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Powder Power

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— January 15, 2019

Powder Power

  • Beyond smoothies: Protein powders are proving versatile in the kitchen.
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POWDER POWER

We love smoothies. According to one industry figure, Americans spend close to $13 billion on them every year. And sales of protein powders, a key smoothie ingredient, continue to rise.

But in an age when a protein has become the go-to nutrient, cooks are starting to experiment with protein powder in dishes that are more solid than liquid. The idea, as Anna Sward, author of The Ultimate Protein Powder Cookbook (Countryman), puts it, is “relishing the fact that a healthy diet doesn’t have to be bland or boring.” Nutritional Champion the best-known advantage of adding more protein to your diet is its ability to help build lean muscle mass in the gym. And consuming protein-rich foods helps you feel full longer, which helps if you are trying to drop a few pounds. Protein’s uses don’t stop there. Protein molecules consist of building blocks called amino acids, many of which provide benefits of their own.

For example, glycine is known to promote healthy sleep patterns and blood sugar usage. Arginine supports proper blood vessel function, while tryptophan serves as a precursor to a brain chemical that helps regulate mood. There are about 20 amino acids in total, nine of which your body cannot make on its own and needs to obtain from your diet.

SMOOTHIE SUGGESTIONS
When it comes to using protein powder, nothing is easier than throwing it into a blender with a bunch of other stuff to create a smoothie. Deck your creation out with fruits, nuts, and seeds for an on-the-go meal replacement, or keep things lighter for a quick snack. Some special-purpose smoothie ingredients include:
• Açai—helps you maintain vitality when traveling
• Collagen peptides—promote healthy joints, skin, hair, and nails
• Pumpkin purée—replenishes minerals lost after a big night out
• Silken tofu—supports the growth of new skin cells
• Wild blueberries—help boost brainpower

Culinary Powder Uses

To get the most from protein, you need to distribute your intake throughout the day. That’s one big advantage of using protein powders in the kitchen; it allows you to get all you need in an almost effortless fashion.

“Almost,” because protein powder as a recipe ingredient does come with some caveats. For instance, in baked goods, “if your batter is over one-half protein powder, your food will turn out really dry and rubbery,” says Sward, who blogs at proteinpow.com. She also notes that, unlike regular bread, “protein bread doesn’t rise very much when they’re baked. That’s why you need to bake them in a narrow-enough baking pan (ideally a silicone one) so that the batter has some height before you even bake it.”

If you do have a recipe that doesn’t turn out right, though, no worries. Sward encourages you to not be “overly rigid or scared about experimenting with your powders, ingredients, and flavors. Listen to your tastebuds.”

Protein powders come in two basic varieties, animal-based (such as whey, casein, and egg white) and plant-based (including those shown above). Generally, you can substitute within these categories, although you may have to tweak amounts of not only the powder itself but also any sweeteners and liquid ingredients a recipe calls for. Substituting between categories, however, can get tricky. For one thing, plant-based powders are much more absorbent than, say, whey powder, making whey a poor substitute in a recipe in which something like pea powder is indicated.

PLANT POWER
Animal-based protein powders are popular options for both smoothies and cooking purposes. If you don’t do animal protein, though, there are a number of plant sources for this crucial nutrient. They include:
• Almond—promotes muscle recovery as well as digestive and cardiovascular well-being.
• Pea—helps with weight management by helping to control hunger.
• Pumpkin Seed—wide-ranging benefits include anti-inflammatory properties and support of reproductive health.
• Sunflower—promotes the development of lean muscle mass. The best plant-based protein powders are certified organic and are free of gluten and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

While making bread, cookies, brownies, muffins and other treats (including no-cook bars and energy bites) with protein powder is one option, it isn’t the only one. Here are some others:

• Add powder to your morning oatmeal, along with fresh fruit and nuts.

• Soaked chia seeds and your favorite protein powder team up to make a nutritious, flavorful pudding base.

• Pair pumpkin seed protein powder with pumpkin purée and mashed chickpeas for an imaginative burger substitute. You can also combine a plant-based powder with black beans for another alternative to burgers made with chopped meat.

• Pea protein is a natural enhancement for pasta dishes. There’s no reason for you to give up your beloved smoothies. But with a little creative cookery, you can enjoy the advantages of protein powders at nearly every meal.

Three-Minute Egg & Sweet Potato Protein Soldiers
All rights reserved. “Before I moved to England, I had no idea what Eggs and Soldiers were,” Anna Sward writes. “I did some research and found out that these thinly sliced pieces of toast are called ‘soldiers’ because they’re evocative of soldiers on parade.”
1/4 cup unflavored pea protein powder
1/4 cup sweet potato flour
3/4 cup liquid egg whites
1 egg
1. Preheat a nonstick frying pan, further nonstick with some low-calorie cooking spray or coconut oil. Turn heat to high.
2. Mix all ingredients except the egg, and spread the batter into the pan like a big pancake (it’ll be chunky and thick; just press it down with a spatula). Turn the heat down to medium.
3. Bring a small pan of water to a boil; carefully drop in the egg (shell and all). Cover pan, turn off the heat and wait 5 minutes. Remove egg, rinse in cold water and prop up in egg dish or bowl.
4. Flip the “pancake,” then slice into strips. Tap the top of the eggshell and peel enough so that you can eat it with your soldiers.

Serves 2. Excerpted from The Ultimate Protein Powder Cookbook by Anna Sward. Reproduced by permission of Countryman Press (countrymanpress.com).

© Copyright 2019 Discover Life Magazine. All rights reserved.