In this article we want to set the record straight on whey protein plus offer some tips on what you should be looking out for in order to gain its maximum health benefits.
Whey protein is derived from milk during the making of cheese through a natural fermentation process. Cow's milk contains two types of protein, one that consists of 80% of casein protein and the other 20% of whey protein. When cheese is created, the casein is the part of the milk that makes up the cheese, and the whey protein is the liquid that is left over after you separate out all the milk solids.
You might have also noticed the liquid on top of natural yogurts when you open them at home. That is whey protein in it's original form and you can separate it using a cheese cloth, which we explain how to do in the Food Matters Recipe Book. The liquid whey then goes through a drying process to remove all the water to turn it into powder.
The RAW Processing DifferenceWhen whey protein is low-temperature-processed (raw or cold-processed) it retains many of its fragile immune factors and nutrients leaving it loaded with the ideal blend of easily-absorbed amino acids, anti- inflammatory immune factors and metabolism-boosting peptides, along with potent antioxidants and alkaline minerals.
Naturally produced whey is loaded with protein and when it is kept as pure and unprocessed as possible and made from the milk of pasture-fed cows, it is also loaded with antioxidants and important amino acids.
Most commercial whey powders are high-heat-treated, acid-flushed, and stripped of vital nutrients, creating an imbalanced, acidic "whey isolate" that's frequently contaminated with synthetic additives, chemical detergents, and heavy metals. It's no wonder that many of these whey products are hard to digest and have to cover up their acidic aftertaste with unhealthy sweeteners and artificial flavors.
It is important to use a brand that is free from pesticides and is made from the milk of cows that have not been treated with hormones and antibiotics. Plus, some popular leading brands of protein powder may contain dangerous levels of heavy metals. A Consumer Reports' test showed that 3 of the 15 protein drinks tested contained risky levels of arsenic, cadmium, and lead. All these factors render them inferior from a health perspective.
Protein Isolate Vs. Protein Concentrate?Most commercial whey protein powders are made from protein isolate, which means that it goes through more processing and filtering. The manufacturers like to claim that this results in almost pure protein content, which they say makes it a better product. The problem is that the extra filtering and processing removes a good deal of the important immune factors from the whey protein.
Whey isolates remove the fat, which actually removes important components of its immunological properties, such as phospholipids, phosphatidylserine and cortisol. Additionally, all of the IgG immunoglobulins, which are an excellent source of glutamine and cysteine, are also bound to the fat globule. Fat provides not just calories. In fact, most food rich in healthful fat, including nuts, seeds, chia and almonds are carriers of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and phytosterols. Dairy also contains lipoic acid, which is a carrier of enzymes and immunoglobulin. Therefore, if you take the fat out you're left with a clearly inferior whey protein. That's why it's important to select a protein concentrate over a protein isolate product to receive the maximum health benefits.
The Health Benefits Of RAW Grass-Fed Whey Protein CONCENTRATERaw whey protein concentrate has been found to have a variety of health benefits, including:
- Helping your insulin work more effectively, which helps maintain your blood sugar level after a meal -- This is important as research suggests lowering your blood sugar levels after meals may be more beneficial for your health than lowering fasting blood sugars.
- Promoting healthy insulin secretion, which is imperative for optimal health. This is one of the foremost reasons for avoiding sugars and grains, as overconsumption of grains and sugary foods has a negative impact on both, and is a prime factor in developing type 2 diabetes.
- Helping to promote your optimal intake of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals needed for your overall wellness
- Supporting your immune system, as it contains immunoglobulins
- Helping you preserve lean body tissue (particularly during exercise) as it delivers bioavailable amino acids and cysteine
- Maintaining blood pressure levels that are already within the normal range
Pasteurized Vs. Raw Milk WheyWhen selecting a whey product, it is strongly recommend to make sure it's made from raw, grass-fed milk, in order to obtain the majority of its immune-enhancing benefits.
Unfortunately, most of the whey protein sold on the market is made from pasteurized milk, including whey protein concentrate and New Zealand whey. The New Zealand whey does come from grass-fed cows. However by New Zealand law the whey must be made from pasteurized milk, which negates many of the inherent health benefits, even though it's grass-fed.
There are, however, a few good sources of high-quality whey protein, made from the raw (unpasteurized) milk of grass-fed cows.
Ori Hofmekler is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to fitness and how to use food to burn fat, build muscle, and optimize your health. He says "When you look at raw grass-fed whey protein concentrate you can immediately tell the difference in the smell and the taste. It tastes creamy and good by itself. It's water soluble and it gives you the full mineral component."
Fortunately, manufacturers in the US are allowed to process whey from raw milk. "In my opinion… in America, you can find some of the best whey in the world. You just need to know where to look for it and how to process it." Ori says.
The 7 Essentials To Look For In Your Whey Protein Powder
1. GRASS FEDAll-natural, pasture-fed cows' whey, NOT pesticide-treated, grain-fed cows' whey. Comparred to grain-fed cows, pasture-fed cows produce whey that:
- Is nutritionally superior to grain fed
- Contains an impressive amino acid and immuno-supportive nutrient profile
- Is rich in healthy fats--lipolic acid and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)
- Grass-fed cows are good source of Protein
2. GMO-FREEChoose whey made without GMOs.
3. RAWLook for raw or cold-processed as most whey is heat processed which:
- Makes the whey acidic and nutritionally deficient
- Damages the immuno-supportive micronutrients and amino acids
- Makes whey inadequate for consumption
- Cold processed whey protects the nutrients in their natural state
4. ACID FREE PROCESSINGAcid / Ion Exchange Processing is cheaper than acid-free processing, but it denatures the amino acid profiles by using acids and chemicals to separate the whey from the fats.
5. CONCENTRATE NOT ISOLATEProtein isolates are proteins stripped away from their nutritional cofactors. There are three problems with that:
- All isolates are exposed to acid processing.
- Your body cannot assimilate proteins in isolated form.
- Due to over-processing, isolates are deficient in key amino acids and nutritional cofactors.