The Many Benefits of Whey

by lydia on July 25, 2012

If you are someone familiar with real traditional foods you will likely already know the many uses of whey in your kitchen. Perhaps you are not, but are familiar with whey as a protein powder supplement often used for those in the fitness world. Whey certainly is not as commonly used as it once was throughout history. Go ahead and blame the food industry for that loss. I’d like to set some things straight and discuss the health benefits and correct uses of whey further in this post.

Since I have done the GAPS intro diet, I’ve used whey as a therapeutic food. Unfortunately, Dr. Natasha does not go much into why whey is so beneficial in her book, ‘Gut & Psychology Syndrome’. So, many will not truly understand why it’s got powerful healing potential. Whey is used on the GAPS introduction diet if you pass the sensitivity test to it. To do the sensitivity test, simply place a small amount of whey onto your wrist and gently rub it in allowing it to dry overnight. In the morning if you have any kind of irritated skin because of it, it is likely your body will not tolerate it in your diet yet. If you do pass the sensitivity test your skin will remain clear and normal and you can then introduce the whey. Start by adding one teaspoon per day and work up to a half of a cup per day. Use the whey that you have dripped from your yogurt. (see ‘How To’ recipe below). Do not use any other form of whey. Whey is also recommended to be used as a starter culture for the vegetables and fruits for fermentation on GAPS as well as in the book, ‘Nourishing Traditions‘. This is actually NOT a good idea at all  for several reasons. First, whey does not contain the appropriate bacteria strains needed to culture vegetables. Vegetables require different bacteria than those that come from dairy and the strains within whey (read more here). Originally, whey was suggested to be used to help bring down the pH of the ferments done in mason jars -done both short term, much less than they need to be done, and done in vessels that are not truly airtight. Whey used as a vegetable ferment inoculant will actually disrupt natural spontaneous fermentation. (source) If you are going to ferment your vegetables, please use an appropriate vegetable starter such as Caldwells, but preferably use a Pickl-It jar, which will not need a starter at all since it is an airtight vessel. (For more details on why whey is not a good idea for fermentation, read this post; ‘No Whey? No Way!’)

How To Make Whey

2 quarts  raw milk yogurt, preferably homemade or good quality store bought that is organic made with whole milk

Line a large strainer set over a bowl with a clean dish towel. Pour in the yogurt – Cover and let stand at room temperature for several hours, until the yogurt is thick like greek yogurt. The whey will run into the bowl and the milk solids will stay in the strainer.

If you want to make the yogurt into cream cheese: Tie up the towel, being careful not to squeeze. Tie this sack to a wooden spoon placed across the top of a tall container, like a pitcher so that more whey can drip out. When the bag stops dripping, the cheese is ready. Store the whey in a mason jar in the fridge. You should get about 2 cups of cream cheese. The easiest option for this recipe would be using the yogurt. The whey will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Whey contains potassium, calcium, magnesium & phosphorous. The most important minerals for the body in ionic form. Whey also makes a great source of electrolytes and is very hydrating. For more health benefits of whey – read here. One of my favorite benefits of whey is that it can actually regenerate the intestinal flora, it actually feeds our gut microbes and nourishes the colon helping it to maintain the proper pH. Most of us do not have healthy colons as it is, so to me this is a super food worth incorporating into one’s diet. This is why yogurt is so prized as a healthy food to maintain gut flora throughout history. Albeit, modern day yogurt is not at all the form you want for this since it is pasteurized, made from ill quality milk and loaded with additives, preservatives and sugar. Whey is like the adult version of breast milk because it contains all the nutrients necessary for the multiplication of colon acidophilus. Whey acts as a natural antiseptic, destroying or inhibiting the growth of pathogenic microorganisms while causing no harm to human tissues. (source: Acidophilus and Colon Health. The Natural Way to Prevent Disease. David Webster)

