Wild rice, or Zinzania aquatica, is actually an aquatic grass. Commercial growers cultivate wild rice in lakes in the United States, Canada and other countries. Its chewy, nutty grains offer protein as well as fiber, B vitamins, manganese, zinc and magnesium. Because wild rice does not provide a full complement of amino acids, it is not a complete protein. To meet your requirements for essential amino acids, combine wild rice with another source of protein such as dried beans.
One cup of cooked wild rice has 166 calories, 0.6 g of fat and 6.5 g of protein, according to the USDA. The protein in one cup of wild rice represents 13 percent of the daily value for this essential nutrient, based on a 2,000-calorie diet and standards set by the FDA. By comparison, 1 cup of cooked brown rice has 4.5 g of protein, and 1 cup of cooked bulgur wheat has 5.6 g of protein. As a source of protein, wild rice provides materials that your body uses to create tissues and bioactive fluid compounds such as enzymes and hormones.
The protein in the foods you eat breaks down during digestion into amino acids. All together, your body requires 20 essential amino acids for healthy physical function. Complete proteins, including meat, eggs, fish, milk and cheese, contain all 20 amino acids. Incomplete proteins offer amino acids, but may be low in one or more of these compounds. Most plant-based protein sources, including wild rice, are incomplete proteins. If you eat a variety of foods that contain protein, including beans, wild rice, grains, dairy products, lean meats, nuts and seeds, you should meet your daily requirements for all of the amino acids. You do not have to eat complementary proteins at the same meal to receive the benefits of all 20 amino acids -- your body combines amino acids from the foods you eat throughout the day.
Many sources of protein, such as red meat, eggs and cheese, are also high in fat and cholesterol. To prevent weight gain and reduce your risk of chronic disease, t you should limit these foods and get most of your protein from foods that are low in calories, fat and cholesterol. A cup of cooked wild rice has 166 calories, 0.6 g of fat and no cholesterol. Combined with a complementary protein like black or pinto beans, wild rice meets your requirements for essential amino acids with few calories and virtually no fat.
In addition to its protein content, wild rice offers low-fat complex carbohydrates, which your body uses to produce energy. A 1-cup serving has 35 g of carbohydrate and 3 g of fiber, a plant material that regulates digestion. Wild rice also contains manganese, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins. B vitamins perform roles in nerve and brain function, blood production and circulation. Manganese, magnesium and zinc contribute to energy production, bone formation, nerve function and wound healing.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Wild Rice, Cooked, 1 Cup
- FoodReference.com: Wild Rice – Food Facts & History
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nutrition for Everyone: Basics: Protein
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Micronutrient Information Center: Minerals
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamins – Introduction