Instead of brown rice, try millet, a gluten-free and high-fibre alternative
If you're looking to substitute rice out of your diet, these six alternatives are the way to go
Despite the scary headlines about rice and arsenic, it’s simply too early to know if the arsenic levels found in rice are a true health risk. In fact, there are currently no established studies directly connecting rice consumption to adverse health.
But for those who are gluten intolerant, or who have rice-based diets, there really is no harm in looking for rice alternatives. A varied diet is a key to good health and basing our diet on any one ingredient (with or without an arsenic scare) isn’t a good plan.
In order to shake up my own diet I did a bit of research. The Consumer Reports list of rice products pinpointed some of the options with the highest combined levels of inorganic and organic arsenic. Here are some different options:
Instead of: Brown rice (up to 9.4 micrograms arsenic per serving)
It looks like couscous and has a mildly sweet flavour. This ancient grain is not only gluten free, but it is also one of the least allergic and most digestible options out there. It also is high in fibre, low in sugar and packed with nutrients.
To make basic millet you'll need one cup of millet and two and a half cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and add the millet then simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Check out these millet recipes for more ideas on how use this versatile grain.
Infant Oatmeal Cereal
Instead of: Infant rice cereal (up to 2.7 micrograms arsenic per serving)
Though traditionally babies are given rice cereal as a first solid food, there is no specific evidence to show that oatmeal, barley, avocado, sweet potato, or bananas aren’t just as good. And these foods have the benefit of being more wholesome than most rice cereals, which are made from heavily processed white rice.
Gluten-free Whole Grain Cereal
Instead of: Rice-based breakfast cereals (up to 6.7 micrograms arsenic per serving)
Rice-based cereals are easy, but nutritionally they don’t add much to your daily diet and they don’t fill you up for long. Look for cereals made from a blend of grains, nuts, and seeds including corn, buckwheat, quinoa, flax and almonds for more staying power.
Instead of: Rice crackers and cakes (up to 8.4 micrograms arsenic per serving)
Regular rice cakes and crackers are pretty low in fibre and nutrition, despite their reputation of being a health food. One (yummy) option is Blue Diamond Nut Thins. They have more protein and other nutrients than their ricey equivalent.
Instead of: Brown rice pasta (up to 7.4 micrograms arsenic per serving)
Buckwheat, though not technically a grain, has more nutritional benefits than starchy rice noodles. Keep in mind that while it has a distinctive flavour that works well with Asian foods, curries and spicy tomato sauces, it might not go great with your favourite pasta sauce. If you are gluten free be sure to check the ingredients as buckwheat is often blended with regular wheat. Corn and quinoa blend pastas are also good gluten-free options.
Instead of: Rice drinks (up to 4.5 micrograms arsenic per serving)
Rice drinks or infant formulas sweetened with rice syrup should be high on your replacement list. This is one area where the data appears to be clear. Two years ago, the British Government advised against giving kids under the age of five rice drinks because of arsenic concerns.
One great option is almond milk. Used since the Middle Ages, almond milk contains magnesium, selenium, manganese, potassium, fiber, iron, zinc, phosphorous, calcium and vitamin E.
Because of the high levels of vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in almonds, almond milk isn’t fortified the same way as rice milk, and, ironically enough, almond milk is also lower in calories than rice milk.