Casein is a slow-digesting natural protein derived from dairy sources. Milk is about 20 percent whey (a quicker-digesting protein) and 80 percent casein. Casein can take up to 7 hours to digest because it forms a gel in the stomach after consumption and provides a slow release of amino acids.
Most dairy products contain a natural mix of whey and casein. Pure casein protein can be found in protein powders or other manufactured products. Due to its slow release of amino acids, many athletes and bodybuilders suggest using casein protein powders before bed to help prevent muscle breakdown.
Casein Protein Powder
Casein protein powder is made by separating the casein from the whey in dairy products. It is separated through a process called ultrafiltration. This process is accomplished without the use of chemicals. One scoop of casein protein powder, approximately 30 grams, contains 100-120 calories and 25 grams of protein.
It is possible to find casein protein products by themselves or in a mix with whey and other forms of protein.
The next most concentrated form of casein is found in cheese. Cheese has more casein protein than any other natural source. In the cheese-making process, whey and lactose are separated from the curds. The curds of the cheese are composed mostly of casein.
Cheese is a good nutritional source of calcium, protein and other vitamins. Unfortunately, it is also fairly high in fat, so portions should be controlled.
Cottage cheese is the next-highest source of casein protein. Cottage cheese is similar to cheese in that the curds and the whey are separated. However, because it is a younger cheese, not all of the whey is removed.
Cottage cheese is easy to find in low- or no-fat versions. This makes it a good alternative to regular cheese. It also provides a higher amount of protein than regular cheese. A quarter-cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese generally contains 1-2 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein.
Milk is approximately 80 percent casein and 20 percent whey. Like other dairy products, milk is a good source of calcium, vitamins and protein. It can be found in low-fat, non-fat and full-fat versions. Many people are lactose intolerant, which may cause a problem with milk consumption. If you are lactose intolerant, protein powder, cheese or cottage cheese might be better options because they contain little to no lactose.
Many people have sensitivities or allergies to casein. Common symptoms include bloating, stomach cramps, rashes, headaches and hives. There is also some research that the consumption of casein, along with other proteins such as gluten, can aggravate the symptoms of autism. Research is still ongoing concerning this connection.
If you believe you have an allergy or intolerance to casein, you should avoid it and consult a doctor. Be aware that casein is often used as an additive in many products that you might not suspect. Be aware of food labels and read ingredient lists.