Are meal replacement shakes a good option if you’re too busy to eat but still want to be healthy? I’ll compare popular shakes to whole food meals for nutrition and cost. Subscribe to Nourishable at
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You’re looking to meal replacement shakes because you’re too busy to eat, but you still want to be healthy. How do shakes compare to whole food meals nutritionally? We’ll look at a McDonald’s Big Mac with fries and a coke, a salad with quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber and almonds in a balsamic vinaigrette or a homemade blueberry banana smoothie with spinach, greek yogurt, almond butter and almond milk versus 6 shakes: Isagenix, Shakeology, Ka’Chava, Ample, Soylent and Arbonne. All these shakes are healthier than the McDonalds when looking at calories, saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. They taste like dessert using added sugar or sweeteners like stevia. Added sugar is anything from honey and organic raw cane sugar to nectars and fructose. Naturally occurring sugars in the blueberries offer sweetness and beneficial nutrients. The salad and smoothie? No added sugar. These shakes? Anywhere from 8 to 22% of your added sugar cap. The salad had the most fiber, with the homemade smoothie, Ample, IsaGenix and Ka’Chava being pretty equivalent, followed by Shakeology, then Soylent and Arbonne. Adults should be aiming for 30g/day of fiber, and most Americans are only getting half of that. Fiber enhances satiety, stabilizes blood glucose, reduces cholesterol, keeps you regular, and nourishes the microbiome. High fiber diets reduce some types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. All these shakes have some fiber, but the way that they were processed means that they don’t have many different types. The superfood blends of fruits and veggies were processed into juice extracts which removes all the fiber. Many add back fibers like gums, inulin or resistant maltodextrin. The best evidence we have shows that diverse fiber intake supports a diverse microbiome, and diverse microbiomes are the healthiest. Shakes inevitably have less fiber diversity than a smoothie. Supplementing individual nutrients is less beneficial than consuming them in whole food. Some include digestive enzymes which seems unnecessary. The McDonalds meal was the most expensive. Ample was the priciest shake, with Shakeology and Ka’Chava more expensive than the homemade smoothie, and IsAgenix, Soylent and Arbonne less. Meal replacement shakes are generally a healthier option than a fast food meal, but not whole smoothies or balanced meals. Replacing meals every once in a while is okay but there are equivalently convenient whole food options that would be better.