Nutritional information from https://ensure.com/nutrition-products/ensure-original/vanilla-shake. Price per serving calculated from a package price of $68.00 for 310 Vanilla with 28 servings per package. Accessed 2/23/17.
Reviews from Real People
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|Soy Free Protein|
|No Artifical Sweeteners|
|Price Per Serving||$2.43||$3.50||$2.55||$4.33||$3.12|
Ensure is a well-known brand name with a tagline of “the #1 Dr. Recommended Brand” but how does this shake really measure up in terms of overall health and as a weight loss meal replacement shake? While many people tout this shake as highly nutritious, providing well-balanced nutrition, does it really?
What about the high sugar content, and a bunch of controversial ingredients contained within the formula? Read on to learn about this shake that you can find on many grocery store shelves…
Editors Tip: Studies suggest that meal replacement shakes offer the best results when used for at least 5 months. Save money and buy in bulk or bundles.
Ensure Nutrition Facts
Ensure offers many different shake formulas and flavors, but for the purpose of this review we will be looking at their Original Vanilla Shake. The company also offers Light, High Protein, Clear, Plus and Enlive shakes for different purposes.
Based on user reviews, people have used the Original formula as a meal replacement shake, so let’s see how the nutrient label compares to other diet shakes…
Starting first with the calorie amount, there are 220 calories per shake serving, which is not unusual for a lot of meal replacement shakes, but in our opinion is way too high. The main reason is that you may want to add other healthy ingredients into your shake, and this will take the calorie content up even higher.
Since you want to be vigilant of the amount of calories you are taking in each day for weight loss, a good rule of thumb is to find a shake that gives you as close to around 100 calories per serving as possible, while still filling you up and providing a good amount of nutrients.
Moving on to the amount of protein per serving, 9g is in our opinion not enough to be an effective meal replacement shake. Protein is a vital necessity in weight loss, with studies showing that higher protein diets are successful in helping improve body weight management.2
A good rule of thumb for a meal replacement shake is about 14g – 20g of protein per shake serving. In general, protein is needed to promote a feeling of satiety, provides vital nutrients, and can help to boost metabolism in the body. At only 9g of protein per serving, we would bet that this shake isn’t going to keep you full enough to last you until your next meal.
Another issue with this shake is the type of protein used, which is milk protein concentrate and soy protein isolate. The milk protein is okay, but there has been a lot of controversy surrounding too much soy in your diet, and studies that say it may cause health issues including hormone disruption in men and women, and even fertility issues.3
Though the evidence is not conclusive and there are mixed opinions as to whether soy is harmful or safe, in our opinion it is best to veer on the side of caution and stay away from it.
Another thing we see wrong with this shake being a meal replacement shake is the incredibly low amount of fiber at less than 1g per shake serving! Good meal replacement shakes will contain around 5g of fiber per shake serving.
This is because fiber is necessary for both weight loss and a healthy diet. Fiber keeps your digestive system on track, creates a feeling of fullness, and helps your body remove toxins.
We would definitely like to see a higher amount of fiber in the Original Ensure Shake in order to be effective for weight loss, weight management and a healthy lifestyle.
This is an area where the Ensure Shake does a good job, providing a nice nutritional profile with a mix of vitamins and minerals in each shake serving.
Many meal replacement shakes do not contain enough vitamins and minerals even though you are replacing a meal with that shake, which is not good for a healthy, balanced lifestyle and long-term weight loss program.
The Original Ensure Shake provides 26 essential vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants and “25% of the daily value of B vitamins to support brain health” according to their website. Other vitamins and minerals in the shake include vitamins A, C, D, E and K, and minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, copper and folate.
Sugar/Artificial Sweeteners including Maltodextrin, Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium – All May Lead to Weight Gain
Moving onto sugar and artificial sweetener content, this is another area where this shake really misses the mark! With 15g of sugar per shake serving, that amount is far, far too high, especially considering that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the maximum amount of added sugars consumed in a day should be 37.9g for men and 25g for women!4
If you’re using this drink as a meal replacement shake, you are going to drink it 1-2 times per day, meaning that you will consume 15g-30g of sugar just from this shake –which on the high end is already close to or more than the recommended amount!
Sugar, in general, stimulates the secretion of insulin, a fat storage hormone in your body and causes you to gain weight.
