A recent caller to my radio show, a guy in his 20s who exercises regularly, wants to gain weight. He clocks in at 6 feet tall, 145 pounds.
You might think the desire to gain weight is unusual, but it’s not. About 5 percent of our population sees itself as too thin.
This caller says he exercises and is the fittest of all his friends, but no matter how much he porks out, he can’t get fat. He says he takes after his dad, who’s been thin his whole life. He wonders if protein shakes would help him to tip the scale.
I certainly think protein shakes are an option, but which one to use is the issue. So I went to my favorite online source for these things, Consumer Lab (consumerlab.com). It’s a pay-as-you-go site much like Consumer Reports. (Full disclosure: I get a free membership as a journalist.)
It seems that a friend of mine, TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, had the same question when he did an on-air interview with the website’s founder and medical director, Dr. Ted Cooperman. Questions about protein shakes are understandable because the shakes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means you don’t know what you’re getting.
There are several types of shakes. Whey and casein shakes are derived from milk, so the protein is complete, meaning it contains all the amino acids needed to make it so. Egg-based shakes are just as complete. Soy-based ones are good, but they don’t have all the amino acids the others have. And as for rice-based shakes, I’d stay away from them.
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When Consumer Lab tested protein shakes, they found good ones and bad ones. For example, some have very little protein and lots of carbohydrates. Others say they have just a bit of cholesterol when they are actually loaded with it. Some nice-looking ones, fancy label and all, contained lead. Who wants lead in their shake? Nobody.
The bottom line is I would only choose a shake that’s been tested by a reliable third party such as Consumer Lab or Consumer Reports. Otherwise, you might not get what you pay for.
And one more thing: Ensure and Boost, the shakes you generally see advertised for the elderly, are also an excellent source of protein, but they tend to have more carbs and more calories.
Dear doc: I know you cook; I have a tip for your old greens. I throw my old parsley, spinach stems, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, even beet greens into a plastic bag and freeze them. When I have enough, I put them in a pot with some peppercorns and simmer them for a long time. When you strain the stuff, you've got a wonderful veggie soup base.
It might not be a nutritionist’s delight, but it sure tastes good (and makes me feel thrifty). Keep up the good work. — Cheryl from El Paso
Dear Cheryl: You are right. Any time you can stretch your veggie-spending dollars, do it. And I always like to have a veggie base in my freezer. The commercial stuff is usually loaded with the salt that none of us need.
Keep cookin’. I love to find inventive ways to use all the produce I buy. Years ago, I started freezing old bananas for banana bread. Your veggie mix will go right next to those in my freezer. Stay well.
This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or a diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about your concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including, but not limited to, any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions.