Protein Content in Dairy/Dairy Alternatives

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Chart comparing protein content in milk/milk alternative products (8 fl oz = 1 cup)

When it comes to protein and fitness, cottage cheese used to be the golden standard. But now, due to marketing and growing popularity, Greek yogurt seems to be nudging its way into the health niche and bumping cottage cheese down a notch. Aside from it’s high protein content, it’s absolutely delicious especially with fruit! I tried cottage cheese last week for the first time in 10 years, and the texture turns me off to it. I want it to be yogurt, but it’s not.

The reason why dairy products like cottage cheese and yogurt are popular is because they provide high quality protein for which many athletes search especially after a workout. Milk is considered a food with high biological value, which basically tells us how much protein we can absorb/utilize from a certain food. Egg is considered the #1 HBV with cow’s milk #2. HBV protein sources are important because they provide a better absorbed and utilized source of amino acids. Milk is also a popular choice for protein because it has a 80/20 ratio of casein/whey protein. Casein protein is known as the “slow-acting” protein which allows for slow absorption of important amino acids. Whey protein is a higher quality protein and a study has shown that whey protein can stimulate more protein synthesis in the body than casein. It’s crazy considering that whey is only 20% of the proteins in milk. Still, the jury is still out and undecided on the full healthful effects of casein and whey protein when combined with exercise.

Now, here’s the scoop: even though milk has both proteins, it’s important to know that when cottage cheese and greek yogurt are made, the whey protein is separated from the casein. Cottage cheese is the result of the liquid whey protein being separated from casein protein curdles; but some of the whey remains. Greek yogurt is drained of its liquid whey to give its desired thick texture and higher protein content. So now you’ve got to choose what’s more important to you: more total protein (lower ratio of whey) or less total protein (higher ratio of whey).

Overall, as I am eating less meat, I turn to dairy foods for a large source of dietary protein like milk and yogurt. But you should also check out milk alternatives for those who have problems dealing with lactose 🙂

Happy eating and drinking

Thomas Ngo
Dietetic Intern
NASM Certified Personal Trainer

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sheryll says:

    Thomas,

    Thank you for the great article, being relatively new to fitness and nutrition, I find this information very helpful. Point of query though on inflammation and post work out recovery foods. I was recently advised that dairy should be avoided to fight inflammatio – agreed? Troubling since Greek yogurt is a high protein source that I could easily grab for breakfast/snack? What would you recommend based on this advice.

    1. Thomas says:

      I think moderation is key. It’s hard to single out one thing that causes inflammation. Think of it more of an ingredient in an entire’s day recipe. Dairy can be a healthful source of calories, protein, and fat esp as a part of a balanced diet.

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