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Arsenic is a substance known to cause all sorts of health problems in people and animals the world over. It has certain healing properties, but like many other organic substances, it can have detrimental health effects in large enough doses. Like cyanide, with regular and long enough exposure, it can cause similar health effects over time. Unfortunately, the dangers of arsenic in food supply stores are quite real, and one of the leading culprits is rice.
Just How Bad is the Problem?
The arsenic is measured in micrograms, and it has been shown that approximately 50 micrograms per liter in water is enough to start causing cancer concerns over time. Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to eliminate it from the diet altogether. Not only is it a natural substance in the earth, but the concentration levels increase in areas with a lot of vehicle traffic or where unclean energy sources like coal is burned.
Basmati and other aromatic types often have far less per cup than other types. Interestingly enough, the types imported from places like Thailand and India often contains less than the same types produced in the United States. Some White Basmati from India contains so little per serving that it is barely traceable. The same grown in California contains around 2.3 mcg per serving. Non-basmati types can contain as much as 11 mcg per serving. That whole grain brown may not actually be that great after all.
Alleviating the Dangers of Arsenic in Food Supply
Rice is one of the few grains that work well with a GFCF diet. It is easy to substitute it for pasta as a side dish or main ingredient in many recipes, and the milk is a great substitute in recipes. If arsenic is a concern, consider eliminating milk made from it and opting for almond or coconut milk instead. To further lower the potential risks, rinse the grains before cooking until the water runs clear. The mere act of rinsing can reduce the levels by about 25 percent. Using triple the water during cooking can further drop levels by another 50 to 60 percent. Simply drain off the excess water when cooking is complete as you would do with pasta.
However, make sure the levels in your water source are not very high, because that can negate or worsen any effects rinsing may have. You can also reduce the amount eaten each week. Have it once or twice a week instead of three or five times. Finally, switching to other acceptable grains like quinoa may help too. It is not necessary to completely remove it, but reducing the whole grains and eliminating processed rice products will go a long way in reducing the risks.
Giving up rice has been a challenge for us. I am quite fond of Asian dishes, but they all seem to use rice as an accompaniment. I had heard a lot about quinoa, but was frankly a bit timid about trying it. I’m happy to say that I have conquered my fears and we are now all enjoying quinoa as our new rice substitution! This week’s recipe is one that I used to really enjoy making because it’s easy and mouth-watering tasty. (The original recipe is from The Amazing “Almost-Everything-Free” Cookbook: Tasty Solutions to Highly Restricted Diets by Phyllis Pacella, PhD.) But, when we took rice out of our diet, I stopped cooking it. So, I thought I’d see what would happen if I tried it with quinoa…it’s a winner!
GFCF Sausage, Peppers and Quinoa Stir Fry (Nicholas Rating = 10 Thumbs Up!)
12 oz. sausage (I used Aidell’s Chicken & Apple Sausage)
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
1 large green pepper, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp gluten-free soy sauce (sometimes called Tamari Sauce)
1 cup uncooked quinoa
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
2. While quinoa is cooking, slice sausages into 1/2-inch thick slices.
3. Saute sausages in 2 Tbsp coconut oil and soy sauce until browned.
4. Remove sausage from pan and set aside, leaving any excess oil and sausage fragments in pan.
5. Add 1 Tbsp coconut oil to pan and saute onions and peppers, stirring occasionally.
6. Add cooked sausage and cooked quinoa to vegetables, mix and heat thoroughly.
This is another recipe that I adapted from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious Cookbook. I will warn you that this is a time-consuming dish, but it is one that can be made ahead and reheated quite nicely. They also make fabulous leftovers and work great in a thermos for a school lunch too! You cannot taste the veggies or the chicken in them, so if you have picky eaters that do like rice, they should be pretty happy with these.
Veggie Chicken Rice Balls (Nick Rating = 10 Thumbs Up!)
1 c short-grain brown rice
Nonstick canola cooking spray
6 Tbsp coconut oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and dried
1 c butternut squash puree (see instructions below for how to make puree)
1/4 c soy-based cheddar-style cheese
1 tsp salt
1/4 c rice milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c gluten-free panko-style breadcrumbs
Put 1 cup of brown rice and 2 cups of water in saucepan on stove and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until rice is tender, approximately 30-40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400. Spray cookie sheet with canola cooking spray and set aside. Trim chicken breasts of any unnecessary fat. Bake chicken breasts for 20 minutes in 400 degree oven.
Cut cooked chicken into chunks and put in food processor or blender. Add butternut squash puree and cheese, 1 tsp salt, and the rice milk, and blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cooked rice. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and place them on a plate.
In a shallow bowl, beat egg with a fork. Put crumbs in second bowl. One at a time, dip rice balls into the egg mixture, then roll them in the crumbs to coat them evenly.
Spray large skillet with canola cooking spray and then melt the coconut oil in it over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add rice balls and cook for 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally and adding more coconut oil as you continue to cook the rice balls. If needed, have a serving dish in oven at 200 degrees to transfer rice balls to so they will stay warm prior to serving.
Butternut Squash Puree Instructions: cut off the stem, cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Roast halves on cookie sheet, flesh-side down, at 400 for 45-50 minutes. Scoop out the flesh and puree in food processor or blender for about 2 minutes.