The Best Ingredients for a Healthy and Delicious Protein Shake



The Benefits of Protein Shakes

I have discovered throughout my health journey that protein shakes are not only for those just exiting the gym or finishing a run or trying to build muscle, they are also beneficial for so many different medical problems. As some of you know, I have alopecia, which means that my body attacks my own hair follicles. I do many things to prevent the loss of my hair (let me know in the comments if you want to know my regiment for maintaining strong, healthy hair naturally), and protein shakes are one of those things.

 Our hair is made from protein, so we need a lot of it to keep providing for the growth of our hair. In my case, my body is so busy trying to flush toxins from my body that my hair is its last priority, so I need to keep it strong. I also use protein shakes to maintain my iron levels.

Many females struggle with maintaining appropriate levels of iron, and I put key ingredients in my protein shakes to help.

It is really important for me to be constantly cleaning and detoxing my digestive tract. There are so many chemicals around us and in the processed foods that we eat, plus I have a million food sensitivities; it is impossible to avoid them all. Detoxing through my protein shakes allows me to constantly assure that I am absorbing all the nutrients possible from the healthy foods I am eating which is extremely important for my hair growth and overall health.

My protein shakes are also my main source of calcium, so I make sure to put lots of calcium rich ingredients in as well.

Finally, I have a weird reaction to simple carbohydrates which makes my hormones go crazy, so I pack a lot of good fats and vegan forms of protein to keep my blood sugar healthy without carbs. I have so many ingredients that I regularly put in my protein shakes, but I am going to share my favorites for each of these health issues that I experience:

Protein


I need protein in my shakes (at least 20g) to help my hair, and also to help me build muscle and refuel after my workouts. Protein is one of my main energy sources because of my carbohydrate issues. These are the key ingredients that I use for protein.

·        Vegan Protein Powder – I struggle endorsing any one brand because I switch around a lot based on how much money I need to save that month….so just choose a protein powder that is vegan, plant-based protein and gives at least 20g of protein per serving. It is really important that you are not using a protein powder that exacerbates the problem. If I used anything but vegan protein powder, I probably would be experiencing more hair loss--so check the ingredients in detail before you buy!

·        Ground Hemp Seed – I added this into my shakes a few months ago. Ground hemp has loads of protein, good fats, vitamin E, and loads of minerals, and I was advised to try it by another with alopecia as well. I felt kind of weird using hemp seed at first, but it has no weird flavor and all it contributes is protein and other nutrients. Honestly, of the three seeds on the list, this one has the most benefits, so if you can handle using hemp seed, definitely use it over the others!

·        Chia Seeds – Little disclaimer here: I no longer use chia seeds in my diet at all because it turns out I have a sensitivity to them. They were making me more sick than they were helping. However, for those who are not allergic, they are filled with great proteins, fiber, fats, and nutrients which promote bone health. When I used chia seeds, I liked to mix the smoothie more in advance, and let the liquids soak into the chia seeds. They have a weird way of absorbing liquids like that. Honestly, I am very upset that I can no longer use them, so give them a shot if you haven't already!

·        Flax Seeds – I used these a lot previously and recently switched to hemp seeds because they have more protein, but flax seeds still have lots of protein and fibers. They are also filled with nutrients and good fats that can help cholesterol levels. I remember when I was first introduced to flax seeds at the farmers market in my home town. My family bought a big bag and were on protein shake fixes for months! It was probably the healthiest we were as a family. Everyone loved the shakes with flax seeds in them, even my picky younger brother. Maybe consider making protein shakes a family affair :) Most of the healthy ingredients that kids normally wouldn't like are hidden by delicious fruits and vanilla protein powder. 

Iron


It is so important for our blood to be filled with iron as it carries oxygen around our body through our blood. This is important to me because I am a blood donor, and I can’t donate unless my hemoglobin is high enough. Iron is also important for hair growth which is one of my health goals. 


·        Blackstrap molasses – I put 1 tbsp of blackstrap molasses in my shake every day because it is packed with iron. It is pretty much all of the leftovers when sugar is made….that makes it sound really gross, but actually, when it is mixed in with all of the fruits and veggies in the shake, it adds a nice subtle sweetness. It can be found at most health food stores and on Amazon.

·        Kale – Kale is growing in popularity which is great because it is packed with iron. It also blends nicely into protein shakes. There is no green, leafy flavor, just a lot of hidden nutrients that you will feel later!  This is another good one to sneak in if you have kids. It has vitamins and minerals that benefit the eyes, cholesterol levels, and potentially prevent cancers. To read more about Kale, visit this article by Health Line.

·        Spinach – This is similar to Kale. It blends nicely into the shake and does not contribute a green, grassy flavor. Spinach is packed with iron also as well as loads of other vitamins and minerals which help the eyes, skin, prevent cancers, reduce inflammation, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow. I try and use either spinach or kale in my dinners at least once a week, and then I buy enough extra for my protein shakes every day. I like to switch off between the two so that my body is receiving those nutrients from different places all the time.

·        Berries – This one kind of surprised me when I learned it! Berries are a great source of iron as well. I love to go to the farmers market every Saturday and buy a different type of fresh berry every week for my protein shakes. It is so fun to mix it up, try new berries, and support local businesses. My current favorite is the golden raspberry which I had no idea even existed! Definitely check out farmers markets because they commonly have organic good which are better for you in the long run. 

