There are certain circumstances in which a person’s body needs Ensure, and other times when it should be considered junk food.

“When I used to work at a Veteran’s hospital, some patients would be prescribed Ensure for their needs,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, whose specialties are nutrition counseling, weight loss and medical nutrition therapy.

“Nutritional drinks like Ensure are usually recommended for people who are clinically malnourished.

“These types of people have experienced unintentional weight loss, have a hypermetabolic disease, have difficulty eating solid foods or do not eat enough calories to sustain their needs.

“In cases of malnutrition, Ensure shakes (and those like it) can be essential to achieve better health. Malnutrition is diagnosed by a registered dietitian and/or doctor.

“For the general population, Ensure shakes are generally not needed, because it’s best to get your nutrition from foods that have lean protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals,” in their natural state.

“If you’re an overall healthy person consuming an overall healthy diet, think of Ensure as a dessert.” It’s no healthier than a slice of fudge cake.

Ensure As a Meal Replacement for Non-Malnourished People

Kostro Miller explains, “If people are looking for meal replacement shakes, like those for weight loss, there are plenty of meal replacement shakes on the market.

“Meal replacement shakes tend to be lower in calories, higher in protein and have less sugar than Ensure (depends on the brand).”

When Ensure Can Be a Lifesaver

If you’re 99 pounds, 88 years old and won’t eat anything but Ensure, this liquid candy will help keep you alive.

Shutterstock/Creative Family

But other than that, Ensure is essentially a sugary concoction made in a manufacturing plant, as far removed from nature as a processed food can be.

Ensure is made by Abbott Laboratories. The Abbott site for Ensure lists sugar as a “core ingredient,” and it states:

Sugar: Another carbohydrate source for additional energy.

That’s how they sugarcoat (no pun intended) the reality that Ensure is liquid candy.

Its top ingredients as far as quantity include sugar and corn syrup.

When can Ensure be good for you?

When it’s one of the few things that a sick person who’s losing essential body mass will eat.

Ensure Plus contains 350 calories per bottle. If this is one of the few things that your elderly parent – who’s suffering from depression and loss of appetite – will consume, then give it to him or her to prevent dangerous weight loss.

  • But it won’t do anything to lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke or diabetes!
  • It will not help build muscle or enhance athletic performance or brain function!
  • Ensure is targeted towards active, healthy senior-age people. Fit and active older people do NOT need this liquid candy for health or energy purposes.
  • But of course, it makes a great dessert or sinful mid-day snack.

Why Do Hospitals Give Ensure to Patients?

It’s an easy way to get a lot of calories quickly into a sick patient who’s in danger of losing essential body mass.

And keep in mind that hospitals also have cake, ice cream, cookies, cheeseburgers and hotdogs. Hospitals want their patients to be happy.

  • Eight ounces of Ensure yield 18-23 grams of added sugar and 200 mg of sodium.
  • One little eight ounce can will fulfill a significant amount of the sugar and sodium quota limits set by the American Heart Association.

Should Bodybuilders Drink Ensure?

It’s a cheap source of protein and quick-acting carbohydrates for post-workout recovery.

A muscle-building enthusiast who wants a health-giving diet will clearly see that there are better options. Ensure should be viewed as a “cheat meal” and not as a health drink.

Amanda Kostro Miller has worked with U.S. veterans, people with eating disorders and those with various acute and chronic diseases. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.