Protein powders are an important food supplement for athletes and individuals looking to increase their protein intake. One of the most common protein supplements on the market is whey protein. If you’re focusing on plant-based eating, you should know a few things about whey.
Whey is a protein found in dairy, both a common allergen and one of the top food sensitivity-aggravating ingredients. If you have a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance, whey may not be your ideal option. Whey proteins can have other sensitivity-aggravating dairy proteins, like casein, too.
Digestibility and Nutrient Absorption
Whey can create challenges for anyone, whether they have intolerances or not, because whey protein has only about 70 per cent digestibility. That means, if you’re a body-builder or athlete looking to build or maintain muscle mass, you may not be absorbing the amount of protein you need – or think you’re getting – in a day.
Whey is also an isolated form of protein. That means it’s not a whole food (it is quite processed in order for it to be extracted from cow’s milk). This isolation process destroys any bio-available nutrients outside of the protein itself, limiting the nutritional value for your body. Consuming whole foods, rather than processed, is ideal for proper absorption and nutrient density. Nutrient dense foods and those that absorb efficiently go a long way towards ensuring you’re getting the nutrients you need to support your athletic endeavors (not to mention your optimum health).
Acid-forming vs. Alkaline-forming
Also consider where the whey protein is sourced. It’s an important factor when determining the quality of the protein you’re getting. Whey from dairy is acid forming, as it has been extensively altered from its original state. Eating too many acid-forming foods can cause inflammation, reduce immune function and leach calcium from your bones. Plant-based sources of protein are alkaline- forming, and rich in natural minerals, and far more easily digested (so you get more of the nutrients you’re after. Some of the best plant-based proteins are chock full of alkaline-forming chlorophyll (the green pigment in plants), making them a viable alternative to whey that’s also longevity-promoting.