Protein is one of the most important nutrients you consume every day – and dairy protein supplies 16% of U.S. adult protein intake. It helps to rebuild, maintain, and repair body tissues, such as muscle.
What is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient (the others are fat and carbohydrates) that is made of building blocks, called amino acids. Amino acids build protein and protein builds muscle, so protein is essential to building muscle mass.
Dairy foods, like milk, yogurt and cheese, naturally contain high-quality, complete protein. Dairy has two types of protein present – whey and casein.
Whey is found naturally in milk and is separated out during the cheesemaking process. Then it is pasteurized and dried into whey protein powder. Whey protein powder is used by itself or as an ingredient in many foods.
Whey protein is a complete protein, which means it features all the essential amino acids your body needs. It is also easy to digest, very low in lactose and has been shown to help maintain a healthy weight, prevent muscle loss and curb hunger.
Casein is also naturally found in milk and separated during cheesemaking. However, it is slower to digest than whey, meaning it stays in your system longer. Many people find that taking casein before bed helps them sleep better since it takes most of the night for the body to absorb the amino acids.
What does Protein Do?
Besides building, maintaining, and repairing muscle, the amino acids in protein work to develop and maintain healthy bones, hair and skin. Protein also helps to manage your weight, control hunger, and support a healthy immune system.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 10-35% of total calories come from protein. However, more may be needed for athletes or the elderly. The ideal amount for your lifestyle is best determined with a registered dietitian. By spreading out high-quality protein throughout the day, you can help your body get the most from its protein all day long.
Dairy Protein for the Win
Whether you consume whey or casein protein powder or simply enjoy dairy protein in milk, cheese or yogurt, you can feel good knowing that it is an accessible, affordable, and nutritious way for your body to digest and utilize protein!