Drinking a protein shake as a snack or meal replacement is a great way to add extra protein to your diet and maintain control over calories, but most types of protein powder tastes lifeless and chalky, even with the addition of chocolate and other flavorings. Jazz up a protein shake by adding other foods for flavor and nutrition. Use foods that appeal to you. Add fruit, nuts, nut butters, yogurt and coffee or savory items, such as spaghetti sauce or vegetables for a green shake.
Fresh or frozen, fruit gives a protein shake a great consistency, lots of varied flavors and healthy sugars in the form of natural fructose. Popular fruits to add are bananas, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, peaches and kiwi fruit. Berries are loaded with antioxidants; bananas are rich in potassium and kiwis are high in vitamin C. If you work out, adding watermelon to your smoothie may help your heart and muscles recover faster after a workout, according to a study in the November 2013 "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry." Researchers point out that watermelon contains the amino acid l-citrulline, which is responsible for its muscle recover benefits. Using frozen fruit in your protein shake has the added bonus of contributing to a thick, creamy consistency; you don't necessarily have to add ice as a thickener.
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Coconut complements almost all types of protein powder, providing delicious flavor, thickening and lots of healthful nutrients. All parts of the coconut are beneficial in your protein mix: coconut water or juice, coconut milk, which is high in unsaturated fats, and coconut meat, which provides lots of healthy fiber. Consumption of coconut oil, found naturally in the meat, also increases your HDL or good cholesterol, lowers your LDL or bad cholesterol and helps promote the reduction of abdominal fat when combined with a healthy diet and exercise, according to a study in the July 2009 issue of "Lipids."
Yogurt helps hide the chalky taste of protein powders providing a nice tanginess to your shake. Yogurt also gives the shake a great consistency. You'll have to add some liquid in the form of water, juice, milk or kefir to get the right consistency for the finished shake. Yogurt with added live and active cultures provides probiotics, which are considered "good bacteria," to your protein shake and supports your digestive system. A review in the January 2014 issue of "The Scientific World Journal" reports that probiotic intake helps increase mineral availability in your body, which in turn increases your bone mass and strengthens bone.
Some people might not think of mixing coffee with their protein shakes, but if you already drink coffee, mix the protein powder with milk first to make a nice creamy consistency. Then, add the protein mixture to the coffee for an extra special taste treat. Try different flavored coffees for variety. If you add your coffee and consume your shake 1 hour before exercise you can increase your athletic endurance and performance, according to the April 2013 issue of the medical journal "PLoS One."
Try adding pasta sauce to unflavored protein powder for a tangy, savory shake. Tomato sauces are high in the the antioxidant carotenoid lycopene. A study in the February 2012 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition" reports that consuming lycopene 10 times a week or more lowers your total cholesterol, improves your ratio of bad to good cholesterol and improves blood sugar levels. Use organic sauce or organic tomatoes that have no pesticides or chemical additives.
Make a healthy green protein shake by adding leafy, green vegetables such as kale, collards, alfalfa, spinach and celery. Intake of leafy green vegetables improves fatty acid levels, which reduces levels of circulating fats in the bloodstream and lowers your risk of heart disease, according to the November 2013 issue of "Lipids in Health and Disease." Throw in a carrot for sweetness and drink up. Green drinks provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and chlorophyll depending on the vegetables you include. Spice your green shake up with a splash of Worcestershire sauce or give it some heat with a dash of cayenne pepper.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fruit and Vegetable Benefits
- Coconut Research Center: Coconut -- The Tree of Life
- Ask Dr. Sears: 10 Reasons Yogurt is a Top Health Food
- Colorado State University: Dietary Fiber
- Better Nutrition Magazine: Anti-Aging with Antioxidants
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Watermelon Juice: Potential Functional Drink for Sore Muscle Relief in Athletes
- Lipids: Effects of Dietary Coconut oil on the Biochemical and Anthropometric Profiles of Women Presenting Abdominal Obesity
- The Scientific World Journal: Effect of Probiotics Supplementation on Bone Mineral Content and Bone Mass Density
- PLoS One: The Metabolic and Performance Effects of Caffeine Compared to Coffee during Endurance Exercise
- Journal of Nutrition: Tomato-Based Food Products Are Related to Clinically Modest Improvements in Selected Coronary Biomarkers in Women
- Lipids in Health and Disease: Diets Containing Traditional and Novel Green Leafy Vegetables Improve Liver Fatty Acid Profiles of Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats