Is New Zealand Whey Protein Really Better For You?
With wellness on the tips of everyone’s lips, seeking the best foods available–"You are what you eat", after all–has never been a bigger priority.
And understandably, as an active individual, the same concern would apply to something you put in your body on the daily to fuel your fitness goals: whey protein powder.
This then begs the question
What is the best whey protein available? Now, if you were to ask around, you’d find that a common answer appears to be New Zealand whey protein.
But why? Is it better than other types of whey protein? And if it is indeed superior, how so? Let's explore.
What is Whey Protein?
To understand why NZ whey protein has a leg up against its competition, it's crucial to know what whey protein is and where it comes from.
To put it simply, whey is an animal-based protein that comes from milk. During the production of cheese, the fatty parts of the milk coagulate and the whey is separated as a byproduct (1).
Still not sure what whey is?
Don’t worry; this might help: ever opened a cup of yoghurt to find liquid floating on top? Well, that’s whey protein; albeit in liquid form!
Needless to say, further processing is required before whey becomes more recognizable to you: a powder that is added to shakes, meal replacements, and protein bars (2).
Why choose New Zealand whey protein?
OK, so you know where all those scoopfuls of protein goodness come from now. Still, that doesn’t answer the question of why NZ whey protein is better than others; so let’s get into that real quick.
Free -range and grass-fed
So, it's no wonder that NZ's pasture-fed cows–who graze on lush green grass all-year-round–produce some of the best milk in the world. More specifically, grass-fed cows are known to produce milk with higher concentrations of β-Carotene (the building block of vitamin A) and unsaturated fatty acids (3, 4, 5).
The milk is also higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to exert many health benefits, including immune system regulation and blood glucose control (6, 7, 8).
You wouldn't see these healthful benefits with grain-fed cows. Cows on a diet of corn, soy, cottonseed (and so on) are more liable to suffer from contamination, causing illness and increasing the chances of the cattle requiring antibiotic treatment. That doesn’t sound too good, does it?
Free of growth hormones and antibiotics
Speaking of antibiotics, another reason why NZ whey protein is often considered the crème of the crop is that dairy cows in the country are not given any antibiotics or growth hormones.
Just so you know, most commercial farms (not located in NZ, of course) will administer both hormones and antibiotics to boost the lactation yield of their cows.
This might sound harmless. But the truth is, the use of growth hormones can translate to health issues amongst those who consume the milk and all its derived products–including whey protein.
Milk from growth hormone-treated cows contains higher levels of IGF-1, a hormone that normally helps some types of cells to grow. Worryingly, that includes tumor cells. Several studies have found a relationship between blood levels of IGF-1 and the development of prostate, breast, colorectal, and other cancers (9, 10, 11).
So–when you choose NZ whey protein, you enjoy the peace of mind that you’re not subjecting yourself to an increased risk of cancer; New Zealand has banned growth hormones completely.
Strict processing techniques
A little background: whey can be denatured by heat (12).
Dairy from warmer climate countries, such as Brazil, have been shown to exhibit lower nutritional quality (e.g. lower free essential BCAAs) (13).
So, if you're worried about the nutritional content of your whey protein, you'd want to pick one that hasn't been through high-heat processing. That means one that comes from New Zealand.
Why? Well, because farmers in the country often use cold filtration processing (e.g. cold-processing, ultra-filtering, and low-temperature drying) to rid the milk of harmful pathogens–while avoiding stripping it of its beneficial nutritional qualities.
It’s not just all about your whey protein’s nutritional profile, too. It’s also about taste.
In addition to denaturing the protein, high-heat processing is also known to adversely impact the flavour of whey protein. A 2013 study found that heating whey caused increased sulfur flavours; you know, that nasty rotten eggs taste (14)! Of course, you wouldn't want that pungency in your shake… Right?
NZ whey protein is better, both nutrition- and taste-wise
Ultimately, it seems like we have a clear answer: NZ whey protein is indeed better than other types of whey protein. And by a large margin. Both in terms of taste and nutrition.