What is Rice Protein Anyway?
First of all, by rice protein powder, we mean a powdered protein supplement with “rice protein” or “brown rice protein” as the main ingredient. The type of product you buy at a health food store…like our Growing Naturals rice proteins.
The carbohydrate content for a rice protein supplement can vary from brand to brand, but Growing Naturals’ rice protein is NOT high in carbs. In fact, it is a poor source of carbs. This misconception probably stems from the notion that whole brown rice grains are a rich source of carbs…(about 80% carbs!) In reality, raw rice grains (brown or white) also contain a small amount of protein (6-8%) and an even smaller amount of fat (2-3%).
How is it made?
So how is such a small amount of protein harvested from rice grains to make a concentrated protein powder? And why?
The answer begins with brown rice grains–tons of them. Fortunately, rice is the third largest crop in planting acreage after wheat and corn. First, the raw grains are milled (crushed) into a fine powder. The powder is then mixed with water and treated with enzymes to remove most of the starch (carbs) leaving behind the protein and fat. The starch does not go to waste. It is actually used to produce rice syrup, the major sweetener for processed goods around the world. It can also be dried for use as a powdered sweetener.
The remaining rice protein and fat mixture still contains some trace amounts of starch. It is further purified by removing more starch and fat until it reaches the desired protein concentration. A protein concentration of 90% or higher is considered an “isolate” whereas anything below 90% and above 70% is considered a “concentrate.” (And no, isolates are not harmful to your kidneys or liver–it just means it is a rich source of protein like chicken or fish). These are considered rice protein ingredients.
Growing Naturals products are made with a rice protein isolate and has very few additional ingredients which is why the carb content is so low (<5g per serving). Manufacturers (other companies) can choose to add more carb or sugar-based ingredients to their product which would ultimately increase the amount of carbs per serving. However, to date, most rice protein powder mixes on the market contain less than 7g carbs per serving.
By: Scarlett Full, in-house Registered Dietitian