Harley Pasternak: What You Should Know About Whey
Courtesy 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!
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
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.