Ditch the Whey Protein Powder – Try Turkish Ayran Instead

IMG_8488 croppedHere’s a drink that’s much tastier and more nutritious than whey protein powder shakes. It’s a drink that my 16-month-old and I both became addicted to while in Istanbul last week. It also turns out to be quite easy to make at home. It’s the traditional Turkish drink called Ayran (pronounced “EYE-ron”).

Many claim that whey has anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer properties and helps in building muscle mass.  It’s also touted as a weight loss aid. The problem is that the process of turning liquid whey into a shelf-stable powder requires heat, which denatures the whey protein. (Here is an article from The Healthy Home Economist which discusses this.)

I believe that the best way to ingest whey is the traditional way – by consuming it in liquid form. One way to get pure liquid whey is by making your own cheese, since whey is the liquid by-product from cheese making. It may sound hard, but it isn’t at all.  At least not if you stick to fresh-milk cheeses. (Aged cheeses are another story!) You can easily pick up a few rennet tablets from Whole Foods or even try one of numerous rennet-free cheeses. Cheesemaking.com is a great resource for this. Whey can also be strained out of yogurt. (Greek-style yogurt will not work for this, since it’s already had its whey strained out). I describe the yogurt straining process here.

I prefer to get my whey from my homemade whole milk yogurt. Yogurt has the added advantage of including beneficial bacteria and digestive enzymes, which aid in strengthening the immune system and resolving digestive problems. Whole yogurt is comprised of only about 10% whey, which I believe is enough for me, however, if you want to increase the amount of whey, a great way to do so is by combining yogurt with pure liquid whey and salt into the traditional Turkish drink, called Ayran. Here’s the recipe:

IMG_8481Blend in a stand-up or immersion blender:

  • 1 cup whey, water or a mixture of both (flat or sparkling water both work)
  • 1 cup organic, additive-free, non “Greek-style” whole milk yogurt (try my recipe for homemade yogurt)
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp sea salt (depending on your taste preference)

IMG_8490 croppedYou can also use a frothing device, such as this one from Aerolatte, which will give you a nice, foamy top. Fresh mint is sometimes also added to Ayran, either minced or smashed in a mortar and pestle. Serve it either straight or over ice.  Perfect for a hot summer day!

For more information about Ayran, here is a great website dedicated to this famous Turkish drink. Be sure to also try it if you visit Turkey. It’s even available in Turkish fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s and Burger King! Too bad American fast food chains aren’t offering it.  Maybe mandating that New York fast food restaurants include this drink on their menus would have greater public support than Michael Bloomberg’s hotly contested ban on supersized soda.




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