is also something that you may get a little tired of eating if you have put back a large ratio of your survival food supply in the form of rice. A few extra dollars spent on a greater variety of survival food may increase your morale and happiness a lot in a true SHTF situation.

Rice is something good to put back and anything is going to taste better than going hungry but during good times you may want to think about putting back more variety.

An extra $20 here and there on other foods will start to add up quicker than you might think. One of the mistakes a lot of those that are starting out with prepping make is thinking they need a lot of money just to get started.

Shelf Life

Different storage methods and the type of grain you are storing are going to effect the overall shelf life of any grain you are putting back. If you rotate your grains out occasionally then a very long shelf life may not be your biggest priority.

You can also mix it up so that you have some grains that are in it for the long haul and some that you don’t want to keep for more than 5-10 years. I know a lot of people love to hear that something has a 20 or 25 year shelf life but I always question how important it really is. A 5-10 years emergency is a long time.

For those that want to take a more in depth look at shelf life of grains and other foods I will refer them to USA Emergency Supply. You can access in depth information here.

What alternative grains are you putting back?


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  1. Good article.
    My Korean wife always soaks the rice, beans, etc, and changes the water several times.
    Lots of helpful info.
    Thank you!

  2. Good article, but some alternatives, like whole wheat, are not popular with most people. I suggest you try millet. It is easy to cook and easy to digest. Add a little amaranth to the pot and the food value increases significantly. Save the wheat to grind into bread flour.

  3. Rice, grains and seeds all contain anti-nutrients called phytates that can rob the body of minerals, etc. For this reason, any of these things should be soaked for several hours in an acidic medium (filtered water with a Tbsp. of lemon juice, whey or yogurt) and at least soak overnight. Brown rice and quinoa should be soaked for 24 hours. Then it needs to be rinsed very well prior to cooking. Traditional cultures all have done this for many years. It helps these things to cook better and makes them far more digestible. I would imagine while it helps take care of the phytates that it would also help take care of the arsenic as well.

  4. This was a very informative article as I make a lot of my own dog food and use brown and red rice. I wash them very well but in the future I will be soaking. One of the rice I use is a brown basmati rice from India and the package said it has been aged. Thank you all for the insight and suggestions.

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