Arsenic and Gluten-Free Diets

Rice takes up arsenic more easily and at higher levels than other plants, making it a source of arsenic for many people. If you follow a gluten-free diet your arsenic exposure from rice may be higher than those people who are not on a gluten-free diet.

Should you be concerned about arsenic on a gluten-free diet?

Yes. If you are gluten-free, be aware of your rice intake. Like most people on a gluten-free diet, rice is likely in a lot of your meals, baked goods, and snacks. Rice can have arsenic at levels that can cause significant health impacts later in life. When you can, vary your grains to reduce your rice intake. Eat foods that contain other grains, like oats, amaranth or quinoa.

Which gluten-free foods contain arsenic?

Rice is the main gluten-free food containing arsenic. If you eat a gluten-free diet, you may eat a lot of rice or foods made with rice, such as:

  • Cookies and pastries made with rice flour
  • Crackers made with rice flour
  • Rice-based pasta
  • Rice cereal
  • Rice cakes
  • Rice-based baking mixes
avoid gluten graphic

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Diet Choices

  • Eat less rice and rice-based foods
  • Vary your grains. Other naturally gluten-free grains provide better nutrition and do not take up arsenic when they grow. For instance: Quinoa, Oats, Corn, Flax, Amaranth, Teff, Millet, or Buckwheat.
  • Choose foods with less rice. When you buy packaged foods, be sure to check the ingredients label for the word “rice” and especially brown rice bran and brown rice syrups, because these products contain the highest concentrations of inorganic arsenic.
  • Switch out your rice. Some types of rice have less arsenic than others. When you want to eat rice, choose:
    • Quick-cooking rice
    • Instant rice
    • Sushi rice
    • Basmati rice from India, Pakistan, or California
  • Eat a whole food diet. If/when you can, avoid processed foods and choose whole, single ingredient natural foods.

Cooking

  • Be sure the water you use for cooking rice does not contain high arsenic, since rice absorbs water as it cooks. You should not use water with more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic for cooking.
  • Rinse your rice before cooking. Rinsing your rice with lots of water also reduces the arsenic concentration.
  • Cook your rice like you cook pasta. Use six times as much water as rice and drain the rice after it is finished cooking to get rid of about half the arsenic.

Be Proactive

  • Read the recommendations on the Arsenic in Rice page to learn about other options to reduce your arsenic exposure through rice.
  • Eat a varied diet to make sure you’re getting balanced nutrition.
  • If you are a private well user, test your water for arsenic!
  • Review this site to better understand your total arsenic exposure.
  • Follow the What You Can Do action steps to reduce your arsenic exposure.
rice graphic

Why is rice in so many gluten-free foods?

Rice is the most commonly consumed grain in many gluten-free diets because it is so adaptable and has a low risk of gluten contamination. Unlike other cereal plants, rice naturally accumulates arsenic from the soil, making it a source of arsenic. If you follow a gluten-free diet, and your consumption of grains is primarily rice and rice-based baked products, your arsenic exposure may be higher than those who are not on a gluten-free diet. In addition, certain kinds of rice like brown rice, and syrups made from rice bran, contain higher amounts of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic. 

“Scientific analysis of food products indicates that foods containing brown rice, brown rice syrups and rice-based ingredients, such as many gluten-free products, have an increased concentration of inorganic arsenic and as a result, potentially present an arsenic exposure risk. Those on a gluten-free diet concerned about arsenic exposure should eat a varied, nutritious diet and stay informed about arsenic in food.”

Dr. Tracy Punshon, Dartmouth College

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS WEBSITE? Help us improve Arsenic and You by completing this Short Survey. Thank you! We will continue to update the site based on the feedback we get from you and new research as it becomes available.

Back to the top ↩︎