There are many news reports about inorganic arsenic being present in rice more than in other foods. This seems particularly relevant to vegetarians because rice and beans are common staple foods in places where meat consumption is very low.

Do different varieties or cultivars of rice contain different amounts of inorganic arsenic? Or are there some growing areas of the world that produce rice with lower levels of arsenic?


Yes, rice of different varieties and origin will likely contain different levels of arsenic. According to this 2012 article in the Chicago Tribune, we should prefer aromatic rice and limit brown rice.

Choose aromatic rices. For those who are already fans of Indian basmati or Thai jasmine rices, the news is not so bad. According to the hundreds of recently released test results, aromatic rice varieties show the lowest levels of inorganic arsenic. Imported basmati and jasmine rices showed about half to one-eighth the level of arsenic as regular rices grown in the Southern U.S.

Consider limiting brown rice consumption. From a nutritional and fiber standpoint, brown rice is tops, but because its bran remains intact it can also hold on to higher levels of arsenic, according to test results.

Choose California. Of the domestic rices tested by Consumer Reports, California rices had lower levels of arsenic than those in other states

An updated 2014 publication from Consumer Reports confirmed the earlier results.

Basmati rice from California is the lowest in arsenic.

Rices from Texas are highest in arsenic.

Brown rice tends to have more arsenic than white rice of the same type.

Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.org has a video about arsenic in rice in which he confirms the above findings, and in particular shares a well-controlled study showing that processing rice to remove the bran (turning brown rice into white rice) removes nearly half the arsenic.

The reason for high arsenic levels in rice grown in the southeastern United States appears to be the historic use of arsenic-laced pesticides in cotton fields.

Rice grown without flooding will probably have lower levels of arsenic but higher levels of cadmium.

The first is that mostly, as in Texas, Mississippi and the rice paddies of Asia, rice is grown on flooded land. This dramatically increases the amount of arsenic that rice plants take up, because the waterlogged (anaerobic) conditions keep inorganic arsenic in a more mobile oxidation state, arsenite, As(III), than in non-flooded (aerobic) conditions, where arsenate, As(V), dominates. It’s possible to grow rice in dry fields, but this can increase cadmium uptake.

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