Milk Is Full Of High-Performance Proteins — A Chef Tells Us Why That Matters
As a private chef with a strong focus on nutrition, I have recently seen a huge increase in clients asking for an increase in protein in their diets. Of course, it is important to "eat your greens," but protein is entirely necessary for your body to function. Every cell in our body is made up of proteins, and consuming protein is even required for cell reproduction. Simply put, consuming protein allows our body to repair cells and create new ones.
An often overlooked source of protein is milk. Yes, dairy milk. Despite the recent rise in milk alternatives such as nut mylks, I never gave up on our dear old friend, milk. Not only is milk delicious, but it also contains restorative and nourishing proteins like whey protein and casein—which is why I try to intentionally use it in my own cooking. I often add a tasty scoop of whey protein powder to my savory and sweet dishes. By adding proteins from milk to my diet, I know I am giving my body what it needs to refuel and regenerate.
Milk proteins: Why they matter
Maybe you don't typically associate milk with protein, but you definitely should. There's a reason your parents probably told you that milk will make you grow "big and strong." However, the nutritional benefits of milk1 are just as or even more important for adults.
Not only is milk an excellent source of calcium, but it is also full of excellent proteins that actually become increasingly important as we age. Casein and whey proteins are the major proteins found in milk (with an approximate 80:20 ratio between the two). Not only are these proteins important for muscle health and strength, but they also have added benefits such as anticarcinogenic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. The proteins from milk can improve gut health, metabolic health, and, of course, muscular health, helping to build lean body mass in conjunction with physical activity (especially resistance training)…all of which are so important for longevity and overall well-being.
Casein and whey protein are also complete sources of protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids our bodies require to build muscle and create new immune cells. Since our bodies can't make these essential amino acids on their own, whey protein and casein make it easy to increase your intake of these essential cell building blocks.
Why are milk proteins important for women?
Milk is one of the oldest sustainable and accessible foods, acting as a wholesome constant in many populations throughout the world. This is largely due to its high nutritional properties, including proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. Proteins from milk are an excellent nutritional source for any stage of life, and especially important for women, as our bone density and muscular health become increasingly difficult to maintain as we age. Women are more prone to low bone density and muscle mass and "the amino acid profile of whey protein (...) can improve bone health by reducing osteoclast activity and therefore, help to maintain bone density2."*
As a chef, when my clients are trying to up their protein intake, I tend to lean on whole food ingredients as sources of protein, which is why I often turn to milk. I believe it's best to get back to the basics when it comes to maintaining a healthy and well-rounded diet. Cultivating milk as a staple in one's diet doesn't just have to mean pouring up a tall, cold glass straight from the carton. Whey protein and casein can also be found in powder forms, an incredibly versatile approach.
What's the difference between casein and whey proteins?
Both proteins are derived from milk but absorbed into the body quite differently3. As mentioned, casein and whey are complete proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids, which can only be obtained through food and which our body needs for protein synthesis to build and repair tissues, maintain muscle mass, and promote overall health.
The amino acids within whey protein are absorbed more quickly, allowing the cells within your muscles to rebuild more quickly. Casein protein also provides your body with all the amino acids it needs, but it is absorbed by your body more slowly than whey protein. Because of this, casein protein allows you to feel nourished and full longer, influencing the desire to consume unnecessary foods with empty calories. Either way, both proteins are necessary—but one may be more beneficial to your specific fitness goals and needs.
Ideas for adding more milk proteins into your diet
Incorporating more casein and whey protein into your diet can be as easy as adding milk instead of water to your next side of rice, porridge, pasta sauce, or even a fun dessert (see recipe below!). Overnight oats can be enhanced with just a scoop (or two) of vanilla whey protein powder, adding flavor and keeping you satiated until lunch.
So next time you're at your local coffee shop or creating that last-minute grocery list, make sure to remember those benefits of proteins from milk. Keep a gallon in your fridge, but also check out protein powders containing whey protein or casein. Not only will you be nourishing yourself through the many benefits of complete proteins from milk, but you'll be making the smart choice of leaning on simple, clean ingredients as your sources of nutrition. Your bones and muscles will thank you later.
Whey Protein Chocolate Avocado Mousse
- ¾ cup 0%-1% Greek yogurt
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 heaping scoop of chocolate-flavored whey protein
- 1 tbsp 100% cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp water or milk
- 2 to 3 tbsp agave or honey
- 1 pinch of kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until very smooth. If the mixture is looking too dry or isn't properly coming together, add 1 tbsp. of water or milk at a time until desired consistency is reached.
Serve at room temperature or cold with fresh fruit, mint, or even some basil on top.
Sara Frost is the founder and head-chef of ‘Spooning With Sara’. Growing up in a family full of food lovers, packed kitchens and tons of fun parties, Sara has always had a knack for gathering friends and family together around food and fun. It was her instinctual love for bringing people together that lead her to launch, ‘Spooning With Sara’ into the full-service event making business that it is today.