Harley Pasternak: What You Should Know About Whey

08/13/2014 at 06:04 PM ET

Harley PasternakCourtesy Harley Pasternak

Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. Tweet him @harleypasternak.

Do you recall the nursery rhyme that began, “Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey”? You may have never wondered what whey was, or even a tuffet, for that matter (it’s basically a footstool). But whey, the by-product of making cheese or yogurt and a superb source of protein, has hit the big time. Here’s whey, er, why:

Liquid assets. Whey is slightly more absorbent than eggs, often referred to as the perfect protein and considerably more “perfect” than soy, bean or rice protein powder. Separated from the curds formed in the cheese-making process, whey starts as a thin translucent liquid, often used in protein drinks and bars. Making whey is a time-consuming process and the result spoils quickly.

Take a powder. Whey protein powder is easy to use in shakes or smoothies. Or add it to fruit, cottage cheese or homemade baked goods for a protein punch. In addition to protein, whey is also full of vitamins C, B and E, as well as calcium, copper, iron and other minerals.

Whey to go. Whey protein can enhance athletic performance and help build muscle as a result of its high amino acid content (the building blocks of protein). It’s also credited with reducing high cholesterol and assisting in weight loss. As you know, I believe in building meals around protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates. When you don’t have time to grill a chicken breast, poach salmon or even scramble eggs, whey steps up to the plate as a suitable protein provider.

When shopping for whey powder, consider these factors:

  • Whey protein isolate or whey protein concentrate? The former removes most of the lactose (milk sugar) and fat, meaning most lactose-intolerant individuals can handle it. Whey protein concentrate, however, is simply dehydrated whey, and contains more fat and lactose than protein.
  • Organic or conventional? Whey products made from organic milk contain no growth hormones or antibiotic residue.
  • GMO-free or not? Whey from the milk of grass-fed cows contains no GMO residues, unlike animals raised on GMO grains.
  • Sweetened or not? Instead of protein powders sweetened with sugar or substitutes, I prefer unsweetened whey. The fruit you’ll add to smoothies or shakes supplies natural sweetness without empty calories.
  • Flavored or plain? Rather than buying vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or whatever powder, go with the basic powder and add your own natural flavors.
  • Heat processed or cold processed? When protein is heated — a process called denaturing — it can make the amino acids less bioavailable. Whey dried without heat leaves the protein intact.

There are many brands out there, so stick to one that is labeled 100% Whey and doesn’t sport any unrecognizable ingredients on its label. My personal favorite is Source Organic Whey, which is unflavored, unsweetened and contains no coloring agents. You can find it on Amazon and at many Whole Foods and all Sprouts Farmers Markets.

Try this related recipe adapted from one in my book The Body Reset Diet: Power Your Metabolism, Blast Fat and Shed Pounds in Just 15 Days. It’s a great whey (sorry — I had to) to start the day!

Kiwi-Strawberry Smoothie
Serves 1

2 cups baby arugula (or spinach or watercress)
2 kiwifruit, peeled and chopped
5 fresh or frozen strawberries, chopped
1 frozen banana, chopped
2 tablespoons whey protein powder
½ cup nonfat milk or plain unsweetened almond or soy milk
Ice cubes

1. Combine all the ingredients except the milk and ice in a blender or food processor. Pulse until combined.
2. Add milk or milk substitute and blend.
3. Add ice cubes and pulse until desired consistency.

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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