Digestion


Detoxing your digestive health allows for more thorough absorption of the nutrients from your meals. If you put foods in your shakes that will promote healthy digestion, you will get a lot more out of the other ingredients you incorporate as well. 
·        Chlorophyll – The number one ingredient I use for digestive health is chlorophyll. You all probably know chlorophyll as the thing that makes plants green. Yes…that is what I am suggesting you drink… You can buy it on amazon though so it is easily accessible! It also does not taste as horrible as it sounds! Just put the serving size on the bottle in to your shake and enjoy.

·        Greek Yogurt – Another disclaimer: I do not use Greek yogurt in my shakes because I am dairy sensitive. However, Greek yogurt is filled with great proteins, but, most importantly, probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria in our digestive tract which help us to digest foods. If we fill our guts with good probiotics, we will be able to digest the foods we eat more completely and in turn absorb more nutrients.

·        Ginger – Whenever I need ginger for a recipe I am cooking, I buy a little extra to put in my shakes. I just shave off a centimeter or so of a ginger root into the blender with the rest of my ingredients. Ginger has been known throughout history as a digestive aid—sometimes the oldest remedies are the best remedies! I will say, sometimes I add a little too much ginger which can be a little overpowering. I suggest adding a little at a time and then seeing what you like. 

·        Peppermint – I talk a lot about peppermint in my article, Tea Time, for a detailed description of what peppermint can do for you, and for some other ways to implement it into your health plan; definitely check out that article! For current purposes, it is important to know that peppermint eases indigestion. I purchase chlorophyll infused with peppermint from Amazon to kill two birds with one stone. 

·        Water – One of the best ingredients for digestion is just plain water. It helps to flush toxins out of the digestive tract which allows for more thorough digestion. It is especially useful if you drink it on an empty stomach 20-30 minutes before a meal. Water of course is also important in that it helps your body function--cells cannot work without it. I like to make sure that at least 1/4 of the liquids that I use in my shake is just pure water. It makes the shake blend easier and also increases pure water intake. If you do not have a water filter, invest in one because filters leave in all the good minerals while removing all of the dangerous pollutants.

Fats


I take coconut oil with my coffee every morning and could eat 20 avocados worth of guacamole, but I also enjoy the benefits of healthy fats in my protein shakes. We need fats to digest vegetables but want to avoid unhealthy fats, like butter for example. 
·        Avocado – This is my favorite healthy fat because it makes protein shakes creamy like a milkshake but without the dairy, of course. I generally put ½ of an avocado in with the rest of my ingredients. Avocados have approximately 20 g of good fats each, so they are ideal to add into your diet daily. This is another great one to sneak into the protein shake of a picky kid because it genuinely makes the shake like a thick milkshake from a diner!

·        Coconut Oil – You can order liquid coconut oil on amazon. The solid coconut oil will just clump and be really gross… I put about a tablespoon in my shake and blend it! Coconut oil in particular has ingredients that are amazing for hair growth! If you want healthier hair, definitely consider adding it to your shake as it will improve hair growth from the inside out.

Calcium

Personally, my main source of calcium is my shake. I put a glass of milk in each of my shakes. I am dairy free, of course, so I use coconut and almond milk. I switch off every time I go to the store for more milk to increase the ways I receive nutrients. Calcium, of course, is important for your bone health. These types of milk also contain protein, so that is another advantage. For most of us, coconut or almond milks are better than cow’s milk. Even if you aren’t dairy free, consider giving coconut or almond milk a try.

·        Coconut milk

·        Almond milk

Vitamin C and Collagen


Vitamin C and Collagen – Vitamin C helps to boost the immune system. Whenever I am sick, I double the amount of these fruits that I put in my shake. That is the great thing about these shakes, they can really be catered to your needs and the individual needs of your family members really easily. Collagen is necessary for hair growth. II take it in supplement for, so if you really need a hair growth boost consider asking your doctor about that. However, as with all of the supplements I take, I like to find a natural way to add them to my diet as well. All of these fruits below fit the bill. Try finding them at your farmer's market for more organic, chemical free options.
·        Orange

·        Kiwi

·        Strawberry

Skin Health


Finally, I choose one of these fruits each day as they all benefit healthy skin which is one of my health goals. Again, if I use one of these fruits in my food for the week, I usually buy a little extra for my shakes. We expel some of the toxins from our body through our pores, so if you experience a lot of breakouts try making sure that you are only ingesting organic foods. Some people can handle toxins better than others; my body is extremely sensitive, so, again, I like to shop at the farmer's market or at health food stores and use mainly fruits and vegetables that are in season to avoid as many pollutants as possible. 

·        Apple

·        Banana

·        Lemon

·        Papaya

·        Pomegranate

·        Plum

·        Pineapple

Remember, it is important to switch up what recipes you use so that your body is gaining nutrients from lots of different sources. I like to switch up my recipe as often as possible while still maintaining my core ingredients: Chlorophyll, Blackstrap Molasses, and vegan protein powder. To build your own perfect protein shake, determine your health goals, research organic ingredients that promote health in those areas, and blend away! I love to either have my shake for breakfast to fuel my day, or after a tough workout to recoup and promote muscle growth. The beauty of protein shakes is you can eat a ton of the ingredients listed above, it tastes great, and you didn’t break your calorie bank!
Let me know what your favorite protein shake recipe is below :)!

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