Ensure meal replacement drink
Body,  Nutrition

Product Review: Ensure Meal Replacement Drink

I learned something deeply disturbing a couple weeks ago that has spawned a new series for you. I’ll be reviewing popular products to let you in on exactly why popular doesn’t mean healthy. These products are actually highly toxic and/or bad for your health.

First up? Ensure meal replacement drinks.

When I learned these are recommended to cancer patients, I was appalled. Find out why…

Ensure Nutrition Facts

Let’s start with the facts. These images are pulled directly from the company website as of 1/9/2020.

Quite frankly, there’s so much wrong here that I’m not sure if we should start with the ingredients or the nutrition label. So let’s go head first. Buckle up!

The Main Ingredients

I’m using the milk chocolate flavor as an example. It’s the first on the flavor list on their and popular in general.

First up? Water. Okay, fine. But that’s maybe the only fine thing here.

Corn maltodextrin: Highly processed, almost certainly GMO corn, a hidden source of sugar

Quite frankly, this is already enough for me to discount this product as something I would never buy or consume. But let’s go on, shall we?

Sugar: Also almost certainly GMO and well, sugar

Milk protein concentrate: A highly processed ingredient that contains 40-90% milk protein, including all the proteins in dairy that tend to be inflammatory

Vegetable oils: Worse than cigarettes, highly inflammatory and damaging

Soy protein isolate: I take issue with soy because is messes with hormones, particularly estrogen. Protein isolate is also highly processed.

Cocoa powder: Most likely GMO

Next comes a slew of vitamins and minerals. The source of these is a large concern. But like I said, the main ingredients are more than enough to discard Ensure as nasty non-food.

Let’s skip to the end…

Nonfat milk: A few things here. First, this milk is almost certainly from factory farmed cows, an industry that should never be supported and produces low-nutrient, toxic food from unhealthy animals. Second, nonfat milk has lost the most valuable component of the milk — the fat! And third, milk from cows can be highly inflammatory due to the proteins in it.

Cellulose gel: Not really a food

Natural & artificial flavors: Not nearly as natural as it sounds… Artificial flavors are typically petroleum based. And while natural flavors originate from a natural substance, they are so highly processed that nothing about the finished product is recognizably natural. This is also a big red flag that whatever food product has flavor added to it needs enhancement to taste good. Or in other words, the product tastes as nasty as the ingredients are not really food, and they have to cover it up.

Cellulose gum: Again, not exactly food

Soy lecithin: The soy used is almost certainly genetically modified.

Monoglycerides: A widespread emulsifier, there is no safe level of this ingredient even though it is used broadly in processed foods. Monoglycerides are a byproduct of oil processing. For the food additive, this is usually partially hydrogenated oils like canola and soybean. These oils contain trans fat (which is the type of fat that’s not good for your health). However, the FDA labeling regulations on trans fat only apply to triglycerides. That means monoglycerides and diglycerides can contain trans fat that isn’t listed on the nutrition label [1].

Carrageenan: Emulsifier extracted from seaweed that has no nutritional value. Quality can be a concern here, too. Carrageenan is potentially an inflammatory ingredient and just really isn’t food.

Turmeric color: Maybe the only redeeming thing in this entire product

Acesulfame potassium: Also known as Ace K, this artificial sweetener is bad news. Studies have demonstrated a potential link in lab animals between Ace K and the development of multiple cancers. And long-term exposure to Ace K can cause nausea, headaches, mood problems, impaired liver and kidney functions, and eyesight problems — on top of the aforementioned cancer links.

Sucralose: Another artificial sweetener, also known by the brand name Splenda. Studies have shown that sucralose may disrupt gut bacteria [2]. Also, when sucralose is broken down in the body, it can build up in your fat cells to do who-knows-what [3]. Literally, we don’t actually know.

Red 3: Causes cancer in animals [4]. No thanks.

The Nutritional Value

If the ingredients aren’t enough to make Ensure a deeply disturbing meal replacement option, especially if being recommended to cancer patients, then let’s talk nutritional value.

Calories to me are a non-issue. I don’t count calories. If you’re eating real food when you’re hungry, you’ll get what you need. But I’ll save that soapbox for another day.

The total fat content is low. 6 g of fat is not enough for a satisfying meal. Fat is what fuels your brain and body. And for how low the fat content is, the carb content is high. 33 g of carbs, where almost half (15 g) comes from sugar? Yikes! And only 1 g of fiber? Not good odds. It’s also important to note that 14 g of the 15 g of the sugar are added sugars, not sugar inherently from an ingredient like fruit.

One of the bragging points of Ensure is the protein content: 9 g per serving. That’s not bad, but not good enough for a meal. And the source of protein is going to be those milk-based highly processed ingredients. A rule of thumb for the average person is 30 g of protein in each of your 3 daily meals. So one serving of Ensure gets you about a third of the way there.

The Verdict?

In short? Nobody should be drinking this stuff. It’s not food. There’s limited nutritional value. Ensure contains many highly inflammatory, toxic, and questionable ingredients that are just not worth the risks.

You’re better off eating real food or making a smoothie from real food if you really wanna drink something nutritious.