× HomeNutritionMuscle and trainingHealthRecipesWhat is whey protein?About
× HomeNutritionMuscle and trainingHealthRecipesWhat is whey protein?About

Contributing to healthy and sustainable diets with whey

With a world population of 7.8 billion people at present, and estimates indicating this will surpass 10 billion by the end of the century, providing healthy diets to every person is a major task for our food system.

Written by: Prof. Thom Huppertz
Professor of Dairy Science and Technology, Wageningen University

Further challenges are provided by the environmental impact of current food production practices. Feeding the world population well, now and in the future, will be based on healthy and sustainable diets as well as food and nutrition supply and availability. The role of each food product should be assessed on the balance between nutritional quality and environmental impact of overall diets (not products), while also considering economic and social aspects. As a result, optimized healthy and sustainable diets embrace both animal-based and plant-based food products, wherein high-quality proteins like whey protein play a prominent role. 

Key reasons for the importance of whey in a sustainable and healthy diet are: 


Sustainable food systems should be circular rather than linear. This enables maximal utilization of resources and minimal waste. Circularity is exemplified by the use of by-products from food (ingredient) production into animal feed or as sources for extraction of food and feed ingredients. Whey processing has been leading the way in this area. This was initially done using whey, then a simple by-product of cheese manufacture, in animal feed. Over the past 50 years, technological developments have seen more and more the nutritional quality for human bodies and enabled the development of whey ingredients for a wide array of high-quality products for human consumption. This allows (virtually) complete valorisation of a large proportion of whey in human (and special animal) nutrition, making whey protein a valuable co-product in a circular food system.

Nutritional quality

Crucial in a sustainable food system is the focus on feeding people rather than filling people. This requires balanced diets that meet nutritional requirements and prevent nutrient deficiencies. Avoiding overconsumption, however, is equally important and becomes a serious risk when diets contain too many products of low nutrient density or poorly bioavailable nutrients. Whey is a nutrient-rich product containing high-quality and easily digestible proteins, unique functional carbohydrates and a well-balanced range of micronutrients, including minerals and vitamins. As such, whey is a key contributor to a sustainable food system that provides the world population with healthy diet consisting of nutrient-rich food products.



Whey and whey ingredients are a versatile food ingredient that can be included as a cost-effective source of nutrients in a wide variety of food products world-wide. Their high functionality, accessibility and ease of use facilitate the inclusion of whey ingredients in culturally acceptable products all over the world.