The Enemy is Us, But We’re All We Have

Here’s a topic that’s not related to any of this week’s myriad holidays. I’m filing this one under holistic living – as in Ways That We Are Not Doing It.

There’s been talk in the news lately about arsenic in our food. Rice seems to be the biggest offender, although it’s also in other foods. This is because our soil is contaminated with it. Rice draws it in more than other foods because it’s grown in water-flooded areas. The water loosens arsenic’s binding with the soil, leaving it available for the growing rice to incorporate it.

Arsenic is poisonous, although low doses are not deadly. Chronic low doses cause problems. Chronic doses are what we get if we eat a lot of rice, or foods made from rice. And it kills me to say this, but organic or whole grain brown rice is not the answer here.  Those rices are grown in water-flooded areas, too.

Have I mentioned on these pages that you should NEVER feed your infant rice cereal? I say that to all my childbirth couples when we talk about nutrition. I know… I know… your pediatrician told you to make that your baby’s first solid food. Nonsense, I say. It’s nothing but highly processed rice cardboard, cut to smithereens to make a gross paste. Why the hell would you want your child to think that’s what FOOD is?

Arsenic is another reason to avoid it. Just sayin’. And while we’re on the subject of babies, some formulas have elevated arsenic levels because they are made with brown rice syrup. Get those breasts out, women!

What can chronic exposure to arsenic do to you?  It increases the risk of cancers such as bladder, lung, or skin. It can lead to infertility, and contribute to diabetes and heart disease. Heck, maybe it will eventually lead to the real apocalypse.

I realize low doses of arsenic won’t cause any of these conditions. But would you willingly dose yourself daily with arsenic or cyanide, or some other poison? Just because a low dose won’t kill you immediately?

Where does the arsenic come from? It’s in the soil from decades of using arsenic-based pesticides, mostly. Other contributors are industries like mining, coal-burning plants, and copper smelters. We’ve put it there, in other words. Go, us.

And it is us. In a Consumer Reports study, rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas was more contaminated than rice from India and Thailand. (Rice from California was less contaminated than the other states). A separate FDA analysis showed the same results.

I don’t know how much rice you eat. But if you eat it every day, or several times a week, you might try to cut back. Remember, too, that if you eat lots of processed food, you may be getting rice that you don’t know about, just like you’re getting sodium, wheat, or sugar that you don’t know about. Like the rice that’s in your baby’s formula.

As usual, your best recourse is to eat a varied diet. Eat lots of different grains or starches: cornmeal, kasha, quinoa, wheatberry, bulgar, potatoes, sweet potatoes…. there are so many choices.

When you do cook rice, cook it in lots of water  (6 cups water to 1 cup rice) that you drain off. You lose some nutrients, but you’re reducing the poison you eat. Which seems like a good goal for 2013.

 

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