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Choosing protein drinks

Rebecca Wood —

When you're hungry now and there's no time to eat, then — a meal in a glass is a welcome option to fasting. A protein drink is good — for anyone needing a ready source of easy-to-digest protein. As the name — suggests, protein is the primary ingredient in these meal replacements, — which also typically contain flavoring agents and nutritional additives.

In order to make an informed choice, let's examine quality. — What's the inherent value of the ingredients themselves, are they organic — and how are they processed? Lastly I've included a simple recipe for making — your own, which, of course, guarantees maximum flavor and nutrition and — is your best buy.

Protein concentrates

The protein in instant drinks is typically a bland-flavored — powdered rice, soy or milk by-product. All three are available as a single — ingredient or in various blended products.

1. Rice Protein - Rice protein is primarily a by-product — of the rice syrup industry- natural enzymes digest the complex carbohydrates — into a simple sugar. What's left over is rice protein, which is filtered — and dried at low temperatures. The resulting powder is of special benefit — to vegans.

2. Soy Protein - A by-product of soy oil production, soy — protein is available in one of three forms.

o Organic soy protein concentrate is made with the "green" — technology of electrical anion and cation exchange. This healthy product — is 85 percent protein.

o Soy protein isolate is extracted using high-temperatures — and caustic hexane solvents. This process denatures the proteins and causes — toxins to be formed. This soy protein is the shoddy ingredient used in — imitation cheese, ice cream and cheap snacks. It contains 90% protein. — I recommend isolating soy protein isolate from your diet.

o Soy powder is powdered, defatted soybean meal that contains — 42 percent protein.

3. Whey Protein - When milk is curdled into cheese the — thin, protein-rich liquid that remains is whey. It is virtually lactose — free and when processed at low temperatures and has some remarkable medicinal — properties:

o Builds muscles and endurance. The branched-chain amino — acids found in whey protein are metabolized directly into muscle tissue — (unlike other amino acids that are metabolized into the liver).

o Increases bone density and collagen (connective tissue) — synthesis.

o Boosts the immune system. Whey is a precursor to the — powerful antioxidant glutathione (GSH), which protects normal cells from — damage.

o Improves digestion and nutrient absorption because whey's — glycomacropeptides support healthful populations of intestinal micro-flora.

o Helps reduce hypertension by supporting angiotensin — in regulating blood pressure.

Whey may appear in various forms on a label, depending — upon how it's manufactured, such as-sweet whey, whey protein isolate, — hydrolyzed whey protein, whey powder, or whey concentrate. The protein — in these products varies from 25 to 95 percent. Make sure its description — includes "whey protein," and make sure to buy from a reputable manufacturer. —

Flavoring Agents

A quality protein beverage contains only natural sweeteners — and flavors. Shoddy products may contain cheap sweeteners and flavors — and artificial colors. Read the labels and ask your retailer if you have — questions.

Nutritional Additives

As both the protein and flavoring agents in a protein — drink are relatively inexpensive ingredients, the potentially more expensive — nutritional additives are what should determine its price. These additives — may include vitamins, minerals, fats, enzymes, herbs, botanical extracts — and fiber. The fiber is a by-product of the juice or grain industry.

Avoid protein beverages with synthetic vitamins and hydrogenated — or denatured fats. For example, a common additive, and one that I question, — is the addition of flax meal or ground flax seeds. Yes, flax is healthful, — but only when it is whole or freshly milled. Within days of grinding flax — its fragile fatty acids start to become rancid.

I'm saddened by the high price, over $4 a serving, for — some protein drinks with slick marketing appeals. No matter how many exotic — botanicals or herbs they might contain, the amount is often too miniscule — to be effective. Many products confabulate the naive with claims of being — "nutritionally complete." The truth is that our individual needs are specific, — and can't all be met by a generic formula. I recommend separate purchases — of herbs, botanicals and vitamins.

I purchase a natural protein powder - under 50 cents per — serving - and make my own drink. A home-blended drink made with real fruit — doesn't need flavorings, and its vitality is superior to anything from — a package. Depending upon what fruit is on hand and what sounds tasty, — I vary the ingredients from day to day. Getting into the habit of making — your own fresh protein drink is easy because it tastes great and you'll — notice the energy boost it gives. I invite you to try it.

Blueberry Energy Drink

Antioxidant-rich blueberries add great color and flavor — and help make this an extraordinarily healthful drink.

1 cup blueberries

1 cup goat, soy or cow milk or yogurt

1/4 cup organic whey, rice or soy protein

Place the fruit and milk or yogurt in a blender and blend — until uniform. Add the protein powder and mix for an additional 10 to — 15 seconds until well blended.

Variations

Enhance your protein drink with botanical extracts of — your choice such as freshly ground flax, spirulina, bee pollen, royal — jelly or ginseng.

Substitute chopped fresh fruit or pureed fruit such as — strawberries, raspberries, grapes, peaches, banana, mango or apple for — the blueberries.

For a fruit smoothie substitute 1/2 cup fruit juice and — 1/2 cup frozen fruit of your choice for the milk.

Local resident Rebecca Wood is a personal chef, food coach — and author. Her book, The Splendid Grain, won both the James Beard and — the Julia Child Cookbook Awards. She may be reached, or her articles and — recipes may be accessed, at www.rwood.com