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Should You Make The Switch To Grass-Fed Whey Protein?

Hit the dairy aisle or meat section in just about any grocery store these days and you’ll find tons of products labeled ‘grass-fed’. It’s become somewhat of a badge of honor, since who wouldn’t rather picture our cheese coming from cows that hang out on sunny, green pastures versus giant, cramped warehouses?

The verdict is in: Grass-fed animal products aren’t just better for our consciences; they’re better for our health, too. And now, the swell of interest in them has traveled beyond supermarkets and into the supplement world. Grass-fed whey is way cool. 

What’s So Different About Grass-Fed?

You know the phrase, “You are what you eat”? Well, consider a slight tweak on that phrase: “You are what you eat eats.” That’s right, the diet of whatever animal (or animal byproduct) you put in your mouth impacts that food, and thus impacts you

Don’t believe us? There’s plenty of science to back this up.

For one, milk from grass-fed cows has different fat content than the conventional stuff. One study published in PLOS One, for example, shows that organic, grass-fed milk contains more omega-3 fatty acids and fewer omega-6 fatty acids than milk from conventional grain-fed cows. 

Many Americans consume too many omega-6 fatty acids from foods like processed vegetable oils, but not enough omega-3 fatty acids (which are found in foods like fatty fish), explains registered dietitian and sustainable food system advocate Ryan Andrews, M.A., M.S., R.D., R.Y.T., C.S.C.S., author of Swole Planet. Opting for grass-fed dairy products can help tip the scales back towards balance. (In fact, other research suggests grass-fed milk contains these two fats in close to the ideal ratio for human health.) And considering omega-3 fatty acids support heart, brain, and immune health, how could you say no to getting more of them from dairy foods you already eat?

That same PLOS One study also found that grass-fed milk is higher in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fatty acid that supports lean muscle mass, than regular milk.

Similarly, research suggests grass-fed animal products may also be higher in antioxidants like vitamins A and E. One review published in Nutrition Journal found that grass-fed beef contained more beta carotene (a precursor for vitamin A) than grain-fed beef. It also found that grass-fed beef packed more alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E.

Oh, and did we mention that science even suggests that grass-fed cows produce dairy that’s both more flavorful and creamier? Talk about a win-win for your health and your taste buds.

Grass-Fed Whey For The Win

So, while that’s a pretty solid case for picking grass-fed dairy and meat products, does it mean you should also switch to a grass-fed whey protein supplement

The short answer: It depends on what you’re looking for. “Protein powder has gone through manufacturing in which many nutrients have been processed and removed,” explains Andrews. Chances are, the very reason you love your go-to whey protein isolate is because it’s just the protein (which means it contains little, if any, fat, carbs, or sugar). Sadly, this also means that you won’t reap all the benefits of grass-fed milk (such as the extra omega-3s or antioxidants) when you sip down a grass-fed whey protein isolate.

That said, there’s more to our food than its nutritional stats. “People are really starting to ask where their food is coming from and if it’s a sustainable choice,” says Andrews. Going for grass-fed may be a more environmentally sustainable choice, with research suggesting pastured cows actually help sequester carbon back into the soil (among other benefits for the planet). Plus, opting for grass-fed can also be an opportunity to support companies that prioritize the treatment of their animals, Andrews adds.

It’s also worth noting that many protein supplements made from grass-fed whey make a point to prioritize clean, natural ingredients across the board. You might notice that these supplements use sweeteners like stevia and stick with natural flavors instead of opting for artificial options. If a supp’s super-clean street cred is a priority for you, look out for products with certifications such as Non-GMO Project Verified, USDA Organic, and/or NSF certified.

Convinced you should make the switch? Check out Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate, which is sourced from grass-fed and grass-finished American cows. (“Grass-finished” means that a cow is never moved from pasture to a feedlot and eats only its natural foraged diet for the entirety of its life. Technically, the USDA only requires that cows are grass-fed 50 percent of the time to sport the “grass-fed” designation, so labeling a product as “grass-finished” lets you know it was truly produced on a diet of grass, grass, and only grass.) Transparent Labs’ Grass-Fed Whey Isolate also comes from cows raised without the use of hormones or growth factors. Plus, the final formula is free of artificial sweeteners, gluten, preservatives, or fillers. The brand even goes as far as certifying its grass-fed whey through Labdoor, which means it’s been third-party tested for accuracy, purity, and sport.

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