Ensure Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Protein shakes in different flavors
Protein shakes in different flavors.

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Ready-to-drink nutritional shakes such as Ensure and Boost are a convenient way to add additional nutrients to the diet, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are made with a combination of milk protein, sugar, and oil, and are widely available at grocery and convenience stores.

Some people use nutritional shakes as a meal replacement while on-the-go. They can also be used to support nutrition after surgery or when appetite is low, and some people use them as a weight loss aid. Read on to learn more about Ensure nutritional shakes, and how they compare to other brands.

Ensure Original Nutrition Facts

One single-serve bottle of Ensure Original is 8 fl. oz. and contains 220 calories. As a nutritional shake, Ensure contains 27 essential vitamins and minerals, and can be used as a nutrition booster in addition to regular meals and snacks. It comes in milk chocolate, dark chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, butter pecan, coffee latte, and banana nut flavors.

The following nutrition information for one single-serve bottle of Ensure Original Vanilla is provided by Abbott Laboratories, the makers of Ensure.

  • Calories: 220
  • Fat: 6g
  • Sodium: 210mg
  • Carbohydrates: 33g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugars: 10g
  • Protein: 9g

Ensure is also a good source of 27 essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, iron, and all of the B-vitamins (detailed below).

Carbs

There are 33 grams of carbohydrate in an 8 fl. oz. bottle of Ensure. Of those 33 grams of carbs, 10 grams are sugar. The carbohydrates come from the ingredients corn maltodextrin and white sugar.

While it may seem like a lot of sugar, 10 grams is equal to 2.5 teaspoons, which is a reasonable amount given the additional benefits from protein, vitamins, and minerals. To compare, a 12 fl. oz. can of soda contains 37 grams (over 9 teaspoons) of sugar, with no protein, vitamins, or minerals.

Ensure Original contains just one gram of fiber, which likely comes from corn maltodextrin. To enhance the sweet flavor, Ensure Original also contains the artificial sweetener sucralose.

Fat

The fat in Ensure Original comes from a blend of different vegetable oils, including canola and corn oil. One bottle of Ensure Original contains 6 grams of fat, with the following breakdown:

  • 1g saturated fat
  • 0g trans fat
  • 2g polyunsaturated fat
  • 3g monounsaturated fat

Overall, Ensure Original is low in saturated fat and higher in better-for-you polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.

Protein

The protein in Ensure Original comes from milk protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, and nonfat milk. Both milk and soy protein contain all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and are considered good quality protein sources.

Vitamins and Minerals

Ensure Original is fortified with 27 different vitamins and minerals. An 8 fl. oz. bottle of Ensure Original contains:

  • 10% daily value for potassium and chloride
  • 20% daily value for phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin K
  • 25% daily value for vitamin A, thiamine, folate, vitamin B12, biotin, choline, calcium, iron, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, and chromium
  • 30% daily value for riboflavin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, and zinc
  • 35% daily value for molybdenum and niacin
  • 40% daily value for vitamin D
  • 50% daily value for vitamin E
  • 80% daily value for vitamin C

Calories

One bottle of Ensure Original contains 220 calories. It is considered a nutrient-dense food, which means you get a lot of nourishing vitamins, minerals, and protein for a relatively small number of calories. In Ensure Original, 58% of the calories come from carbs, 16% come from protein and 25% are from fat.

Similar Beverages from Other Brands

Boost and Muscle Milk are other popular brands of nutritional shakes. Here's how they compare based on one bottle of vanilla-flavored drink:

  Ensure Original  Boost Original  Muscle Milk Zero 
Calories  220  240  100
Fat  6g  6g   1g
Sodium  210mg  150mg  170mg
Carbs  33g  37g   6g
 Fiber 1g  0g   4g
Sugars  10g  15g   0g
Protein  9g  10g  20g

Similar to Ensure, the Boost shakes also have 27 vitamins and minerals. Muscle Milk is not as heavily fortified and is only a source of calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and D. Note that Muscle Milk Zero is a "zero sugar" product and is sweetened with sucralose, whereas Boost contains sugar, glucose syrup, and stevia. As noted above, Ensure contains sugar and sucralose.

Health Benefits

Nutritional shakes such as Ensure Original or Boost are meant as a meal replacement or convenient snack. They can also be used when your normal food intake is compromised, such as when you have dental work or surgery or are unable to have solid food at your meals.

Whole food is generally a better option than nutritional shakes, which are ultra-processed. But when needed for short-term use, nutritional shakes can be very helpful for these reasons:

May Help with Cancer Recovery

Some people with cancer may develop swallowing problems, low appetite, or weight loss due to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. The American Cancer Society recommends nutritional shakes when you are unable to eat enough food to fill your nutrition requirements.

Note that nutritional shakes are generally high in sugar, which some people believe "feeds" cancer. While there is no research to support this claim, some research does support the link between high sugar intake and elevated cancer risk. However, many cancer patients need high-calorie, high-protein, easy-to-consume options, which is why nutritional beverages such as Ensure or Boost may be helpful.

Offers Support After Dental Surgery

Oral surgeries such as wisdom teeth removal or jaw wiring can greatly reduce food intake. Soft or liquid diets are required in these cases, and nutritional shakes are recommended as a convenient way to get protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Can Support Parkinson's Disease

People with tremors caused by Parkinson's disease may burn more calories because of the involuntary shaking movements, and may lose weight as a result. People with Parkinson's disease may also have trouble swallowing. Sipping on nutritional shakes can help add calories and nutrients between meals to help combat weight loss.

Helps Combat Malnutrition

Nutritional shakes may be used by older adults with malnutrition, decreased appetite, chewing problems, swallowing problems, dry mouth, muscle wasting, dehydration, or other medical issues. The shakes add fluid to the diet to combat dehydration and provide protein and other nutrients to protect muscles and bones.

It's a Convenient Snack

Nutritional shakes are non-perishable and portable, making them a convenient on-the-go snack or mini-meal.

May Assist with Weight Loss

Some evidence shows that using calorie-controlled nutritional shakes can help with weight control. When used as a meal replacement, a nutritional shake may be a successful weight loss strategy in people with obesity, though it may not help them keep weight off in the long term.

Allergies

Ensure Original contains milk, corn, and soy, so it is not suitable for people with these allergies. Ensure Plant-Based Protein Shakes are free of dairy and soy. They use fava beans and peas as the protein source and are suitable for people with dairy or soy allergies.

Varieties

There are many different Ensure beverages to meet different nutritional needs. These include:

  • Higher Calorie: Ensure Plus with 350 calories and 16 g of protein
  • Higher Calorie, Higher Protein: Ensure Complete with 350 calories and 30 g protein
  • Dairy and Soy-Free: Ensure Plant-Based with 180 calories and 20 g of plant-based protein from fava and peas
  • Higher Calorie, Higher Protein, Lower Sugar: Ensure Protein Max with 350 calories, 30 g protein, and just 1 g sugar
  • Clear Liquid: Ensure Clear with 180 calories and 8 g protein in a clear, fruit-flavored liquid

Boost and Muscle Milk also come in a wide variety of options. You can work with a health care professional to figure out which variety is right for you.  

How to Use

Nutritional shakes such as Ensure are ready-to-drink and come in single-serve bottles. Ensure Original also comes in powder form, and you can add water to make your own beverage.

14 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  12. McGill, B., Grunseit, A. C., Phongsavan, P., Harper, C., & O'Hara, B. J. Meal replacement soups and shakes: do they have a place in public health practice to manage weight loss?Public health research & practice, 2021. 31(1), 30012002. https://doi.org/10.17061/phrp30012002

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