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Why milkshake is unhealthy?

Milkshakes are a popular drink that many people enjoy as an occasional treat. However, on a regular basis, milkshakes can be very unhealthy due to their high sugar and fat content. In this article, we will examine why milkshakes are considered unhealthy and should only be consumed in moderation.

High calorie count

One of the main reasons milkshakes are unhealthy is due to their very high calorie count. A typical 16 oz milkshake from a fast food restaurant contains between 500-1,000 calories. To put this into perspective, the recommended daily calorie intake for an average adult is 2,000 calories. This means that a single milkshake can provide up to half of your total daily calories!

Consuming high calorie foods and drinks on a regular basis can lead to weight gain over time. Additionally, the calories in milkshakes are considered “empty calories” as they provide lots of energy with little nutrition. They lack the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients your body needs.

High sugar content

In addition to being high in calories, milkshakes are also packed with sugar. A 16 oz milkshake can contain up to 130 grams of sugar, which equates to more than 30 teaspoons worth. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men. Just one milkshake exceeds this limit.

Consuming excessive amounts of added sugar has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and tooth decay. Sugar causes a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash which can leave you feeling tired, irritable, and hungry again soon after. This can lead to overeating and weight gain over time.

Contains unhealthy fats

Most milkshakes are made with ice cream, which contains significant amounts of fat, especially saturated fat. Saturated fats have been shown to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels which increases the risk of heart disease. A 16 oz milkshake can pack in between 15-25 grams of fat, with about 10 grams coming from unhealthy saturated fats.

Milkshakes made with whole milk are even higher in saturated fat. Health authorities recommend limiting saturated fats to no more than 13 grams per day. Just one milkshake can surpass this amount.

Minimal nutritional value

When examining the nutrition facts of a typical milkshake, you’ll notice that they contain very little in the way of beneficial vitamins, minerals, protein or fiber. All the calories come from simple sugars and fat with barely any micronutrients.

This makes milkshakes a prime example of an “empty calorie” food. While tasting delicious, they offer minimal nutrition. Eating too many empty calorie foods can lead to micronutrient deficiencies over time. It’s best to get most of your daily calories from wholesome, minimally processed sources.

Can lead to inflammation

There are now studies showing that excessive consumption of added sugars and saturated fats can trigger chronic low-grade inflammation in the body. This type of inflammation has been linked to a higher risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.

The combination of high sugar and saturated fat found in milkshakes is the perfect recipe for stimulating inflammatory pathways. Having the occasional milkshake likely won’t cause major problems, but regularly drinking them could contribute to inflammation.

Often high in preservatives and artificial ingredients

When you purchase a milkshake from a restaurant, drive-thru or pre-made in the grocery store, it will likely contain preservatives and artificial stabilizers, emulsifiers, colors and flavors. This long list of artificial ingredients can negatively impact health, especially with regular consumption.

Some common additives found in milkshakes include carrageenan, artificial colors (Red #40, Yellow #5, etc), mono and diglycerides, carboxymethylcellulose, and natural and artificial flavors. It’s best to avoid highly processed foods with chemical additives.

May increase risk of acne and skin issues

There are a number of ways milkshakes could negatively impact the health and appearance of your skin. The surge of sugar can increase insulin levels and stimulate oil production, potentially leading to breakouts.

The lactose and whey found in ice cream and milkshakes may also worsen acne in people with sensitivities. Additionally, milkshakes mix dairy with high glycemic foods like sugar, chocolate and ice cream, which some dermatologists warn against.

For optimally clear skin, it may be prudent to cut back on foods like milkshakes which spike blood sugar and insulin while delivering compounds that exacerbate skin issues. Moderation is key.

Often paired with unhealthy fast food

Milkshakes have become a popular item paired with fast food meals. Places like McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s all offer milkshakes as an option alongside burgers and fries. Not only are the milkshakes themselves unhealthy, but they are typically consumed as part of an overall meal high in calories, fat and carbs.

Getting a milkshake with your fast food can cause a meal to go from bad to worse in terms of nutrition and health impact. The pairing of fatty, sugary shakes with burgers, nuggets, hot dogs and fries makes for a combination that promotes weight gain and negative metabolic effects. It’s best to avoid this double serving of junk food.

Can spike cholesterol levels

There is evidence that just a single meal high in saturated fat and sugar can cause short-term spikes in cholesterol levels. Over time, these temporary spikes may lead to chronically elevated cholesterol and greater risk of heart disease.

