By Larraine Roulston :
New studies have revealed that arsenic from industrial toxins and pesticides found in soil will contaminate rice. Researchers from UK’s Queen’s University Belfast found that soaking rice overnight will significantly reduce the level of the toxins. Researcher Andy Meharg demonstrated that by boiling rice with five parts water to one part rice (rather than the regular 2 to 1 ratio) and then rinsing cuts the levels of arsenic almost in half. A more practical approach is to soak the rice overnight, as it reduces the toxins by 80%.
For years, it has been my practice to rinse rice just before cooking. Then I heard that rice should be rinsed until the water runs clear. Further information mentioned letting it soak for at least an hour or so. This latest study, however, suggests that it is best to soak rice overnight. Recommendations are to prepare 1 cup of rice and 1 1/2 – 2 cups of warm water with a tablespoon of either lemon juice, vinegar or yogurt. When the water has cooled, place in the fridge overnight. The time spent soaking and rinsing will help reduce the chances of contracting diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
In general, soaking any type of grain prior to cooking renders its nutrients more digestible by breaking down and neutralizing phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient that prevents the absorption of calcium, zinc, and other minerals. The extra effort of soaking opens up the seeds, making them more active in our bodies than if the seeds were closed.
Last week, for the first time, I soaked my rice along with dried beans overnight for my vegetable soup. The rice indeed looked and tasted much better. Later on this month, when I want to complement an oven dinner with rice, I’ll have to remember to soak it first. Here is my family’s favorite recipe that I’ll use: Pour a bit of oil in a medium sized casserole dish, then heat it in the oven for a few minutes before adding the rice and water. To give the rice additional flavor, dissolve part of a bouillon cube and at least 2 tablespoons of dry onion soup with boiling water. Include your 2 cups of water as well to the 1 cup of rice, top with sliced mushrooms (canned or fresh) and bake. You also can include some liquid from canned mushrooms if you wish. By mixing more onion soup/bouillon cube mix, the rice will have a stronger flavor. Cook for approximately 1 hour at 350 — check on it to see when rice is done and that it is still moist.
Whichever method you prefer for preparing your rice — whether fried, steamed, baked or creating a delicious rice pudding — it all boils down to the fact that, when planning the menu, you’re best to think and act a day ahead.
On another note, before cooking or eating raw veggies, washing off all the pesticide residue is important as well. For nonorganic vegetables and fruits, set them in a bowl of water, adding a few drops of vinegar, and let sit for about 20 minutes. Even fruits with a heavy skin, such as grapefruit, should be washed before slicing through with a knife, as the blade can transfer some pesticide residue to the inside.
Larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollination. Visit www.castlecompost.com