While most Americans consume enough protein-rich foods to satisfy their daily recommended allowance, women often have specific issues or periods in their lives when an added dose of protein is especially important, such as when pregnant, nursing, or menopausal. Add in a hectic, fast-paced lifestyle that often makes eating on the run a necessity and it’s easy to see why healthy protein shakes are a winner when it comes to adding extra nutrition to your diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
Virtually any fruit can be used as a foundation to build a protein shake. Berries work best, but peaches, pineapple, pitted cherries, bananas and plums also work really well. Add about one cup of fruit — frozen or fresh — to your base, more if desired. A mixed-fruit shake is also good, such as strawberry and banana or blueberries and peaches. If you have an aversion to vegetables but want to add some in to your diet, tossing some into a protein shake is a great way to do it. Carrot juice mixed with pineapple is a tasty treat, and spinach is hardly noticeable when mixed with strong-tasting fruit, such as blackberries and cherries.
There are many different proteins to use in your shake, from yogurt to a powder formula, such as whey. One-quarter cup of plain or vanilla yogurt is tasty and includes calcium and vitamin D, as well as live, active, beneficial bacteria. Many women opt for yogurt in addition to a scoop of whey protein powder, which may have the added benefit of being heart-healthy. According to a study reported in the August 2009 edition of "Journal of Nutrition," participants who consumed whey protein isolate powder experienced increased blood flow to the heart as compared to their counterparts who consumed a placebo version.
Boosts and Extras
For added benefits, toss in a tablespoon of flaxseed oil for a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, or a tablespoon or two of wheat germ or ground whole oats to boost the fiber content. Kick up the flavor profile by adding a teaspoon of almond, coconut, vanilla, maple or chocolate syrup to your vanilla shake. Be careful with extras; adding flavor can often add calories. If you’re making a shake to which you’ll be adding a syrup sweetener, opt for non- or low-fat yogurt as your base.
While it’s easy to mistake these tasty concoctions for dessertlike shakes, they are meant to supplement and promote a healthy lifestyle and not to be consumed as a regular meal replacement. Check with your health care practitioner if you have allergies or to be sure you don’t have a medical condition that might be adversely affected by choosing whey or soy as a regular protein source, or if you are on a particular diet plan.