The Many Benefits of Grass Fed Whey Protein
Most people know it’s important to get enough protein in their diet. It’s even more valuable though to get the right kind of high-quality protein for the most health benefits.
Low-quality protein sources like processed meat or hydrolyzed soy protein can do more damage to your body than good.
By comparison, grass fed whey can lay claim to being the very highest quality source of undenatured protein. It also provides many potent health-promoting nutrients like conjugated linoleic acid, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and high levels of cysteine for glutathione production.
Keep reading to understand just why grass fed whey protein is so good for you, how to choose the best kind and what makes it such a healthy addition to superfood smoothies like these.
The Importance of Protein
It’s actually difficult to overstate the importance of protein to good health and disease prevention. Undamaged protein and its amino acids are used by your body to build your muscles, organs, bones, skin and hair and to power thousands of processes that keep you alive each day.
Proteins run through your blood as hormones and oxygen-carrying hemoglobin. All enzymes and neurotransmitters are made of protein, as is the DNA and RNA at the heart of every cell in your body.
In one way or another, proteins are responsible for all the systems that power digestion, nutrient distribution, cellular communication, your body’s immunity to disease, and many more life-giving functions every moment of every day.
Despite all this, an excess of low quality processed protein is known to cause digestive problems and serious diseases like colon cancer. If you value your health then go for quality not quantity when it comes to your dietary protein. Free range eggs are great, but for sheer bioavailability nothing beats whey protein, and the best kind is grass fed whey. Here’s why.
Grass Fed Whey Versus Regular Whey Protein
There are a lot of whey protein powders available, but the vast majority come from feedlot cattle fed with grains, often corn mash, a low nutrient waste product of ethanol manufacturing.
Grain fed cattle ingest pesticide residues from their feed which can be detected in their milk. They are also routinely given hormones to stimulate milk production and antibiotics to combat diseases in the cramped conditions they are forced to live in. Both of these can be detected in the resulting milk.
Milk from grass fed cows, by comparison, has been measured as being up to 4 times higher in important omega-3 fatty acids when compared to milk from grain fed cattle. And this superior fatty acid profile is just the start of the many health benefits of milk from grass fed cows.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Grass fed milk is also a rich source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a powerful nutrient clinically shown to increase fat metabolism within your body. Milk from cows grazing on grass will usually contain 3 to 5 times the amount of CLA compared to milk from cows fed grain.
Recent research has shown conjugated linoleic acid increases basal metabolic rates, allowing your body to convert the food you eat more efficiently into energy, rather than store it as fat.
During exercise, CLA has also been demonstrated in studies to improve muscle strength and endurance. It has even been praised for lowering the risk of diseases like breast cancer and heart disease while enhancing your body’s immune function.
Found in significant quantities only in raw milk and high-quality grass fed whey protein like this, immunoglobulins are special proteins that can act as transporters of antibodies within your body to combat viruses, bacteria and other foreign invaders.
Immunoglobulins have been used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, anemia, hepatitis A, arthritis and many other diseases and can help build up your immunity against damaging microorganisms and toxins.
Found in some of the highest levels in grass-fed whey protein concentrate, lactoferrin is a bioactive molecule that helps regulate iron homeostasis within your body. This means that it provides iron to cells in need of it and limits it to those that have an excess.
Iron deficiency is common in America, particularly for women, and can lead to fatigue, lethargy, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and anemia. Grass fed whey is an excellent source of bioactive lactoferrin and may help maintain healthy iron levels within your blood.
Cysteine for Glutathione Production
Glutathione is your body’s master antioxidant and a vital component of good health. It provides your primary intracellular defense against oxidative stress from harmful free radicals. Quite literally, glutathione protects your cells from DNA damage and potentially cancerous changes every day.
Glutathione is a tripeptide composed of three amino acids – cysteine, glutamine and glycine. All three of these amino acids are found in a higher ratio in non-denatured whey protein than in any other form of protein available.
The amino acid cysteine is particularly important for glutathione production as it is scarce in our modern processed diets. When dairy products undergo prolonged heating or processing, as is the case with most whey proteins available, cysteine is denatured and converted to cystine.
As your body’s master antioxidant, glutathione can have wide-ranging benefits for your health and well-being. Regularly consuming a high-quality source of undenatured cysteine, glutamine and glycine, such as minimally processed grass fed whey protein, may help increase natural glutathione levels in your body.
People with a depressed immune system have much lower levels of glutathione for fighting off disease. Raising glutathione levels with whey protein supplementation may help increase your immunity against a variety of diseases.
Strenuous activity generates free radicals within your body that can lead to muscle fatigue and reduced performance. High levels of glutathione in your body help to neutralize these free radicals and may increase athletic ability.
Glutathione is involved in eliminating carcinogens within your body and maintaining immune function against tumor growth. Low glutathione levels are associated with a higher risk of many cancers.
Low levels of glutathione have been demonstrated in neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Your liver is the main detoxification organ of your body, has very high concentrations of glutathione and is involved in numerous biochemical detoxification pathways. Poor glutathione production may reduce your liver’s ability to deal with the many toxins in our processed foods and modern environment.
The Aging Process
As we age there is a significant drop in glutathione levels within the body. Low glutathione is associated with many diseases of aging such as atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cataracts.
Grass fed whey protein, with its glutathione precursors, can be particularly beneficial for elderly people wishing to increase their protection against such diseases.
A Precaution with Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder
Due to its minimal processing, grass fed whey usually comes as a whey protein concentrate rather than isolate. This is important to maintain the delicate conjugated linoleic acid, lactoferrin, immunoglobulins and cysteine. It does, however, mean that it also contains more lactose than whey protein isolate.
Most of us can handle small amounts of the milk sugar lactose, but larger amounts can cause digestive problems like bloating and gas. The best option would be to reduce unhealthy sources of lactose, like skim milk and processed foods, and your body should be able to handle the small amount in grass fed whey protein concentrate.
If however you know you are lactose intolerant, and even a small amount will cause problems, then unfortunately any milk based protein powder, grass fed or otherwise, is better replaced with free range eggs instead.
How to Take Whey Protein
With all of the many health benefits of grass fed whey powder, there’s a lot of good reasons to take it daily. The most common way to have your whey is in a shake or smoothie.
Shakes are very simple to make in a shaker bottle with a sealed lid. Simply add some liquid, your whey protein and any other ingredients, put on the lid tightly and shake.
While quick and simple to make, shakes are a bit limited in the ingredients you can use. Anything powdered is great, but most fruits or solid ingredients don’t work as well. You can mash up a banana or some berries if you don’t mind a not so smooth consistency, but for anything more solid you’re going to need to make a smoothie.
Smoothies have become incredibly popular in recent years as a convenient and delicious way to get a lot of nutrition into your diet. A good blender can blend up just about any fruit or even vegetable and, unlike juicing, you get the beneficial fiber in there as well.
Whey protein is an excellent ingredient to add to smoothies, not just for all the beneficial amino acids, CLA, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and other nutritional elements, but also because it naturally slows down their digestion and minimizes blood sugar spikes for more stable energy levels.
Superfood Profiles has a whole series of highly nutritious smoothie recipes here to enjoy your whey protein in. Each one is designed to have specific health benefits and they taste great too.
The Best Grass Fed Whey Protein
There are several good grass fed protein powders available and each of them are a big step up from cheap heavily processed whey from feedlot cattle. Of all of them though, I think Vital Whey is the best available.
Vital Whey protein concentrate comes from cows that graze on natural pastures all year round. The milk from these cows is pesticide free, antibiotic free, hormone treatment free and GMO-free and of the highest quality.
Well Wisdom have their own proprietary filtration and drying method that involves minimal processing. The resulting grass fed whey protein powder is much higher in fragile protein components like immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and valuable amino acids that support and enhance a healthy immune system.
I also like that they label all their products with the exact amount of immunoglobulins and lactoferrin backed up by independent lab tests. The biological benefits of these compounds are well known and the amount provided by a single serve is significant.
Vital Whey comes in several flavors like vanilla and cocoa, with healthy stevia as a sweetener, and natural unflavored, which I personally use and love. All of them add a delicious creamy flavor to smoothies and shakes and you can see from the many positive reviews that people are very happy with this whey.
A single 20 gram scoop enjoyed once a day should provide extra high-quality protein and many health benefits for the average person. Those involved in a lot of physical activity could take two servings a day, ideally in the morning and again just after a workout or exercise
Have you tried grass fed whey protein before? I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has used it long term, particularly for its often reported immune enhancing properties and for recovering from illness and lack of energy.