When you hear the word “whey,” usually the first thing that comes to mind is powdered protein. It’s a popular drink among those looking to build muscle quickly, as one scoop contains about a half day of your daily recommended protein. While you might know about the powder, you might not know what whey itself is or where it comes from. Whey is actually the product of creating forms of dairy such as cheese or yogurt.
When yogurt is strained, the thick liquid that’s leftover is whey, and it’s one of the main components of making products such as cream cheese. With that said, whey is more than just a muscle building supplement used in powder, as it actually has plenty of other uses. It’s not something that people typically eat (or drink) on its own, but whey has plenty of uses. To show what whey can do, here’s a closer look at the nutritional value and proven health benefits that whey can bring.
Nutrition of Whey
When breaking down whey’s nutrition, we’ll look at the specifics of whey acid that’s been dried. A one ounce serving doesn’t have the same high protein as the powdered form, but you are still getting seven percent of your daily recommendation without any fiber. However, you’re also not getting much fat at just 0.2 grams per serving. The nutrients are the highlight for whey. Starting with the vitamins, you get more than 30 percent of your recommended riboflavin.
Other important vitamins between 10 and 20 percent daily value include thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and pantothenic acid. In smaller amounts you’ll find niacin and folate. Whey delivers a massive amount of calcium at more than 50 percent daily value and nearly 40 percent of your needed phosphorus. There’s also between 10 and 20 percent of the recommended amounts of magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium. Finally, there are trace amounts of both iron and copper, and whey contains under one milligram of cholesterol per serving.
In terms of both serving size and calorie ratio, whey delivers a lot more calcium than other dairy products, including milk. With more than half of your daily recommendation, you’ll have plenty of the nutrient that is the building block for bones. However, if you’re not getting other key nutrients, your body won’t be able to absorb calcium for your bones effectively. Thankfully, whey contains these nutrients, which are phosphorus and magnesium.
When they’re all working together, calcium is binded into your bones to make them stronger, reducing your chances of problems down the road such as osteoporosis. Whey also contains lactoferrin, which has been shown to increase bone health, specifically in bone marrow. It’s not a part of the bones that we think about too much in our diets, but it’s incredibly important to take care of your bone marrow to improve your quality of life down the road.
Whey might be higher in calories than most foods for such a small portion, but sticking to the recommended serving can ensure that you lose weight. While there’s just under 10 percent of the recommended protein amount in each serving of whey, this protein is easy to digest because of the amino acids. Your body will effectively use all of the protein in whey, which helps you to build muscle. Adding more muscle burns more calories and fat, even while at rest.
Whey isn’t high in the fat content, either, and contains a lot of energy boosting compounds that include healthy carbohydrates. Another aspect is riboflavin, which allows you to metabolize fats, carbs and proteins to be used for energy purposes, while also regulating your thyroid. All in all, whey doesn’t seem like a weight loss tool, but it’s incredibly effective.
Pantothenic acid can be hard to come by in high amounts in foods, but whey contains a high amount in each serving. Pantothenic acid has been shown to relieve overall stress while improving your heart health, leading to a lower LDL (bad) cholesterol level reading and a higher HDL (good) cholesterol. Other nutrients found in whey that boost your heart health include potassium, which flushes out excess sodium and regulates blood pressure.
Since whey can also help you reduce fat and build muscle, you’re doing a further benefit to your heart health by managing a healthy weight. Some people have been concerned about whey in protein form being bad for your heart, but studies have actually proved otherwise. With better cholesterol and blood pressure levels and an increase in blood flow, whey protein can make you heart healthy.
Low Glycemic Index
Whey in its acid form contains a lot of sugar, a fair amount of carbohydrates and no known fiber, so how could it possibly be good for your blood sugar? Whey is actually quite low on the glycemic index, and has been shown to balance your insulin levels, even if you’re diabetic. The high amount of protein is a significant part of why whey’s actually effective for blood sugar management.
Even while eating a meal that’s high in carbohydrates, taking whey with the meal makes it so that blood sugar doesn’t crash or spike. Certain compounds of whey also appear in diabetic medications, including sulfonylurea. This is incredibly helpful for those who are diabetic and still want to exercise, as blood sugar levels can dramatically change at a moment’s notice.
Fruits and vegetables are known for their antioxidant properties that can prevent a lot of different diseases, but whey is also helpful in that category. One key antioxidant found in whey is glutathione, which is found in all cells in the body. This antioxidant increases the cell’s strength to fight against free radicals, preventing serious diseases such as cancer. There isn’t a high amount of vitamin A or C in whey, but there’s enough of many other helpful immune boosting vitamins to keep minor diseases at bay, as well.
Summing it Up
Since whey is a dairy product, you’ll want to avoid using it if you’re lactose intolerant, as a majority of the components of whey are indeed lactose. Most of the side effects that you get from whey are when used in powder form and in high quantities. Taking too much whey protein can affect your digestive system, causing cramps, bloating and increased trips to the bathroom and even a loss of appetite.
There are other minor side effects that include headaches and excessive thirst, but this typically only happens when you get more than the recommended amount on a daily basis. Because of the calorie count, you might also increase weight too quickly by taking too much whey at once. Just be mindful of the serving sizes and there shouldn’t be too much to worry about. With all of the great health benefits that you get, you’ll probably think of whey much differently!