14 Myths & Truths about Rice Protein
There’s plenty of misinformation being spread about plant-based and super allergen-friendly rice protein. Here’s the truth and science-based facts about Growing Naturals rice protein powder:
1. Myth: Rice protein is NOT usable by the body.
Truth: Rice protein powder is just as easily digested and absorbed as any whole food protein. A healthy body recognizes and absorbs amino acids no matter what form they are in. In fact, it may be better absorbed than the protein in whole rice because most of the starch and fiber (which can interfere with absorption) have been removed. Plus, Growing Naturals rice protein has been third-party lab-tested to confirm 100% digestibility.
2. Myth: Heating or cooking destroys rice protein.
Truth: While heating or cooking, may certainly “denature” any protein, it does not mean that the protein content magically disappears. ‘Denaturing’ of protein simply means that the chemical structure has changed, such as when a raw egg turns solid with heat. The cooked egg still has protein in it. This is different than overcooking or burning the protein, which can definitely render it nutritionally obsolete. So feel free to add rice protein to your next batch of muffins or oatmeal.
3. Myth: Protein “isolates” are bad for your body and kidneys.
Truth: When dietary protein is digested (powder or not), it normally produces ammonia as a by-product which is excreted as urine through the kidneys. This “toxic” myth stems from the idea that isolates are too much protein for the kidneys to handle. Which is NOT true for normal, healthy kidneys. If that were the case, then a piece of chicken, fish and steak would also be too much for kidneys to handle.
The term ‘isolate’ basically describes the degree of protein purity of a powder—an isolate contains 90% or more protein, with <10% of anything else (carbs, fat, etc.). It is simply a very rich source of protein, much like a piece of steak is.
The only times dietary protein (isolate or not) may be harmful to kidneys are when there is a pre-existing kidney problem, or when protein (any kind) is consumed in quantities super exceeding what your body needs. When kidneys are not functioning well, the ammonia by-product can get trapped in the body which can definitely be harmful. Similarly, excessive protein can cause the ammonia to back up (because kidneys can only work so fast).
4. Myth: Rice protein is made with chemicals.
Truth: Some manufacturers use a hazardous chemical called hexane to make protein powders because it’s cheap. Unlike this, the rice protein used in GN powdered supplements is made using only water and “carbohydrate-breaking” enzymes to remove the starch and purify the protein content. Then we add a bit of sweetener and flavoring to it.
5. Myth: Rice protein is only for vegans and vegetarians.
Truth: You don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to consume rice protein. It’s simply an alternate, allergen-friendly and plant-based source to other protein powders on the market like dairy, egg and soy based ones. Many environmentally conscious individuals are swapping some animal-based protein for rice protein in their diets.
6. Myth: Rice protein causes inflammation or hormone imbalance.
Truth: There is nothing in GN rice protein that would make it cause inflammation in the body. In fact, it is more likely to have an anti-inflammatory effect since it does not contain anything artificial, is made from organic brown rice, is hypoallergenic, saturated fat-free, and plant-based.
Consuming enough dietary protein actually helps to stabilize hormones, not disrupt them. This is because hormones are made from the amino acids in dietary protein. Without enough protein, the body cannot make the hormones needed to function normally, and this is what can cause an imbalance. The only way rice protein would cause inflammation is if someone was allergic to rice protein (which is rare) or if there was a pre-existing health condition that caused an adverse reaction to rice protein.
7. Myth: Rice protein contains artificial sweeteners.
Truth: While some brands of rice protein may use artificial sweeteners, rest assured Growing Naturals uses only natural sweeteners to sweeten our protein powders. GN rice proteins use only minimal amounts of rice syrup (sugar made from the starch of brown rice) to sweeten the proteins.
8. Myth: Rice protein is just ground up rice.
Truth: Rice flour is is ground up rice, but rice protein is different. Rice grains are actually a poor source of protein but a rich source of carbohydrates and other essential nutrients like manganese, selenium, magnesium and vitamin B3. To make it into a concentrated protein, (as the term implies), most of the other nutrients have to be removed. The higher the protein concentration, the lower the level of starch/carbs and other nutrients in the resulting powder. Because of this, the nutritional benefits also change (but not in a bad way).
9. Myth: Rice protein is high in carbs and sugar.
Truth: More than 80% of the starch content of rice is removed to make rice protein. Therefore, it becomes a poor source of carbs and sugar. At Growing Naturals, we add just a hint of sweetener and flavoring to keep the protein content high and the carbs low. It’s possible that other rice protein powders are high in carbs or sugar, but it’s because more sugar or other ingredients have been added to it.
10. Myth: Rice protein can’t build muscle and strength.
Truth: This study from 2013 found that a group of athletes supplementing with rice protein after strength training had increases in muscle and strength similar to a group supplementing with whey protein. The study is published in the Nutrition Journal.
11. Myth: Rice protein is ‘incomplete protein’ and does NOT count towards your daily protein needs.
Truth: Eating rice protein is much like eating the protein from a bowl of oatmeal, handful of peanuts or a slice of bread. Like other grain-based proteins, it is low in lysine and is therefore considered an ‘incomplete protein.’ It needs to be combined with complementary protein sources which are high in lysine such as from beans or legumes. However, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t count toward your daily protein needs, especially if (like most Westerners) your diet is lush and varied. According to the CDC, complementary proteins do not have to be consumed in one meal; they can be eaten separately throughout the day.
12. Myth: Rice protein is harsh on your digestive system.
Truth: Among other things, lactose, gluten and FODMAPs are major causes of stomach distress for many. Aside from being hypo-allergenic, rice protein (on its own) is naturally devoid of these stomach stressors. Products made with rice protein (including powdered supplements) should be checked individually for added ingredients, although many are catered to sensitive stomachs. GN rice protein is made without major allergens, corn, or gluten and has been tested to be entirely free of FODMAPs.
13. Myth: Rice protein, like other protein powders contains MSG.
Truth: Here’s why rice protein doesn’t contain MSG. And we’ve even tested our products just to prove it.
14. Myth: Rice is a starch, so you can’t make protein powder from it.
Truth: Although mainly thought of as carbohydrates, raw rice grains start off with about 7-9% protein, with brown rice being in the higher range than white rice. This means that in 100 grams of raw rice (about ½ cup) there is only 7-9 grams of protein. Once concentrated, the resulting protein powders provide 70-90 grams of protein in 100 grams of powder.
Fact Checked and Written by: Scarlett Blandon, in-house Registered Dietitian