White Rice vs. Brown Rice – Nutrition

Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 330 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.

At my previous job, where I was a wellness specialist for a university, someone asked me about brown vs. white rice. At the time, a well-publicized article mentioned the higher levels of arsenic found in brown rice. The person that asked me about this wasn’t thrilled with this headline because, just a week before, I had told them (of course) to switch from white rice to brown or whole grain rice. The timing of this article couldn’t have been worse in this case. It’s these types of incidences that may lead people into mistrusting the advice of health professionals and trust their own instincts when it comes to which foods they should eat and avoid.

I will first address the arsenic issue. A certain form of arsenic is most harmful to humans. This form of arsenic is called inorganic arsenic. It basically acts like a poison when we ingest it.

Why and how did this poison get in our food supply?

Don’t go around blaming farmers or food manufacturers for this one. Arsenic is not an additive but is found naturally in the soil. This is because, millions of years ago, when the earth was mostly made up of volcanoes and lumbering dinosaurs, volcanic eruptions contained some arsenic. As a result, the arsenic became part of the earth’s crust and our soil. It’s found in water and the air we breathe, too.

But again, inorganic arsenic is really the form we care about most. This is because it is most closely linked to health problems.

What does arsenic have to do with rice? Because of rice’s molecular structure and the way it is grown, it seems to just attract and absorb inorganic arsenic. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the rice was grown organically or with conventional farming methods – either way, it will contain about the same levels of arsenic. And brown rice was found to have higher levels of arsenic when compared to white rice.

What should you do?

Some believe that if you rinse the rice before cooking it, this will remove the arsenic. This is only partly true… it will remove some of the arsenic, but not to any significant extent. The bigger downside is that by rinsing rice, you actually may end up washing away some of the vitamins and minerals that are found naturally.

You could also soak the rice overnight and then drain the water prior to cooking. This will remove about 80% of the arsenic, but again, will also remove some of the nutrients.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has publicly stated that even though inorganic arsenic is found in rice, there’s no need to completely eliminate it from our diets. The FDA agreed that the safe level of consumption of inorganic arsenic is 100 parts per billion (ppb). They admit that women that are pregnant and infants should try and keep their inorganic arsenic consumption to less than 100 parts per billion. This is because arsenic is most harmful to fetuses and infants. Based on their research, the FDA found that many infant cereals have inorganic arsenic levels below this 100 parts per billion threshold. But given that many infant foods are made mostly of rice, the FDA does encourage families to feed infants other hypoallergenic grain cereals as part of a balanced diet. Of course, there are researchers that disagree with FDA’s safety threshold, believing it’s still too high; however, most still admit that consuming rice, even brown or wild rice, as part of a balanced diet will unlikely lead to health problems. The Environmental Work Group (EWG) and Consumer Reports recommend adults consume no more than 3 servings of rice per week, and children consume no more than 1 ¼ servings per week. But again, depending on the source, you may hear differing opinions on how much rice is too much.

The reason rice is used so often in infant cereals and formulas is because most babies (and adults) can easily digest white rice. Some call it “hypoallergenic” meaning it’s unlikely to lead to an allergic response. This is because rice is naturally low in protein. In my last Q&A, I mentioned that food allergies are often most related to the types of proteins found in specific foods. Because white rice is naturally low in protein, it’s less likely to cause an allergic response.

What about rice and chakras?

When it comes to rice consumption and chakras, that’s very difficult to say. This is because it is challenging to study the effects of foods on something so abstract as chakras.

In this case, I would say if, after consuming rice, you feel fine, then enjoy it as part of a balanced diet!

Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 330 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.