Does Brown Rice Have Enough Protein?

There are many different types of rice. Boiled Rice, Purple Rice, Wile Rice dishes. Rice isn't really one of those foods that we naturally associate with protein. However, many vegan-friendly protein powders list brown rice as their main ingredient.

This may come as a surprise, as rice isn’t really one of those foods that we naturally associate with protein! Rice is a carbohydrate – right? You might be surprised at what rice contains.

Does rice have protein, and – more importantly – what is the quality of the protein in brown rice? 

Does Brown Rice Have Protein?

In short, yes! Brown rice does contain protein. In fact, all grains contain protein, and most plant-based foods also contain a small amount. Two cups of cooked brown rice provide about 5 grams of protein, which is about 10 percent of the daily recommended value for a healthy adult.

For the purpose of discussion, consider the fact that the protein content of brown rice is about 1 gram higher than the same amount of white rice.

White Rice is an Inferior Protein Source to Brown Rice

White rice is also significantly lower in dietary fiber than brown. Although brown and white rice are derived from the same plant, they represent the same grain at different stages of processing.

Brown rice is essentially the whole grain – including the hull, bran, and germ. White rice, however, contains only the carbohydrate-rich endosperm. Brown rice is also a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals compared to white rice, including B vitamins, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and manganese.

Although you can certainly gain these nutrients from other parts of your diet (hello, fruits and vegetables!) – when it comes to choosing the color of your rice, why not get all the nutritional bang for your buck that you can?

In general, brown rice is a more well-rounded food than white, and protein powder made from brown rice follows suit. 

What about brown rice protein powder?

Of course, up to this point, we’ve only discussed the actual grain. What about the powder derived from it?

While all products differ slightly, our rice protein powder - Naked Rice, is produced using a clean, hexane-free process in order to extract the protein in high concentrations from the grain.

The final result is a high-quality protein powder that contains 25 grams of protein per serving with only 4 grams of carbohydrates and 0.5 grams of fat. As far as a plant-based protein powder goes, these numbers are pretty ideal. 

Amino acids and protein quality

You may have heard about the idea of protein quality before – but do you know what it refers to? When people talk about proteins, they often use buzzwords such as “complete” versus “incomplete”. What does that mean?

Proteins are made of amino acids – smaller substances that can be found in varying degrees in our diet. Some of these aminos can even be made in the body from raw materials gathered from other foods – these are known as nonessential amino acids.

Nine amino acids are classified as essential amino acids (EAAs), meaning that our body cannot produce them on its own, and they must be obtained from the diet.

Proteins that contain all of these EAAs are considered “complete”.

How to complete an incomplete protein

Technically speaking, the brown rice protein is incomplete. Brown rice contains a lot of nutritional value on its own, but it does not contain the essential amino acid threonine, and it contains relatively low levels of lysine. Typically, plant foods are incomplete proteins, while those from animal sources are complete.

Does this mean that brown rice proteins are inferior to other types of protein powder, or any less useful? Of course not. The concentration of some aminos (such as arginine and valine) is higher in brown rice protein is higher than those found in whey protein.

Brown rice protein is also rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), a unique group of amino acids that have been shown to exhibit special benefits when it comes to building and repairing muscle fibers. It should also be noted that the EAAs do not have to be consumed all at once to be beneficial.

Rice with Protein Added

In order to provide you with extra threonine, you can eat foods like spinach, kale, and other leafy greens, which are an excellent source. These don’t need to be eaten in the same meal as brown rice protein – you can eat them at any point throughout your day to reap the total protein benefits.  

Is there enough protein in brown rice for my diet?

The average healthy person needs about 0.8 to 1 gram protein per kilogram body weight per day – equivalent to 1.76 to 2.2 grams per pound. This means that a 150-pound person needs about 55 to 68 grams per day.

In order to consume that much strictly via brown rice protein, you’d need to take a little over 2 servings each day. So, in theory – yes! If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and enjoy protein shakes, it is indeed possible to get enough protein from brown rice protein for your daily needs.

Brown rice is also gluten-free, which is good news if your diet requires gluten restriction or avoidance. However, most Americans consume more than this amount of protein – especially those of us who enjoy meat and people trying to put on muscle, lose weight, or achieve some type of health or fitness goal.

In this case, you’d likely have to consume more protein powder than you’d like. Of course, there is certainly room for brown rice protein in this type of diet, as well as a good balance of other types of protein, like pea protein powder for instance.

Although it's not normally thought of as a “protein-rich” food, there is a fair amount of protein in the humble rice grain. Once it is extracted, the protein can be converted into a high-quality, extremely useful plant-based protein powder.

But... why? What are some of the benefits of brown rice protein powder? Let's take a look at ten reasons to use rice protein.

Top 10 Benefits of Rice Protein Intake

1. Easily digested

Very often, people taking protein powders or on a high protein diet struggle with digestive upset. Rice protein powder, however, tends to be easier to digest and limit fecal excretion problems.

2. Improved taste  

Many vegan proteins, like pea protein, have strong or distinct flavors that make it difficult for some users. Just like the grain from whence it is taken, though, rice protein powder has a very subtle taste for most people.

3. Hypo-allergenic

Unlike protein powders that are derived from milk, soy, or wheat, there are no concerns with allergic reactions when it comes to rice protein powders.

4. Easy to cook with

Thanks to the light taste, referenced above, rice protein powder can easily be used in various recipes to improve their nutritional profile. Heat also does not destroy the protein in rice powder, so the supplement will be unaffected by cooking or baking. Who knew that you didn't need whole cooked rice to enjoy a rice dish?

5. Adaptable

Along the same lines, rice protein powder can be used in a wide variety of ways. As mentioned, it can be used in a number of recipes to improve a meal or thrown into any number of shake combinations for a quick snack. The same cannot be said for all protein powders – some of which adversely affect the taste or texture of certain dishes.

6. Vegan

Of course, rice protein powder is a completely vegan protein. This means that it is totally free of animal products and by-products, so it is a great substitute for animal-based proteins.

7. Fast absorption

Depending on the source, protein powders are digested and metabolized at various rates once they're in the body. Rice protein powder, however, gets to work quickly making it ideal for post-workout recovery.

8. Superior amino acid profile

Although it is not a complete protein (meaning that some amino acids are missing) rice protein powder does contain high amounts of many essential amino acids. The absent aminos can be gained throughout the day by means of a well-rounded diet or by mixing rice protein powder with another complimentary vegan protein source.

9. Improves body composition

High protein diets, regardless of the protein source, have been shown to help prevent weight gain from body fat and increase muscle mass – when combined with proper exercise. In part, this is due to protein's ability to make you feel fuller faster and for longer periods of time while playing a key role in the creation and maintenance of muscle fibers.

According to a University of Tampa study with 24 college-aged, resistance-trained males, combining rice protein with training 3 days a week (for 8 weeks total) helped increase muscle mass and reduce body fat. The results were comparable to the group which took whey protein instead of rice protein.

10. Normalize blood sugar and Cholesterol

Protein also helps to regulate glycemic response and reduce the severity of insulin spikes that sometimes come along with high-carb meals. Rice protein also exerts a hypocholesterolemic effect, resulting in better cholesterol regulation in the body. When eaten with carbohydrates, protein slows down the absorption of these foods and can prevent feelings of exhaustion or mental fog that sometimes results.