Whey An Ancient Remedy – Uses of Whey in History

Whey is such a good helper in your kitchen. It has a lot of minerals. One tablespoon of whey in a little water will help digestion. It is a remedy that will keep your joints movable and your ligaments elastic. When age wants to bend your back, take whey….With stomach ailments, take one tablespoon whey three times daily, this will feed the stomach glands and they will work well again.” Hannah Kroeger, Ageless Remedies from Mother’s Kitchen

Old Par, [an English peasant] who lived to the age of 152 years and 9 months, existed and even thrived on a diet of “sub rancid cheese and milk in every form, coarse and hard bread and small drink, generally sour whey,” as William Harvey wrote….”On this sorry fare, but living in his home, free from care, did this poor man attain to such length of days.” Terence McLaughlin A Diet of Tripe

In Iceland whey was used regularly as a drink and a way to preserve foods.

In Sweden, whey cheese and whey butter were once made and consumed daily. Historically, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, suggested whey for the health of his patients. The diary of Samuel Pepys, a 17th century admiral in the English navy, is most interesting in this regard. Pepys wrote about frequenting places where whey was served regularly. He said, “Thence to the whey house and drank a great deal of whey and so home.” The story of Little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey is said to have originated in Scandinavia. Here they drank whey for centuries as it was known for it’s health benefits and thought to be the secret of their beautiful complexions. The noted Dr. Paavo Airola called whey a “miracle food” to help people stay young and healthy longer. Whey is the liquid gold essence of milk that supports our immune system and maintains our protective flora throughout life. This long-forgotten, valuable food should again be made part of our regular diet for good colon health. Whey has the ability to regenerate the intestinal flora.

(source - Nourishing Traditions. Sally Fallon)

Whey Powder

The amino acids in whey have about 98% bioavailability and contain all the essential amino acids. Whey protein powders that have been processed by methods that do not denature the amino acids are found to enhance immune function. Many whey protein powders have been hydrolyzed which uses enzymes to break the amide bonds within the proteins, so they’ll be smaller and easier to assimilate. They provide amino acid precursors to the important antioxidant glutathione which plays multiple roles in our bodies. Glutathione supports lymphocyte function, acts as an antioxidant, regulates other antioxidants, and acts as a detoxifying agent at the cellular level.
The effects of whey powder will certainly be different than that of fresh whey, however both can be used as a way to boost nutrition in the diet. I’ve used both forms myself and find both options helpful ways to include important amino acids into my families diet. I love using a good quality whey protein powder added into smoothies for my kids and myself for after workouts. I also love to drink a small glass of liquid whey as an immune booster, or when digestive ailments arise.

I have tried various whey protein powders over the years and not all are made equally. Recently it was my endeavor to find a good quality whey powder made from grass fed cow’s milk. If that is the only dairy I will give to my family, it made sense to source out the same purity in supplemental whey powder. I was also concerned with the way it was processed. I finally found ‘The Organic Whey’ and after reading through their site, was thrilled with the product they carried. I’ve since been using this product after trying several on the market and am very pleased with it. I will still continue to seek out excellent quality whey powders, but for now this is the one we will use in my home.

If you are interested in trying The Organic Whey – stay tuned as I will be giving away a sample in an upcoming giveaway.

(*Note – some of the links in the post are affiliate links.)

(photo credit)


LydiaLydia Joy Shatney is certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is a co-chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.

Lydia offers specialized one-on-one counseling for those that are looking to transform their health through dietary advice (both food and supplements), learning cooking techniques, shopping guidance, as well as fitness inspiration and self-empowerment. These personal consultations are tailored to suit your specific needs and can be done over the phone, Skype or in person. Lydia will work with you in person locally or long distance across the globe. Lydia currently offer 3 & 6 month packages. In these packages you will receive phone consultations, email support, food journal evaluations, a thorough nutritional assessment, lots of handouts, supplement recommendations for your specific needs, information, recipes, tips, cooking ‘how to’s’ and more. Contact Lydia to sign up for your free initial consult call today!

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