Milkshakes deliver a one-two punch when it comes to this effect. The large amount of ice cream delivers high saturated fat, while the added sugary syrup or chocolate impact carb counts. This combination could very well acutely elevate cholesterol for several hours after consumption.

Those with risk factors for high cholesterol or heart disease should be especially cautious about milkshake consumption and perhaps avoid them altogether.

Promotes overeating and larger portion sizes

Milkshakes are often served in very large sizes, sometimes up to 40 oz at certain restaurants. Not only are milkshakes unhealthy to begin with, but consuming them in massive quantities only compounds the issues. This amount of thick, sugary liquid requires much time to drink, which can lead to mindless overconsumption.

Additionally, the cold temperature of milkshakes reduces the sensory signals for fullness. People often end up drinking more calories via thick shakes than they would from eating the same foods blended into the shake. Over time, overconsuming large milkshakes promotes weight gain.

Can impact gut bacteria

Emerging research shows that high sugar, high fat, low fiber diets can negatively alter the balance of bacteria in your gut. This includes decreasing beneficial species while allowing potentially harmful bacteria to flourish.

While occasional milkshakes likely won’t cause major disruption, frequently consuming them as part of an overall low fiber diet may impact gut microbiome composition over time. This could potentially have implications for digestions, immunity, inflammation and even mental health.

Often triggers headaches

Milkshakes are a prime suspect when it comes to dietary triggers for headaches. Both the sugar spikes and cold temperature of milkshakes are commonly reported to provoke debilitating brain freeze-type headaches in susceptible individuals.

If you notice that milkshakes reliably trigger headaches, it’s a good sign that your body is giving you feedback to avoid them. Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel. Regular milkshake enjoyment may not be worth the pain for those prone to spikes, ice cream headaches and migraines.

Can irritate digestive issues

Many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or other chronic digestive issues report problems after consuming milkshakes. The combination of lactose, sugar alcohols and high fat can cause unpleasant symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhea and gas.

Additionally, those with gut conditions often have difficulty breaking down and digesting FODMAPs, which are short chain carbs found in milk and ice cream. If you have ongoing gut health issues, milkshakes containing dairy are best minimized or avoided altogether.

Often made with low quality dairy

Much of the ice cream used in fast food and pre-made milkshakes comes from conventionally raised cows. These cows are often fed low quality feed like corn and soy while living in crowded, stressful conditions. Many are treated with hormones and antibiotics.

This results in lower quality milk that is more prone to containing traces of hormones, drugs and inflammatory compounds. For the healthiest milk-based shakes, opt for those made from organic, grass-fed, hormone-free dairy whenever possible.

Can lead to metabolic disorders

Emerging research shows there may be ingredients in milkshakes and other ultra-processed foods that directly promote metabolic dysfunction. This includes obesity, high blood sugar, diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Scientists are beginning to suspect that certain emulsifiers, thickeners and artificial sweeteners used in milkshakes could alter gut bacteria and interfere with appetite regulation. These modern food additives allow us to create hyper-palatable foods that are difficult to stop eating after just one.

These metabolic disorders are reaching epidemic proportions, and reducing intake of processed foods like milkshakes may be an important part of reversing these trends.

Ingredient Potential health impact
Added sugars Obesity, diabetes, inflammation
Saturated fat Heart disease, high cholesterol
Artificial ingredients Allergies, gut issues
Dairy Acne, digestion problems
Large portion sizes Overeating, weight gain

Lacking in nutrient density

When choosing foods and planning your diet, it’s important to maximize nutrient density. This means getting vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients with the least amount of calories, sugar and fat. Milkshakes are extremely low in terms of nutrient density.

They pack a huge calorie load with minimal beneficial nutrition. Compare a milkshake containing 700 empty calories to 700 calories worth of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. The latter provides an abundance of antioxidants, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber that your body needs.

For good health, make it a priority to focus your diet around the most nutrient dense foods while limiting empty calorie sources like milkshakes.

Often triggers cravings for more junk food

Milkshakes are often consumed alongside other indulgent, highly processed junk foods. The sugar bomb of a milkshake can stimulate the reward centers in your brain, making you crave more gratifying snacks. They are often a “gateway” into an evening or weekend of overeating chips, candy, ice cream, pizza and other crave-worthy treats.

If you notice that milkshakes trigger cravings for more sugary, high calorie fare, your brain is showing you that these foods are best avoided most of the time. Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel, not just taste.

