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3 Tips to Limit Your Exposure to Arsenic

June 29, 2018 , , ,

Rice and water are among the highest dietary sources of arsenic. Long term, a high intake of arsenic can cause serious health issues. Here are 3 tips to limit your exposure to arsenic.

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Arsenic is a trace element, which means a mineral that is essential to life, but only in tiny quantities; it can be toxic to the body when present in high amounts. It exists in two forms: organic arsenic, found in animal and plant tissues, particularly in fish and seafood, and inorganic arsenic, which is more toxic and found in soil, rocks and ground water. Both forms are naturally present in the environment, but their levels are increasing due to pollution.

Long term, a high intake of arsenic can increase your risk of chronic illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, as well as affect your cognition and increase birth defects. Those most at risk include people who drink well water, pregnant women, babies, children, people who regularly consume rice, and smokers, since they are more sensitive to the cancerous effects of arsenic.

Among the most contaminated sources of arsenic are water, rice and its derivatives, as well as apples and their derivatives. That’s because the water used to irrigate rice paddies is often contaminated. Apples can also contain high levels of arsenic, because a pesticide containing it has been used in orchards until recently. Residues are absorbed by the roots of the apple trees and transferred to the fruits.

Recently, Health Canada adopted a new regulation concerning arsenic found in bottled water. Since May 2018, bottled water shouldn’t contain more than 0,01ppm or 10 milligrams of arsenic per liter, which is equivalent to the concentration allowed in drinking water. In United States and Europe, this regulation has been in effect since several years. However, there is no regulation concerning the level of arsenic in foods like rice. So, when you eat rice or rice products like cereal or rice noodles, there’s a chance they are contaminated. It should be noted that brown rice can contain more arsenic than white rice because brown rice is a wholegrain product. People who follow a gluten-free diet are at higher risk because they tend to eat more rice-based products. Here are a few tips to limit your exposure to arsenic.

1. Eat a varied diet

By opting for a varied diet, you avoid eating undesirable foods in too high amounts. To limit arsenic, vary your starch sources. If you follow a gluten-free diet, you can easily replace rice with quinoa, corn, millet, buckwheat, oats, potatoes or sweet potatoes. Vary your snacks, because rice-based products like cereal, crackers and rice cakes can also contain arsenic. Use this as an opportunity to limit your intake of processed foods and choose oatmeal for your breakfast, and fruits, raw vegetables, nuts or toasted chickpeas as snacks.

2. Rinse your rice before eating it

Rinse your rice before you cook it. Use a larger quantity of water than necessary for cooking, like when you cook pasta. Then simply drain the rice once it’s cooked. This enables you to dilute the quantity of arsenic present in the rice grains.

3. Get your water tested

If you live in the countryside, ground water from artesian wells can have a higher concentration of heavy metals, including arsenic, so it’s important to get it tested annually.


Kathryn Adel
Kathryn holds a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition as well as a Bachelor and a Master Degree in Kinesiology, all from Laval University. She is a Registered Dietitian and active member of the Ordre professionnel des Diététistes Nutritionnistes du Québec (ODNQ) and of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She holds the Monash University's certification for the FODMAP diet and IBS, and has considerable clinical experience in that area. She is also an accomplished athlete, having ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health.

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