How Much Protein is in Rice?


Cooked rice has remained an important part of human nutrition over centuries, with many diets around the world depending on white rice, especially as a staple food. With different varieties to choose from, a long shelf life, a good amount of fatty acids and amino acids, and a wide range of possible uses, a cup of cooked white rice can be a delicious, nutritious, and versatile ingredient.

The two main types of rice most people are familiar with are white and brown rice. Both types of rice come from the same grain, but white rice goes through more refinement steps during its processing. Brown rice, on the other hand, is a type of whole grain.

With rice being such a staple food for so many, you may be wondering how healthful these common varieties are. Find out more about how much protein you can get from a cup of cooked white rice, brown rice, and wild rice as well as other benefits below.

Is Rice a Good Source of Protein?

Is White Rice High in Protein?

White rice is a refined grain, meaning rice grains are polished so the rice bran and germ layers are removed. The rice bran and germ are full of nutrients, but in most instances, white rice is enriched with vitamins and minerals that have been lost during milling. 

Raw white rice also holds a good amount of antioxidant ferulic acid. With that said, a cup of cooked white rice tends to lack the fiber and phytic acid that you’ll find in brown rice and other whole grains and has a higher glycemic index than other rice grains.

On average, a cup or one serving of cooked white rice gives you 4.3 grams of protein and 205 calories, according to the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA. A cup of cooked white rice is especially high in B vitamins like folate, and you’ll reap the benefits of minerals like manganese, selenium, copper, and iron.

Is Brown Rice High in Protein?

Brown rice is considered a whole grain and doesn’t undergo the same milling process as white rice, so the hull and germ in brown rice are left intact. This means that a cup of cooked brown rice contains an impressive nutritional profile, even more so than other rice types like black or purple rice.

1 cup of cooked brown rice has almost 5 grams of protein and 218 calories, which is just a bit more compared to white rice. Brown rice is particularly high in dietary fiber, giving you 3.5 grams per serving.

On top of all the grams of protein found in brown rice, you’ll also get a good amount of B vitamins and minerals like manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, and zinc.

Is Wild Rice High in Protein?

While the cooking method, taste, and look of wild rice may seem like regular rice grain, wild rice actually is not rice at all. Wild rice is the seed of semi-aquatic grass that grows natively in North America, but because it is similar to rice, wild rice has been harvested and prepared as a grain for hundreds of years, and was originally a staple food for indigenous peoples.

Despite this, a cup of cooked wild rice is high-protein rice with tons of nutritional value. This rice tops the list of grams of protein found in rice, with 6.5 grams of protein and 166 calories per 1-cup serving, as well as 3 grams of dietary fiber.

While a cup of cooked wild rice is high in minerals like copper, zinc, and manganese, this rice offers fewer B vitamins than white rice and brown rice.

Protein and Amino Acids in Rice

Nearly every function in the body relies on protein. During digestions, your system deconstructs large protein molecules, leaving smaller amino acids behind. These amino acids are then used to build muscle and organ tissue, support cell walls, and power neurotransmitters for functions that keep your nervous systems running, so it’s incredibly important that we get enough of it in our diet. 

There are nine essential amino acids, meaning you need to get them from food because your body can’t make them on its own. Rice and most other plant-based foods are incomplete protein sources, which means they don’t have all the amino acids. Animal proteins like meat eggs and milk, on the other hand, are complete proteins.

If you’re relying on the protein in rice and other plant-based foods, you’ll need to make sure you’re having a variety of protein foods and whole grains throughout the day so you’re getting all the amino acids you need. Eating rice with a side of beans or lentils is one option to try, and you can also get a similar amount of amino acids and grams of protein in cereal grains as you can from rice grains.

At the end of the day, if you’re looking to add more nutritional value to your diet, there are so many other high-protein foods to choose from outside of rice. Fish, lean meat, eggs, low-fat dairy, legumes, whole grains, and seeds are significantly higher in protein.

The Role of Rice Protein in the Reduction of Cholesterol and Triacylglycerol Levels

According to a study about sustainable protein sources, “rice protein extracted by alkaline with different composition of 23 kDa glutelin and 13 kDa prolamin both reduces the cholesterol level in plasma and liver and the triacylglycerol level in liver, one of the reasons for this effect being attributed to the enhancement of fecal steroid excretion.

Rice protein taken by α-amylase or alkaline reduces both levels of cholesterol and triacylglycerol in the liver, suppressing activities of fatty acid synthase, glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, and malate dehydrogenase in the liver and enhancing those of lipoprotein lipase and hepatic lipase. 

However, it is more effective to reduce the cholesterol level in the liver than that extracted under alkaline conditions, probably because the former is more indigestible than the latter and promotes fecal excretion of bile acids. Rice protein extracted by alkaline or α-amylase suppresses activities of fatty acid, glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, and malate dehydrogenase in liver, and enhances those of lipoprotein and hepatic lipase.”

How Much Protein Does 1 Bowl of Rice Have?

1 cup of cooked white rice has about 4 grams of protein, while 1 cup of cooked brown rice has about 5 grams of protein. However, a cup of wild rice has the most grams of protein out of these varieties, with 6.4 grams.

Final Note

Whether you’re eating a cup of cooked white rice, brown rice, or any other rice variety, rice is a fantastic way to get a filling and nutritious meal. While you can’t get all the grams of protein you need in a day from a cup of cooked white rice, the protein content we can find in rice can definitely help us reach our daily goals as well as provide us with amino acids, vitamin, and fiber content.