Contains carrageenan

Many commercial milkshakes contain an additive called carrageenan to help thicken and stabilize the drink. Carrageenan is a highly processed ingredient derived from seaweed. Studies have raised concerns over potential gut health impacts.

Some research indicates that carrageenan may cause inflammation, digestive upset and permeability (“leaky gut”) of the intestinal wall. There are also concerns over the impact of carrageenan on gastrointestinal cancers.

Due to these potential issues, avoiding milkshakes and other processed foods containing carrageenan is likely the wise choice until more definitive research is conducted.

Often made with low quality chocolate

Chocolate milkshakes are a popular choice, but they are often made with low quality, highly processed chocolate containing few beneficial antioxidants. Cocoa is actually a very healthy ingredient, but commercial milk chocolate contains only a small percentage of actual cocoa.

Most of the chocolate in milkshakes is made with alkali processed cocoa, which has a neutralized pH. This destroys many of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in cocoa linked to health benefits. For better nutrition, make chocolate shakes at home using high quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content.

Promotes childhood obesity

Childhood and adolescent obesity has reached truly alarming rates in recent decades. Children now face chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes at very young ages, likely due to diet and lifestyle factors. Milkshakes have certainly contributed, becoming a popular “sometimes food” that is now consumed far too often.

The amount of sugar, calories and fat in a typical kids sized milkshake is excessive, especially when paired with other fast foods. If you choose to occasionally let your child have milkshakes, the portions should be small and consumption limited to a once in a while treat.

Addictive potential

Between the sugar content and hyper-palatability, milkshakes have an addictive quality. People enjoy the endorphin rush and dopamine hit provided by consuming these rewarding foods high in sugar and fat. Over time, people can develop significant cravings for these feel-good shakes.

If you notice that you get strong urges to drink milkshakes or just “need” to have one on a regular basis, it may signal an unhealthy addiction. In these cases, it’s best to avoid them altogether. Intermittent indulgences can help curb cravings without promoting dependency.

Often made with low quality ingredients

The ice cream used in most fast food, pre-made and some restaurant milkshakes is far from premium quality. It’s made from cheaper ingredients like low grade dairy, gums and emulsifiers, cheap vegetable oils, artificial flavors and colors.

This allows companies to produce ice cream at a lower cost. But these ingredients offer poor nutrition for your body compared to shakes made with wholesome real food ingredients like organic milk, cream, eggs, real fruit, etc. Always check the ingredient list and choose the highest quality shaken possible.

Contains hydrogenated oils

Many milkshakes contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats. This is due to the use of cheaper hydrogenated vegetable oils in the ice cream. Trans fats are produced by adding hydrogen to liquid oils to make them more solid.

However, trans fats are known to increase systemic inflammation, raise LDL cholesterol, and contribute to heart disease risk. The WHO calls for complete elimination of trans fats from the global food supply. When buying milkshakes, check labels to make sure they’re made without hydrogenated oils.

Healthier milkshake alternatives

If you enjoy milkshakes but want a healthier option, there are many ways to satisfy your cravings with more nutritious ingredients:

– Make your own at home with organic whole milk, yogurt, fruit and a small amount of organic cane sugar or honey.

– Use avocado or banana as a creamy base instead of ice cream.

– Boost nutrition with spinach, kale, peanut butter or other mix-ins.

– Swap the artificial syrups for real frozen fruit and a dash of vanilla extract.

– Choose grass-fed dairy or non-dairy milks like almond or oat milk.

– Limit portion sizes to 8-12 ounces instead of mega-sized shakes.

– Add nutritious mix-ins like chia seeds, flaxseeds, wheat germ or collagen peptides.

– Opt for 80% or higher dark chocolate instead of sugary milk chocolate.

– Use coconut cream instead of ice cream for a dairy-free option.


Milkshakes can be an enjoyable occasional treat, but regular consumption in large amounts can negatively impact your health and waistline. The high amount of sugar, excess calories, saturated fat, artificial ingredients and lack of nutrition make milkshakes more of a junk food than a healthy choice.

If you currently drink milkshakes frequently, try gradually cutting back to only once in a while. Be mindful of portion sizes. When cravings strike, make a shake at home with wholesome ingredients in moderation. Your body will likely thank you by feeling lighter and more energetic. Just remember that sensible indulgences are ok, but milkshakes should not be a daily dietary staple.