“Protein” probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of brown rice. Most people think of brown rice as a carb (although a healthy one). But you might be surprised to learn that brown rice is more than just a whole grain. It also has a significant amount of protein.
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Brown rice protein powder isn’t as well-known as whey, soy, casein or even pea protein powder, but it offers some notable benefits. “And it’s a good option if you have food allergies or can’t tolerate other types of protein powder,” says registered dietitian Kayla Kopp, RD, LD.
How much protein is in brown rice?
One cup of cooked brown rice has about 5.5 grams of protein. That’s about 10% of the protein a healthy adult weighing about 140 pounds should eat daily, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Is brown rice a complete protein?
A complete protein supplies all nine essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Your body can’t make these amino acids. They’re called “essential” because you must get them from food.
The protein in brown rice isn’t a complete protein because it doesn’t provide all the essential amino acids. But Kopp says that as long as you eat a variety of healthy foods, you should get enough of the nine essential amino acids.
So, is brown rice protein powder as good as alternatives when it comes to amino acid content? Yes, according to a study comparing brown rice, soy and whey proteins. The researchers analyzed the amino acids each protein provided. They found that brown rice protein is an acceptable substitute for soy or whey protein.
Brown rice protein benefits
So, what does brown rice protein have to offer? Here are some of its benefits:
- Plant protein: Brown rice protein is plant-based, making it suitable for people eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. Egg, whey and casein protein powders come from animal sources.
- Allergies and sensitivities: Allergies to rice are relatively rare, which makes brown rice protein a safe option for many people with food allergies and sensitivities. Brown rice protein is dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free.
- Weight loss: One lab study suggests that brown rice protein is better than white rice protein and soy protein for controlling weight gain.
- Liver health and cholesterol: The same lab study found that eating brown rice protein led to a higher expression of a gene that controls an enzyme that processes cholesterol. Those in the brown rice protein group also had lower liver cholesterol.
Brown rice protein powder side effects
There aren’t any known harmful side effects of brown rice protein. “However, a diet with too much protein can be harmful in some cases,” notes Kopp.
This is because eating too much protein over the long term can actually damage your kidneys. The recommended daily protein intake is 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per 1 kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of body weight. If you weigh 165 pounds (75 kilos), that’s about 60 to 75 grams of protein. If you’re active or trying to build muscle, you may want to eat a bit more than this. You can work with a registered dietitian to determine your specific protein needs.
Brown rice protein vs. pea protein
Trying to decide between brown rice protein and pea protein? Here are some things you may want to consider:
- Protein content: Per serving, most brown rice protein powders and pea protein powders have similar amounts of protein. Exact amounts vary from one product to the next.
- Plant-based: Brown rice protein and pea protein are both made from plants, making them suitable for people eating a vegetarian or vegan diet and those who prefer more plant-based foods.
- Digestion and allergies: Both proteins are relatively easy to digest and usually come in gluten-free, dairy-free formulations.
- Fiber and antioxidants: Depending on the brand and formulation of the protein powder, brown rice may offer more fiber and antioxidants than pea protein powder.
- Complete protein: If you’re concerned about getting complete proteins in your diet, pea is a better choice because it contains all nine essential amino acids. But you can find brown rice protein powders that contain other ingredients to supply the missing amino acids, making the product a complete protein.
- Taste: Pea protein powder has a more neutral flavor than brown rice protein powder, so you may prefer pea protein for blending into your smoothies and drinks.
Other protein powder options include:
Protein powders provide a quick, convenient way to get a nutrition boost, says Kopp. There are endless ways to customize them in tasty smoothies. Just blend the powder of your choice with a combination of fruits, veggies, yogurt, nuts, seeds or spices.