Brown Rice Amino Acid Profile: A Complete Protein?

Is Brown Rice A Complete Protein

Almost all vegans swear by the fact that brown rice is the better and healthier alternative to white rice that everyone should switch to. While this is mostly correct, it is also essential to know the constituents of brown rice and how it might fit in with your vegan lifestyle. While white rice is replete with carbs since it is stripped down to just the grain, brown rice is ahead in terms of nutritional value since it has the other (and healthiest) parts of the grain left intact. 

However, the protein content of rice is usually considered to be quite low – so does this hold true for brown rice as well? Here, you will learn whether brown rice is a complete source of protein or not by first understanding the difference between essential and non-essential amino acids – and then, by extension, whether brown rice can supply all the essential amino acids or not. 

Understanding Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids 

Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids

You may have heard of the terms “essential amino acids” and “non-essential amino acids” quite a lot, especially if you’re someone who regards their dietary intake with extreme caution. However, have you wondered what these forms of amino acids are and why are they named so?

Essential amino acids are often what you consume through dietary sources of supplements. These amino acids are absolutely required by your body since it cannot produce them by itself. These include amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine, histidine, and five others that you necessarily need to consume for sustenance.

Non-essential amino acids, contrary to essential amino acids, are not required to be consumed through your diet. This is because your body is fully equipped to be producing these non-essential amino acids such as arginine and glutamine. Some such as taurine and proline are conditional non-essential amino acids since they can only be produced if your body is functioning optimally. If you’re ill, for instance, the production of these conditional non-essential amino acids can be hampered.

What is a ‘Complete Source of Protein’? 

what is a complete protein vegan sources of complete protein

As you have seen by now, your body needs to have essential and non-essential amino acids to perform important biological functions. Essential amino acids have to be consumed by your body externally – and this is where the concept of complete sources of proteins comes in.

A component of food that has all eight essential amino acids is considered a complete source of protein. Hence, looking for food that can offer you all eight essential amino acids is important, and especially so in a vegan dietary lifestyle. Not having even one of these essential amino acids can lead to a host of problems in the long run, depending on which amino acid is in deficit. 

Is Brown Rice A Complete Protein?

As you will see here in the brown rice amino acid profile, brown rice is very nearly a complete source of protein. While it is higher in some essential amino acids such as phenylalanine, tyrosine, and leucine – it falls short in other categories such as lysine.
This result is to be expected since most grains lack lysine content in them and have to be supplemented with foods that are rich in lysine to make brown rice complete protein. 

Essential Amino AcidsMin. % in a Complete Protein SourceAmount in Brown Rice (%)
Tyrosine and Phenylalanine311.2
Cysteine and Methionine1.65.1

What is Lysine, and Why is It Important?

Lysine is an essential amino acid that has a variety of health benefits – and while not getting lysine in your diet is rare, it may lead to many problems if left unchecked. Not having enough lysine in your diet may lead to nausea, anemia, loss of appetite, constant feeling of fatigue and exhaustion, and the growth process is especially slowed. 

Lysine is an essential amino acid that is responsible for absorbing calcium, which is necessary for the strengthening and repair of bones. It also has a major role in the production of collagen, which also has to do with cartilage, tendons, and muscles – which overall makes lysine one of the most important essential amino acids for athletes. 

It is said to restrict the development of cold sores, especially when consumed orally. Some excellent sources of lysine include eggs and spirulina. 

Brown Rice Protein Powder | How Does it Compare?

Brown rice protein powder is an excellent alternative to the consumption of solely brown rice. The difference between the two is that brown rice protein powder is essentially brown rice powdered down with all its protein contents extracted in order to allow for a more nutritious blend. 

It is also said to be less in carbs and is thus a healthy option for those who are watching their cholesterol levels, and their blood sugar levels as brown rice protein powder can regulate them. It is also hypoallergenic and gluten-free, meaning that those who may have any dairy or soy allergies can consume it with ease. 

However, inferring from the brown rice protein amino acid profile, it is still not a complete protein since it is quite low in some essential amino acids. However, there are many ways you can supplement it in order to make sure you’re still getting all essential amino acids in your diet. 

What Foods to Pair with Brown Rice to Make It A Complete Protein

Is Brown Rice A Complete Protein

As you might expect, since brown rice protein is lacking in the essential amino acid of Lysine, you have to consume foods along with brown rice in order to make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of lysine. When talking about vegan sources of Lysine, there are multiple options you can look into. 

The consumption of nuts is recommended for the intake of the essential amino acid Lysine. While nuts are not regarded to have the highest concentration of Lysine, you can still consider adding nuts such as pine nuts, cashews, almonds, and peanuts to your daily diet since they contain more than the average amount of Lysine. 

Similarly, the consumption of legumes is a good idea since they’re universally considered to be the best plant-based sources of Lysine. You can add kidney beans, soybeans, or any other varieties of beans that you prefer. Lastly, grains such as oats and buckwheat are also popular for having high amounts of Lysine in them. 

Check Amino Acid Profiles of other Popular Vegan Foods below:

Relying on Brown Rice For Protein? | A Word of Caution 

As you might have noticed, brown rice contains all the essential amino acids – yet it still lacks in Lysine – so if you’ve been wondering, “is brown rice a complete protein,” the answer is no. This can be fixed if you’re also consuming plant-based sources of protein that are rich in Lysine. 

However, if you’re planning to rely solely on brown rice for your protein intake, then you will need to consume higher amounts of it to meet your daily essential amino acid intake. It is thus recommended to pair brown rice with beans or other foods that have high amounts of Lysine and ensure a balanced and complete amino acid profile for your diet. 

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