The proteins found in brown rice fall into the incomplete classification, as they do not contain all the necessary amino acids your body needs. However, brown rice serves as a healthy, whole-grain choice that will give you a good start toward meeting your body's protein requirements. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults eat about 6 oz. of grains daily, of which at least 3 oz. should be whole-grains, such as brown rice.
Importance of Protein
The protein you eat comes in two forms, complete and incomplete proteins. Animal products such as meats contain complete proteins that have the nine amino acids your body needs. Incomplete proteins, such as those in brown rice and grains lack some of the amino acids necessary for health. You must eat protein on a regular basis, as every cell of your body requires protein for proper functioning, and the foods you eat replenish the protein as it breaks down. Eating a whole-grain protein such as brown rice helps you avoid consuming too many calories from saturated fats found in beef and full-fat dairy.
Long-grain brown rice contains 5 g of protein in 1 cup, and a cup of medium-grain cooked brown rice has 4.5 g of protein, according to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory. In addition to protein, 1 cup of long-grain brown rice has 3.5 g of fiber, 45 g of carbohydrates and 216 calories. Brown rice has a small amount of iron, 19 mcg of selenium, some of the B vitamins and less than 2 g of fat per 1 cup serving. The protein in long-grain brown rice equates to 10 percent of a female's needs and 9 percent of a male's protein requirements.
Frances Moore Lappe, author of "Diet for a Small Planet," recommends pairing a whole-grain, such as brown rice, with a complementary protein source, such as foods from the legume family. Pairing these two food groups together results in a complete protein. Brown rice and red beans, both cooked without salt, give you 10.2 g of protein per 1 cup serving of the beans and rice, as well as a trace of sodium and 579 calories. Adding a variety of steamed vegetables increases the nutrient content of the dish. If you eat meat, add 1/2 cup of roasted chicken to your steamed brown rice for an additional 21 g of protein.
While brown rice gives you a portion of your protein intake for the day, you would need to eat a large quantity of brown rice to meet your dietary requirements. Monitor your protein intake to ensure you get enough protein. If you follow a vegetarian diet and rely on plant foods for your protein intake, consider pairing brown rice with soybeans, which have all the amino acids you require. Other healthy side dishes that add protein to a meal based on brown rice include fat-free or low-fat yogurt, soy milk and the vegetables spinach and broccoli.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Utah Education Network; Protein -- Complete and Incomplete; July 1997
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Brown Rice, Red Beans, Roasted Breast-Meat Chicken
- "Diet for a Small Planet"; Frances Moore Lappe; 1991
- National Institutes of Health; Vegetarianism; Alison Evert, et al.; May 2011