With their low fat and low sugar properties, rice cakes are often the go-to snack for parents and dieters alike. But are they really a healthy food for us to include in our diet?
Time and time again reports link rice-based products, including rice cakes, to the carcinogen substance arsenic.
According to cancer.org, The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds as “carcinogenic to humans”, based on “evidence from human studies that it can cause cancer of the lung, bladder, and skin”.
After testing 120 commercial rice-based products for levels of arsenic, the National Food Agency in Sweden reportedly warned parents not to give rice cakes to young children. Yet the NHS here in the UK recommends unsalted rice cakes under their list of “healthy snacks for toddlers”.
So what’s the deal?
Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Aisling Pigott, a spokesperson from The British Dietetic Association, explains that scientists have known that rice-based products contain arsenic for a long time.
However, this is not necessarily something to worry about as the levels of arsenic is most products are “vey, very low”.
“We recommend that children under five don’t have rice milk as a main drink,” she explains. “Not because we think it will do them any harm, but because we do want to err on the side of caution and reduce the risk of potential for harm.”
She adds that parents shouldn’t be afraid of giving their children rice cakes occasionally, but they should not be used as the child’s main source of carbohydrates.
“As a snack or in small quantities the arsenic isn’t going to be in sufficient quantities to cause harm, but children shouldn’t be eating them all day every day,” she says.
“If you are relying on them as a main source of carbohydrate I would recommend looking at other sources, things things like bread, rice and pasta.
“Rice cakes are still an appropriate snack, but I would encourage parents to also include fruit and vegetables as snacks and try to mix things up a little bit.”
Pigott explains that children are at higher risk of health complications from arsenic than adults as they are a lot smaller in body weight.
While there is not a strict health warning around adults eating rice cakes, we should also try to eat a balanced diet and munch on rice cake in moderation.
She says: “As with anything, nothing is good in large quantities.”