We can only eat so much food and take so many supplements. There are only 24 hours in a day to manage all the chewing and swallowing and our stomachs, while expandable, only dreamstime_s_29072981expand so far. So my focus is to do more with less. I want to decrease the things that do not help me and increase the absorption and utilization of the nutrients that do. So here is what I learned this week to aid this goal.

The first involves rice and in my stomach, that would be brown rice. Thanks to lead-arsenic insecticides still present in the soil, even though they were banned in the 1980s, we are at risk of ingesting the lead and/or arsenic (in miniscule amounts) if we eat the plants grown in contaminated soil and rice, apparently, absorbs more than other plants.

It takes 50+ years for man-made chemicals to break down in the soil so even organic plants can be affected. It will depend on the farm and the geographic location. Organic farms may not have been so originally so the chemicals could still be present in the soil and there would have always been a risk some chemicals blew across the fence from a neighbor who may have used the insecticides way back when. Whatever the case, organic brown rice products were found to have trace amounts of arsenic just like their white rice counterparts.

Cooking Tip #1: How to Get the Arsenic Out of Rice:

Rice is normally cooked 2 parts water to 1 part rice. Instead, use 6 parts water to 1 part rice and cook it until the rice is the texture you like. Drain off the excess water and rinse. This will remove half the arsenic and/or lead content. All minerals and heavy metals ( if present) are bound to the fibre wall of the plant and are released to become more bio-available when the food is cooked. Minerals, both nutritional ones and heavy metals like lead and arsenic can leach out of the food when it is boiled in water. However, in the case of grains, they are not lost since the water is absorbed into the grain. By increasing the amount water to 6 parts, the arsenic and lead is leached out and there is too much water so a smaller amount will be absorbed into the grain and half of excess heavy metals will go down the drain. Now a thinking person should be asking right about now: What about the nutritional minerals? Aren’t they also left in the excess water? Well, yes. However, you can make this up by serving the rice with foods with plenty of nutritional minerals like the recipe below.

Cooking Tip #2: Add Green Tea to Your Rice While Cooking

Are you too busy to drink green tea? I know I am. Place a tea bag or a tea ball with the loose tea into the water and leave it in while the rice cooks to get the beneficial polyphenols from the tea, just as you would if you had a cup of tea. It does not affect the taste. When I first heard this, my thought was: How do they (whoever thought of this) know if the polyphenols actually survive the boiling water and how do they know that they end up in the rice? Then I realized that they end up in the rice because that is where water goes. They can withstand the heat because it’s tea – it’s always heated.

An herbal decoction is the traditional method for using herbs medicinally. Tea is made by pouring boiling water on the herb and steeping for several minutes. A decoction requires the herb to be placed in the water, which is brought to a boil and then lowered to simmer for 45 minutes. The mixture is then steeped for 15 minutes, the herb is strained out and the remaining liquid is consumed. Cooking a grain is similar. It is placed in water, brought to a boil and lowered to simmer and cooked for 35-45 minutes. So this means cooking the green tea with the rice, is not only appropriate to achieve extra nutritional value, it involves the same amount of time and method to get more nutrients from an herb. As much of a “duh” moment as this may be, I can think of many herbs that could be added to grains to maximize the health benefits. My mind is spinning with the possibilities. I hate swallowing supplements and making decoctions is a lot of work so maybe all we have to do is cook herbs with our food. Could this be why our ancestors started adding them to our food in the first place…

Now you may be thinking that cooking tip #1 defeats the purpose of cooking tip #2 because the water gets poured down the drain. You are right. at least a bit. So your option is to not eat rice and add the herbs to other grains like quinoa (which needs all the helps it can get) or millet. Or accept that the miniscule amount of arsenic or other heavy metals found in rice is easily detoxed out especially when you support the sulfation process of liver detoxification with sulfur-rich-foods like garlic and onions. This allows you to cook the rice in the normal 2:1 ratio to maximize the amount of benefit of the herb. The other aspect to consider is the ratio of herb to water for a tea or decoction is 1 tsp per 1 cup of water. A teabag contains 1 tsp herb. If you opt to do the 6 parts water to 1 part rice, then despite pouring so much liquid down the drain the amount, there will still be a significant amount of polyphenols similar to a cup of tea because the green tea was simmered like a decoction, which is far more potent. black pepper 2You can afford to lose some if you are doing this to replace a tea.

Cooking Tip #3 Black Pepper Helps with the Absorption of Nutrients

Add Black Pepper. It is old news (at least to me) that turmeric is better absorbed when combined with black pepper. I have come across a few other studies that indicate this is true for other herbs. However, this week I came across an in-depth article, discussing the historical use of pepper and it included information that peperine, the active ingredient in pepper, when combined with pharmaceutical drugs, increased blood levels of the drugs. There is an interaction with peperine and certain enzymes in the liver and intestines that aids the bioavailability of all nutrients and unfortunately, all chemicals, should they be part of the food. This recipe has the brown rice cooked in green tea, and lots of minerals and other nutrients, present in the rest of the ingredients. It can be served with a piece of chicken, fish or a chicken sausage or served alone for the vegetarian option. To maximize the flavor, the salad should be room temperature and the rice can be re-heated to serve with the meat or fish. Leftovers make a great lunch. The mango should properly ripened s they are juice and sweet. An orange can also work in this recipe if a ripe mango is not available.


1. Food Fears: Which Ones Should You Worry About Schardt, D, J. Environ. Monitor. 11:41, 2009

2. Mineral content of some herbs and herbal teas by infusion and decoction, Mehmet Musa Özcana, Ahmet Ünvera,Tolga Uçarb,Derya Arslana, Selcuk University, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Food Engineering, Campus, Konya, TurkeyFood Engineer, İzmir, Turkey http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.07.0

3. Influence of piperine on rifampicin blood levels in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis, Zutshi, U. et al. (1984), J. Assoc. Physicians India. 33; 223-224.

4. The effect of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of phenytoin in healthy volunteers, Bano, G. et al. (1987). Planta Medica. 53; 568-570.

5. The effect of piperine on the bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of propranolol and theophylline in healthy volunteers, Bano, C.K. et al. (1991), European J. Clin. Pharm. 41; 615-618.

6. A process for preparation of pharmaceutical combination with enhanced activity for treatment of tuberculosis and leprosy, Zutshi, U. et al. (1989), Indian Patent No 1 232/DEU89.

7. Use of piperine to increase the bioavailability of nutritional compounds, Majeed, M., et al., United States Patent No. 5,536,506 (1996), 5744161 (1998), 5972382(1999).