Sunday, September 23, 2012

Food Facts: Not orthorexia, just a little concern

It's been said that in my reporting of food, (i.e., processed food), I put the fear of God in some people! I'm really not trying to promote Orthorexia, nor do I want to create a blog that instills fear of eating certain foods, but geeeeze, there is a lot of scary stuff out there! Like the arsenic in our rice - when you hear that there's arsenic in our rice, it can be a little scary. 
Yeah, I know, arsenic is naturally occurring in our soils, and a certain trace amount is going to be found in fruits and veggies grown in soil, but that's not what the news is highlighting. Above and beyond the naturally occurring organic arsenic, there is another type of arsenic, an inorganic arsenic, which has just a litttle different chemical structure than the naturally occurring organic arsenic. It is this inorganic arsenic, that is the cause of this most recent scare.
So what, who cares, right?
I love Fred!
I care!
Exposure to high levels of arsenic can raise a person's potential for cancer, 
heart disease, and inhibit a developing child's IQ and intellectual function.
I hate that our food may be tainted because somewhere along the line, all some people could see was how to make money, and didn't think, 'Will this hurt people, our environment, our children?' 
Like the US poultry industry - they have been known to feed arsenic to chickens to help reduce chickens from contracting certain infections. Oh, yeah, this arsenic has an "added" benefit - it helps give chicken flesh a nice pretty "fresh pink" glow. 
Why would they do that?
Money, money, money, money ....monaaaaaay!
Okay, so how does it get from chicken food to our soil? 
Chicken Manure! 
Chicken's make a great big mess, and this mess is sold as fertilizer rice farmers ....even organic rice farmers! And around and around we go. Sadly, most of the rice grown in the US is in the southern states, where industrial poultry farming is big business. To add insult to injury, there may also be higher levels of arsenic in the soil in the middle southern states, where industrial poultry farming is huge, due to arsenate pesticides that were (up until the 1980's) used on the cotton fields, which were also grown in this middle southern state region.

So, why rice? Why not corn, or wheat?

Apparently, rice picks up arsenic from soil more effectively than other grains because it is grown in lots and lots of water: Think rice paddy...
Rice Paddy
When the rice drinks up the water, it also drinks up whatever is in the soil, like the inorganic arsenic. 

Are some brands worse than others?
Since the brown rice is less processed, it contains more arsenic - right, that added hull, that is a great source of fiber,  is also now a great source of arsenic. Yeay! Through Consumer Reports, I have discovered that among the rice tested, the highest levels of arsenic were found in Martin Long Grain Brown rice, Della Basmati Brown, Carolina Whole Grain Brown, Jazzmen Louisiana Aromatic Brown and Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value Long Grain Brown Rice.
Okay, so we got the facts, now what?
Well, first off, thank goodness the US Food and Drug Association and Consumer Reports were cool enough to report the arsenic rice exposures. Now the US FDA just has to set some limits and tell us how bad is bad? Currently, there is no federal limit for arsenic in food - there is a limit in drinking water, and that's 10parts per billion (which is twice the level acceptable in New Jersey). According to Consumer Reports, those (Latino & Asian Americans) who regularly consume rice have 44% higher arsenic levels than those who do not. 
Hmmmm, these numbers got me thinking...
Think, girl, think ...
....what about people who don't consume rice, but consume rice products ....hmmm, what products are made with rice? Rice cereals, rice cakes, rice energy bars, crisps and cookies, or rice milk, or what about ....

See, it's a concern - especially knowing the health dangers (listed above) that arsenic in our rice and rice products could potentially present. I didn't make this up, and I didn't go hunting up how to scare people ....heck, it's all over the airwaves, and television, it's all over the web, and in our newspapers. I even had a patient ask me, the other day, why we still have rice on the menu at the Rehab Center ..."don't you know it's full of arsenic?"

So, do we need to avoid eating rice?
Well, the FDA is working hard to protect us from arsenic tainted rice (so I'd like to think, at least), but in the meanwhile, what do we do?
The FDA says, "Do not change your eating habits" 
Consumer Reports' scientists advise differently!
The Consumer Reports' scientists advise that adults consumption of rice and rice products be limited to no more than two servings of rice per week. Consumer Reports also advises that children avoid rice drinks, and limit their consumption of rice to one serving of rice per week. Note: One serving is equal to one quarter cup. I have also heard, (but I have not read or found this in writing, yet) that you may want to buy rice that was grown in a region that has less arsenic in the soil, like rice from California.
So, what's a Mom to do?
Well, believe it or not, I am serving rice tonight!
No, I am not crazy!
I like the Near East rice, it's my favorite. I can't tolerate brown rice, and the white Near East rice, with the long grain rice, sits well with my tummy. I tried to find out if the Near East company released any reports about arsenic in their rice, but I couldn't find any, to date.
My solution: I added in some lentils. My thinking here was that I will reduce my potential exposure by adding in the lentils, thereby lowering the amount of rice I am eating and serving to my family.
Mmm, mmm, good.
With a little chicken and a salad - you got a great meal!
I know dilution is not the solution to pollution, but I want to prove a point:
There is no room for orthorexia, here, just a little concern, to ensure healthy eating habits, by eating a balanced diet, so we can all
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