Also concerning is that the second and third ingredients listed on the label (after water) are corn maltodextrin (an artificial sugar), and sugar. The fact that they are so high up on the list means that there is a good amount of them used, and that is not good news.
A little more about maltodextrin…studies show that consuming this ingredient can result in side effects similar to many food additives including allergic reactions, possible weight gain, bloating and flatulence. Studies also show that sugary maltodextrin may promote the growth of unhealthy bacteria which can damage the intestine and increase the risk of inflammatory disease.5
The shake also contains liquid sucralose (Splenda), an artificial sweetener which studies show may lead to negative health consequences including weight gain, GI problems, migraines, blurred vision and even seizures.6
Finally, the shake also contains acesulfame potassium (also known as acesulfame K or Ace-K, which is basically a calorie-free sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, with a not so favorable reputation. Though it’s considered safe by the FDA, other sources disagree.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) there is evidence that acetoacetamide (created in the body when it breaks down Ace-K) can result in thyroid damage in lab animals.7
Not exactly a winning combination of ingredients! Also, we have to pose the question, with the sugar content already so high at 15g per serving, why even the need for the artificial sweeteners? Either way, this is a potentially toxic mess of ingredients that could wreak potential havoc on your health.
Another Controversial Ingredient: Carrageenan
The label for the Original Ensure Shake also shows that carrageenan is included – a thickening agent derived from red algae or seaweed. Though this ingredient is currently found in many different types of foods including some yogurt, dairy alternatives (like almond milk) and protein powders, it is highly controversial, especially as of late.
According to the Cornucopia Institude, animal studies have shown that food-grade carrageenan can cause gastrointestinal inflammation, higher rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations and even malignant tumors. Research also shows that many individuals that have any type of GI symptom, from bloating to severe bowel disease found relief after eliminating carrageenan from their diets.8
Though other sources still state that carrageenan is a safe food-grade agent, the research is enough for us to at least insist that you use caution when cosuming anything with this ingredient (especially when it’s a shake you’ll be using every day).
The Company Behind Ensure Protein Shake
Ensure is a well-known company with products that they say promote healthy living. They offer a variety of shakes with the purpose of providing daily nutrients that they claim are beneficial for healthy living, weight loss and even weight gain.
Ensure shakes cannot be purchased on the Ensure website but they can be purchased online from retailers including Amazon, Target and Walmart. You can also purchase them in stores including Walgreens, Costco and some local grocery stores.
On Amazon, the ready-to-drink shakes go for about $35.00 for a pack of 24 ($1.46 per shake serving). This is on the lower cost end for meal replacement shakes, however, 24 shakes will not last you a whole month, so you would have to buy two packs in order to replace one meal a day with an Ensure Shake.
Ensure Shake Conclusion
In summary, we did not find this shake choice to be a good option for meal replacement or even for just a daily health shake. In terms of the meal replacement, it has high calories, low protein, low fiber, and high sugar.
Although the shake does have a nice amount of vitamins and minerals included in each shake serving, the high sugar content would really throw off a healthy, balanced lifestyle, especially when you consider you may want to replace two meals with shakes per day. Plus, too much sugar in your diet can lead to weight gain!
Finally, there are more than a few questionable/controversial ingredients included in this shake, including maltodextrin, sucralose, acesulfame potassium and carrageenan, that we think you would be better off completely excluding from your diet! And studies show that artificial sweeteners can also lead to weight gain.
While some people liked the taste of Ensure Shakes in user reviews, many others claimed the taste was too sweet, probably due to both the high sugar content and the artificial sweeteners used.
In our opinion, take a look at our site for other meal replacement shake options before you settle on this shake, simply because we do not think that it is a healthy or wise option for daily use.
- 2 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25926512
- 3 – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/08/the-dirty-little-secret-hidden-in-much-of-your-health-food.aspx
- 4 – https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-sugar-per-day/
- 5 – http://www.livestrong.com/article/502241-the-risks-of-maltodextrin/
- 6 – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/02/10/new-study-of-splenda-reveals-shocking-information-about-potential-harmful-effects.aspx
- 7 – http://www.healthline.com/health/is-acesulfame-potassium-bad-for-me
- 8 – https://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CarageenanReport-2016.pdf
1Nutritional information from https://ensure.com/nutrition-products/ensure-original/vanilla-shake. Accessed 5/22/17. Maltodextrin, Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium, and Carrageenan.