Earlier this month I opened a can of worms on Facebook posting about one of Australia’s leading meal replacement companies and the toxic nature of their ingredients. The response was viral – eighty thousand of you commented, shared, abused and applauded this post and it was clear how polarising the topic of meal replacements shakes can be.
To help clarify my stance, and continue to spread the real food revolution, let’s dive in deeper and find out why you need to say no to meal replacement shakes and just eat real food.
To start, here are the ingredient lists of two of the most common (and controversial) brands:
Exclusive Myo-IsaLean Complex™ [whey protein concentrate (undenatured), milk protein concentrate (undenatured), low-heat nonfat dry milk], fructose, natural dutch cocoa powder, isomaltooligosaccharide powder, sunflower (Helianthus annuus) oil powder, natural flavors, olive (Olea europaea) oil powder, xanthan gum, flax (Linum usitatissimum) seed powder, medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil powder, Ionic Alfalfa™, potassium citrate, magnesium oxide, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, magnesium citrate, enzyme blend [lactase (from Aspergillus oryzae), lipase (from Rhizopus oryzae), cellulase (from Trichoderma longibrachiatum), invertase (from Saccharomyces cerevisiae), protease (from Aspergillus oryzae), amylase (from Bacillus subtilis), bromelain (from Ananas comosus), papain (from Carica papaya), acid stable protease (from Aspergillus niger)], silicon dioxide, yucca (Yucca schidigera) root powder, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), magnesium stearate, psyllium seed powder, biotin, selenium amino acid chelate, Lactobacillus acidophilus,cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) powder, stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) leaf extract, vitamin E succinate, copper amino acid chelate, vitamin A (beta carotene), zinc oxide, manganese amino acid chelate, iodine amino acid chelate, niacinamide, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), chromium amino acid chelate, niacin, molybdenum amino acid chelate, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), folate (folic acid).
Soy Protein Isolate, Fructose, Cellulose Powder, Corn Bran, Artificial French Vanilla Flavour, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Caseinate, Caesin, Rice Fiber, Soy Lecithin, Canola Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Carrageenan, DL-Methionine, Inulin, Magnesium Oxide, Silicon Dioxide, Licorice Flavour, Natural Vanilla Flour, Ginger Root Powder, Psyllium Husk Powder, Citrus pectin, Proteases Derived from Aspergilius niger and Aspergilis oryzae (from Aminogen©), Honey Powder, Ascorbic Acid, DL-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, Papaya Fruit Powder, Blueberry Powder, Pomegranate Powder, Biotin, Niacinamide, Beta Carotene, Ferrous Fumarate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Gluconate, Cromium Chloride, Sodium Molybdate and Sodium Selenite.
Hopefully the answer is already clear. The truth about meal replacement shakes is that they are highly artificial, inflammatory, and potentially toxic. To make it crystal clear, let’s break down a few of the common ingredients and the reasons why meal replacement shakes are definitely not the answer to your health and weight loss goals.
- Fructose. Fructose is highly inflammatory, blood sugar spiking and addictive, just to start. The addition of fructose is nothing short of ironic – these products are marketed as the ultimate weight loss solution and fructose has now been proven to be one of the leading causes of obesity worldwide.
- Refined Seed Oils. Oils such as sunflower and canola are extremely high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are highly inflammatory, toxic, and like fructose, a leading cause of obesity. Keeping a positive balance of omega-3 to omega-6 oils is an extremely important nutritional consideration. Catch up here in Anti-inflammatory nutrition: the key.
- Soy. Soy contains high levels of phytoestrogen, which creates an estrogenic (high estrogen) environment and as a result, lowers natural testosterone levels. Common symptoms include body fat accumulation, lowered libido and increased risks of infertility and cancer. In addition, soy contains goitrogens, compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine efficiently, a significant contributing factor to hypothyroid issues.
- Excess carbohydrates. The majority of low calorie products are high carbohydrate and low fat, as fats are more than twice the calorie per gram. Excess carbohydrates will create an insulin spike and immediately blunt the utilisation of fat. Physiology 101. We need good fats to provide nutrient density for energy, satiety and hormonal control – the keys to permanent fat loss.
- Artificial and GMO ingredients. Low heat nonfat dry milk? Corn bran? Carrageenan? Need I say more?!
A note on low calorie
It’s not about eating less and exercising more. It’s about real food. Catch up on why you need to throw your low fat and low calorie products in the bin here.
Fat loss and behavioural change
One of the most important considerations with regards to fat loss, is creating long term behavioural change. Meal replacement shakes do not teach meal planning, basic culinary skills or time management to allow for the prioritisation of grocery shopping and food preparation. They may provide short-term results, but I ask you to consider what will happen when you stop forking out hundreds of dollars per month for artificial convenience?
The old “but I don’t have time” excuse
If you wake up ten minutes early, you will have time for a nutrient dense whole food based breakfast. If you schedule an hour or two for food prep on the weekend, you will have lunches for the week. It’s not about having time, it’s about making time. “You always have time for what you put first”.
The perspective on fortification
When food products are fortified, they are usually devoid of nutrients in the first place. If you eat real food, fortification is no longer necessary. It’s as simple as that.
What will you choose, natural whole foods plus a small investment of your time, or the chemical laden convenient (read: lazy) option?
Need help transitioning to a real food lifestyle? Find out more about my consultation and program options here. Let me show you how easy natural nutrition can be.