Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Feb 11, 2013 10:32 AM

Why do we dislike Whey?

Hi all,

I have read many negative statements about using whey as an ingredient for foods (like ice cream or fruit drinks...etc). See the first ingredient:

or the fifth ingredient from this:

So why do we dislike whey? Is it because
a) whey tastes bad.
b) whey is unhealthy (or less healthy).
c) whey is just "cheap" or "uncivilized".
d) whatever your reason may be.
I am not expert in whey, so I don't understand the negative attitude toward whey. Please share your feeling on whey. Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I drain the whey from yogurt to create a thicker "Greek-style" yogurt. I typically drink the liquid whey that remains afterward. I've never bothered saving it for use in baked goods, but I understand that it can be done. Since it is a byproduct I think it's totally fine for companies to find other uses for it. My only quibble is if they are replacing a more complete product with whey to make their products more cheaply.

    1. I used to be fine with it, but then I started hearing about most forms of whey protein powder having oxidized cholesterol, and since then I use very rarely. So I guess option B for me. I never thought it tasted bad, and never judged food/edibles based on how "cheap" or "uncivilized" they might be.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Cinnamonster

        <most forms of whey protein powder having oxidized cholesterol>

        Oh I didn't know this. Thanks.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Also, I feel like I should mention that I am not a doctor/nutritionist/dietitian/etc., but after hearing about it I looked up information online. The impression that I got was that it is a concern at least with plaque buildup in arteries (I only worry because my family has a history of heart disease).
          So, please don't take my word as guaranteed fact, but only as a possible precaution.

        2. re: Cinnamonster

          How can whey be a significant source of cholesterol, let alone 'oxidized cholesterol'? Whey is the liquid left behind when cheese curds are made. Most of the fat in the milk goes into the curds, not the whey.

          A quick web search indicates that people who worry about oxidized cholesterol in dairy blame it on the drying process. But most powdered milk is nonfat. So again, where's the cholesterol in nonfat dried milk?

          1. re: paulj

            I wasn't referring to liquid whey, but the powdered variants often seen in protein powders. And while it usually isn't a large source of cholesterol there usually are varying degrees of cholesterol left in the majority of protein powders I've seen.

        3. I don't have a problem with whey and quite like optimum nutrition whey protein powder for protein shakes.

          I HATE when companies use whey protein concentrate to boost the protein content of their "Greek" yogurt, because it is dishonest. Yoplait "Greek" comes to mind as a particularly egregious offender. IMO, it is not Greek yogurt unless it is strained, and other products should not be allowed to be labeled as such.

          I don't object to the use of whey protein concentrate in yogurt, period, as it is in quite a few brands (along with cornstarch) for improved texture and mouthfeel-- as long as it is not being marketed as Greek yogurt.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ohmyyum

            <I HATE when companies use whey protein concentrate to boost the protein content of their "Greek" yogurt, because it is dishonest.>

            Me too, and I remember one of the companies used milk powder to do the same.

            But what about say the Mango Protein Plus drink:


            1. re: ohmyyum

              100% agree ohmyyum

              A lot of misinformed people in this thread. There is nothing wrong with whey. It's a complete protein and very nutritious. With regards to cholesterol ~ cholesterol in food has very little to do with blood lipid cholesterol.

              1. Well, this clearly doesn't impact everyone, but whey is super high in lactose (dried whey is about 70% lactose. Nonfat dry milk is more like 50%, both by weight. Liquid whey is more like 5% lactose, same as milk). Like the rest of my family, I'm quite lactose intolerant, so I'll notice effects from eating foods that are only 1% lactose, and once whey is added to something, it's almost certainly at least that. So, I obviously avoid it.

                The lactose issue could have contributed to a bad reputation because it could cause reactions in people with undiagnosed lactose intolerance, or people who simply didn't realize that whey is a dairy product. I mean, think of how gluten-free is generally considered a good health statement by a lot of people, even though most of us digest it without trouble, and vegetarians often use it as a decent protein source. In the wrong situation, it causes trouble.

                I actually quite like the taste of whey, actually... However, I suspect that many products made with whey also take other cost-cutting measures, resulting in a lower quality product. At least, that's what I tell myself :)

                3 Replies
                1. re: celesul

                  celesul, where are you getting your information? First of all, whey is not a cheap ingredient, therefore adding it to a product is not a cost cutting measure. The price of whey has skyrocketed over the past few years. Secondly, whey protein has very little whey; even the "cheapest" of wheys (concentrate vs isolate) has a minute amount of lactose. A normal serving of whey protein (23 grams of protein) has only 1 gram of sugar (lactose), vs 1 cup of skim milk having only 8 grams of protein and 12 grams of sugar (lactose)

                  1. re: Scoutmaster


                    Whey being a cheaper substitute for something was an assumption, as I often see it in cheap, mass produced food. Also, it was historically a waste product of the cheese industry, although it seems that it certainly has gotten more valuable over time. Currently, however, I still see it in cheap products (like ice cream novelties, which are never worth it), so I'd assume it's not terribly expensive. Based on your point, we may be seeing whey move upmarket. However, my source, from 2008, continually mentions how cost effective whey is, so... (and they provide, on page 196, a sample formula for "sour cream and onion based seasoning for potato based snack" and explain that it is a cost-reduced formula, with the whey stretching the sour cream).

                    Also, whey protein and whey are different products, and you seem to be talking about whey protein. "Whey" as an ingredient refers to dried whey. If they mean whey protein concentrate or isolate, they say it (particularly as those are more expensive).

                    Page 18 provides a handy table. Dried whey is 63-75% lactose, whey protein concentrate is 10-55%, and whey protein isolate is 0.5%. According to this: Nonfat dry milk is about 49-50% lactose. Oh, and section 4 provides more information, and includes the ranges for whey protein concentrate at the different protein percentages.

                    Anyway, you can clearly see that, without the water, whey is much higher in lactose than milk is (also, nonfat milk has more lactose than whole milk). Anyway, if whey is included at greater than 2% of the weight of the item (using that because ingredients are grouped that way), and we assume that the whey used is 63% lactose (the minimum in the range), then the product is over 1% lactose. Well, my lucky family has trouble with butter, which is often around 1% lactose, so whey merely being an ingredient means that the food is very likely to cause trouble. Admittedly, most people aren't *quite* so sensitive to lactose, but still. And whey was the first ingredient in the ice cream drumstick...

                    I'd still be somewhat wary of whey protein concentrate, simply because a range of 10-50% lactose isn't really one I'm comfortable with. But yeah, the whey protein products tend to be "health" oriented, so I wouldn't wouldn't question them from that perspective. Whey protein isolate is the only one I'd trust to not contain problematic levels of lactose.

                    (This isn't to say I never eat food containing lactose. But I am very, very careful about it if I need to make a good impression on someone that day).

                    1. re: celesul

                      SInce whey is the byproduct of making cheese, it makes sense that its dried form has a higher lactose level than dried milk. In cheese making, the milk proteins coagulate, trapping much of the fat, and some of the water. The whey then must have a lower fat and protein level compared to whole milk.

                      Various cheese are made from whey, including gjetost, which gets its distinctive color and sweetness from caramelized lactose.

                      Certainly if you have problem with the lactose (or proteins) in milk, cheese, or butter, you should also stay away from products which a significant amount of whey or whey derivatives. But I would distinguish between the use of whey in processed cheese (and cheese products), the use of whey as a minor ingredient in baked goods, and the more recent use of whey in protein powders and drinks.