It’s the manganese content, however, that’s over the top – 88 percent of what you need in one day is present in just one serving. This mineral turns carbohydrates and proteins into energy, supports the nervous system, and produces cholesterol to generate sex hormones.
Manganese is also part of a key enzyme called superoxide dismutase, located in the mitochondria, and plays a vital role in protecting cells from free radical damage.
What other benefits do these nutrients in brown rice have for your body? According to researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH):4
“Brown rice is beneficial to the cardiovascular system, digestive system, brain, and nervous system. It is loaded with powerful antioxidants which provide relief from a range of ailments such as hypertension, unhealthy levels of cholesterol, stress, mental depression, and skin disorders.
High nutritional content in brown rice proves effective in various medical conditions such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and insomnia. It has anti-depressant properties and helps maintain healthy bones and stronger immune system.”
Exchanging White Rice for Brown May Help Lower Your Type 2 Diabetes Risk
White rice is much more plentiful and available on supermarket shelves than brown, black, or wild rice, and it’s less expensive. But, studies find that eating white rice four or five times a week is linked to heightened type 2 diabetes risk, while eating two to four servings of brown rice had the opposite effect.
Many are unaware that replacing white rice with the brown variety could help lower their type 2 diabetes risk. HSPH also noted:5
“Brown rice is superior to white rice when it comes to fiber content, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals, and it often does not generate as large an increase in blood sugar levels after a meal.
Milling and polishing brown rice removes most vitamins and minerals. In addition, milling strips away most of its fiber, which helps deter diabetes by slowing the rush of sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream.”
If Brown Rice Is Good, Is Black Rice Better?
Sometimes called “purple” or “forbidden” rice, black rice is an Asian heirloom variety that brings the same benefits as brown rice, but along with those you also get a set of powerful antioxidants.
Black rice has an outer shell like brown rice, making it a little more time-intensive to cook than white rice, but soaking it for an hour helps speed up the process.
Interestingly, it’s possible that the darker the rice, the more potent its nutrients. Black rice, as an example, has been found to contain anthocyanins with nutritional attributes similar to those found in blueberries and blackberries.
That’s really good news, since studies show that anthocyanins fight a number of serious health issues, such as cancer and heart disease.6
Researchers tested black rice bran and found it was a “useful therapeutic agent for the treatment and prevention of diseases associated with chronic inflammation.” Black rice also decreased dermatitis symptoms in studies, while brown rice did not.7
A Scary New Play: ‘Arsenic and Today’s Rice’
In 2012, following the release of a report discussing arsenic being found in apple and grape juice, Consumer Reports8 conducted numerous tests on rice:
“In virtually every product tested, we found measurable amounts of total arsenic in its two forms. We found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in almost every product category, along with organic arsenic, which is less toxic but still of concern.
Moreover, the foods we checked are popular staples, eaten by adults and children alike.”
Foods tested included Rice Krispies cereal, which had relatively low levels of arsenic at 2.3 to 2.6 micrograms per serving, and Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Pasta Fusilli, which tested higher – from 5.9 to 6.9 micrograms per serving.
Perhaps most disturbing is that “worrisome” arsenic levels were also found in infant cereals for babies between 4 and 12 months old.
A 2009 to 2010 EPA study lists rice as having a 17 percent inorganic arsenic level behind fruits and fruit juices, which had 18 percent, and vegetables with 24 percent.9
While the USA Rice Federation says there’s nothing to be concerned about because inorganic arsenic is a “natural substance,” the Consumer Reports article maintains that:
“Inorganic arsenic, the predominant form of arsenic in most of the 65 rice products we analyzed, is ranked by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as one of more than 100 substances that are Group 1 carcinogens. It is known to cause bladder, lung, and skin cancer in humans, with the liver, kidney, and prostate now considered potential targets of arsenic-induced cancers.
A Center for Public Integrity article also reported:
“EPA scientists have concluded that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic each day, 730 of them eventually would get lung or bladder cancer.”10
How Did Arsenic Get into the Rice?
The arsenic in rice is due to the rice being grown in contaminated soils. How arsenic got in the soil is a study in history. More often than not, farming operations have involved the addition of harmful toxins in pesticides and herbicides (not to mention the confined animal feeding operations – CAFOs – which in recent decades have made food production a far different scenario from the local, sustainable farm model most informed food consumers would hope for.
As the Consumer Reports article explains:
“Rice absorbs arsenic from soil or water much more effectively than most plants. That’s in part because it is one of the only major crops grown in water-flooded conditions, which allow arsenic to be more easily taken up by its roots and stored in the grains… (The) south-central region of the country has a long history of producing cotton, a crop that was heavily treated with arsenical pesticides for decades in part to combat the boll weevil beetle.”
Due to the health benefits provided by all types of rice, it may not make sense for everyone to eliminate it from their diets entirely. A recommendation, however, would be to reach for organic varieties as often as possible, whether it’s organic white, brown, or wild rice, and if you’re not sure of the source, limit your consumption to two servings per week to minimize your risk of arsenic exposure.
Also, ensure all your carbohydrate sources are as unprocessed as possible, free of pesticides and chemical additives, and not genetically modified.
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