When we first found out that as a family we had Celiac Disease, we were in shock, as most families are. The prospect of changing our lives so drastically was overwhelming. What was even scarier was the realization that most gluten free products that replace gluten based ingredients were replaced with rice. While I happen to love rice – one of the few starches growing up that did not make my stomach hurt, my understanding of arsenic levels in rice was a little scary.
Growing Levels in Arsenic in Food
There are two types of arsenic which are getting into our food supply, organic and inorganic. Organic arsenic gets into shellfish in very small amounts. Inorganic arsenic is different. Inorganic arsenic is toxic and it can hurt our bodies.
Inorganic Arsenic has begun to contaminate our ground water. Run off from Industrial activities, coal mining, and a whole list of human activities has begun to truly impact what we eat. For people on a gluten free diet whose options are limited, this impact is higher. This growing runoff contamination is now leeching into our food supply and has caused rising arsenic levels in rice.
Arsenic causes many issues in the human body. Cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and others are part of a life exposed to too much arsenic. For me, the prospect of more nerve damage after 50+ years undiagnosed is a little terrifying. Arsenic can cause significant nerve damage from long term exposure. For adults, this can be countered with intelligence, but children, and babies get what they get, and if there is no awareness, then children are being impacted before they can make a conscious choice. Frightening. Who among us did not put our children on rice cereal as infants? Scary right?
Will Organic Rice Make a Difference in the Rising Arsenic Levels in Rice?
Now normally, our response is, ok, buy organic rice! Nope, this will not help, because organic or inorganic makes no difference with ground water. What matters here is where is the planet not contaminated with arsenic and who grows rice there. There are many articles on which rices are recommended and which parts of the globe are safe to buy from. I think about the repackaging that happens, and even this might not be the best way to chose. Do we call Ronzoni & Barilla who are kind enough to make wonderful gluten free pasta and ask if they are aware of the rising arsenic levels in rice before they purchase their rice?
Gluten Free Products Need More Imagination!
I was appalled when we had to go gluten free how many products had rice in them. Cookies, Breads, Cereals, Breadcrumbs, Cakes, Pasta. I knew we were changing one grain for another without much thought to the process. I also found that unless the manufacturers were really caring about the taste, they were mostly pretty bland. Bland cookies, bland mixes, bland, bland, bland. I was astounded. I thought to myself, how will we ever get kids to stick to a diet if it all tastes like this? That simple thought changed my life.
I was not going to pay top dollar for food that did not taste like food. It started me thinking and it started me baking. Every recipe I found used rice as their primary ingredient. I could not comprehend how something so bland was being used to make everything. Personally, I was aware of the rising arsenic levels in rice and rice was banned from my kitchen as an ingredient in baking. I felt like rice should be rice. My first attempts at baking were hideous, until I started finding grains (coconut flour, sorghum, millet & amaranth) that have some flavor and a decent texture to them. Let’s just say it started getting fun when things started tasting better.
Yes, Rice is Easy, But, Is it Smart?
Any mom of a child with special needs knows we have to be smarter than other moms. The impact to our kids is greater when their bodies just don’t work like everyone else’s. So, as moms, we need to stay informed all the time and as a long time advocate of healthy living, it seemed like this rice centric approach to being gluten free was just a little short of crazy. If you add in the FDA guidelines for rice consumption, it is downright irresponsible to go the easy way and put a little rice in it.
Our Goal – Tasty Food with Great Tasting Grains
We at Divinely Gluten Free take your health seriously. We are aware that people who have Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance or Gluten Sensitivity also often have trickle down health issues from years of exposure to a harmful ingredient present in most food. We have consciously chosen to use little to no rice in our products (so far none of our baking mixes contain rice in any form, we found the texture and the taste really did not lend themselves to baking). If the FDA is correct and arsenic levels in rice are becoming problematic, leading to the suggestion of limited rice products, then we are aware that creating baking mixes with rice as the main ingredient is not forward thinking.
If you are like me, and still love rice, there are ways to cook rice that leaves it with less arsenic – and less nutrition. It involves cooking rice in a six-one ratio of water to rice (six cups water to cook one cup of rice). Rice used to be cooked this way, but science told us that to retain nutrients, we needed to cook it with just enough water in the pan to absorb into the rice. This way we get the magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, selenium, iron, folic acid, thiamine and niacin that rice contains.
Rising Arsenic Levels in Rice Means Greater Care in Meal Planning
Personally, I am on the fence about this. As someone who has a body in dire need of nutrients, I am not sure I should strip it of the nutrients to cut down on the arsenic. So, for me, this means greater care in meal planning. Rice only two nights a week, and the rice I choose absolutely matters. I am staying clear of the rices with higher concentrations of arsenic. I am sticking with basmati and sushi rice, which have the lowest amounts of arsenic in them. I also will need to question all the products we do buy more carefully so that we stay well under the FDA maximum guidelines. And I truly hope for your sake, that you do too!