Every Greek yogurt lover knows the drill: Before diving in, you have to slowly peel back the top, careful not to splatter the liquid all over your blouse. Though it’s tempting to dump that liquid in the sink, there are tons of nutritional benefits you’d be tossing down the drain with it.
It’s called liquid whey, and it’s the by-product of cheese or casein—a protein found in milk—production, says certified dietitian Kara Landau of Travelling Dietitian.
Though the liquid is predominantly made up of carbohydrates, it’s also loaded with nutrients, including 25 percent of your daily calcium requirement and 10 percent of your daily potassium needs. Plus, it contains protein and vitamin A, and it’s a great way to boost your immune system and gut health, Landau says.
You may not have known the yogurt liquid had a name, but chances are you’ve heard of it’s powder form: whey protein. Both liquid whey and powder are derived from whey protein, which promotes fat loss, increases your lean mass, and protects your bones, according to a study published in Medicine and Sport Science. (Find out why Whey Is the Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss.) Though the two forms share good-for-you benefits, they differ in more ways than just their density.
“Liquid whey is high in carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, compared with whey protein powder, which is higher in total protein,” Landau says. One serving (one scoop) of whey protein powder delivers around 130 calories and 20 grams of protein, whereas one serving (one cup) of liquid whey has about 60 calories and only approximately two grams of protein. (Try 12 Sweet Ways to Sneak Protein Powders into Your Meals.)
So, why would you opt for liquid whey over its protein powder cousin?
The liquid is whey in its most natural, unprocessed (and paleo-diet friendly!) form. “Typically, the nutritional benefits within food are enhanced when you consume it as a whole food, as opposed to being isolated,” Landau says.
Liquid whey also presents an easy way to sneak nutrients into other meals. Health food stores and online shops have begun selling liquid whey—which one company, The White Mustache, is calling “nature’s sports drink.” Though the taste can sometimes be slightly sweet or tangy, it’s relatively bland, making it an ingredient packed with loads of nutrients and not much flavor. This combination makes it great as a substitute for water or buttermilk to give vegetables and baked goods a slightly different texture and enhanced nutritional profile, Landau says. (See Better Than Butter: Top Substitutions for Fatty Ingredients.) Plus, it gives us an entirely new way to reach our calcium goals.
Now that’s whey cool.