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This is a guest post by Patricia Dean-Escoto, a nutrition coach and consultant who learned, in her own cancer journey, the impact of food on cancer prevention – she’s got a new Android app, My Breast Cancer Advocate, that’s available in the Google Play store. 

bowl of rice imageThe other day I was visiting with a good friend of the family. She had just flown in from Nigeria for a three-week stay and had come to Delaware to stay for a while. We got on the topic of the poor in countries like Africa, the commercials you see for helping to feed them, and reality of what donated money really supplies in the way of actual meals.

My sister asked her what a dollar a day would actually do. The answer was just what you see on the TV.  A dollar would feed them a bowl of rice, maybe three times a day. This bowl of rice would not contain any vegetables, nor would it have any source of protein like beef or chicken. For that, you would need to be in the range of $3 per meal.

We see these images of starving children, eating just that, a simple bowl of rice. Unfortunately, these types of ads give you the impression that the bowl of rice you see that small child eating can save their lives.  It gives them not only nourishment, but hope.

Fast-forward to an article I came across in the New York Times while traveling to my conference in Tucson a couple of days later.  The article was about, wouldn’t you know it, rice!  But, it wasn’t one of hope, nor of nourishment.  In fact, it was just the opposite.

According to recent studies, rice, in addition to being a simple carbohydrate that easily breaks down to glucose in the bloodstream, which can have an impact on your blood sugar levels, rice seems to also be a magnet for heavy metals. It has that special gift, courtesy of the way it’s grown, to attract things like cadmium, mercury, and specifically arsenic to it. We’re talking about rice – one of the most widely consumed foods in the world (and, oh, by the way, one of my husband’s favorite things to eat).

Yet, according to new research from Consumer Reports, consuming rice, even once a day, can increase arsenic levels in the body by up to 44 percent.

Where Rice can be Found

image of foods containing riceToday, rice can be found in everything from cereal to energy bars, and even baby food. In fact, because of the recent concern about gluten and gluten intolerance, rice is also becoming one of the main substitutions in a gluten-free diet for baking your favorite waffles, cookies, and cakes.

And, for all of you who say, ‘I’ll just switch to brown rice.’ It doesn’t get any better. Surprisingly, brown rice is even worse because the metals accumulate in the bran or husk and is not washed away during the bleaching process that normally accompanies the production of white rice.

In fact, according to the New York Times article, the Department of Agriculture estimates the levels of arsenic in brown rice to be 10 times higher than what is found in white rice.

Exposure to arsenic can cause a host of aliments that include: Stomach ache, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness and cramping, and skin rashes. In addition, cadmium, and its associated effects on bones, have been well documented going as far back as the late 60’s.

Naturally, all of this made me think back to my conversation with my friend and what all this rice consumption was doing to the health of so many children who everyday receive only a bowl of rice for their nourishment. Rethinking how and what would feed the world could mean limiting our exposure to these toxic metals and limiting our exposure to rice.

Many other grains can be consumed that are more nutrient dense and cause a lower impact on our blood sugar levels. These include quinoa, barley, millet and couscous, all of which are readily sold in supermarkets.

To Your Health,

Patricia 

Patricia Dean Escoto photoPatricia Dean-Escoto is a certified nutrition consultant and breast cancer survivor.  She holds a master’s degree in education and has more than 20 years of experience working in both the field of education and healthcare.  In 2006, after being diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, Patricia returned to school to study nutrition and completed studies at Bauman College for her certification as a nutrition consultant.    Recently, she hosted a year-long radio show called Pathways to Healing on the Voice America network where she interviewed experts in the field of health and wellness.  Patricia is author of ‘The Top Ten Superfoods for Preventing Breast Cancer’ and  creator of the My Breast Cancer Advocate app which is designed to assist those who are newly diagnosed with or recovering from breast cancer.  Her company, Pathways2healing, works exclusively with cancer patients in the area of nutrition and exercise. She lectures both locally and nationally on the topic of nutrition and cancer prevention. Connect with Patricia on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.

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