I’ve been curious about Starbucks protein shakes for a while now.They seem like a healthy meal replacement on the run, but I wondered what was really in them. Starbucks makes three protein smoothie drinks (Chocolate, Orange Mango, Strawberry) and claim on their website that each smoothie is “freshly prepared from four simple ingredients“. This claim is easily debunked when you see that these four ingredients contain their own set of ingredients.
The publicly published ingredients on Starbucks.com are:
Starbucks Chocolate Smoothie: mocha flavored sauce, a whole banana, milk, whey protein and fiber powder, and ice.Starbucks Strawberry Smoothie: natural strawberry puree, a whole banana, milk, whey protein and fiber powder, and ice.Starbucks Orange Mango Smoothie: natural orange mango juice, a whole banana, milk, whey protein and fiber powder, and ice.
A discerning label reader will recognize immediately that if only strawberries were used in their “Natural Strawberry Puree” they would simply state “strawberries”. So, what else makes up the “Natural Strawberry Puree”?
I specifically asked Starbucks this question via email, on the phone with their corporate office, and in person at my local Starbucks. Their response was that the strawberry puree is a proprietary ingredient and they will not disclose it. Starbucks stated in writing that “information beyond what is listed in the menu is proprietary and we are not allowed to disclose that information“. Likewise, they refused to tell me what was in their whey protein powder, fiber powder and mocha-flavored sauce.
A quick Google search led me to some renegade Starbucks ingredient lists, which are somewhat helpful but I cannot be positive that they are authentic. As Starbucks refuses to disclose their detailed ingredients, it’s the best we can do. Let’s break down the real ingredients within the ingredients listed by Starbucks:
Natural Strawberry Puree
Starbuck’s natural strawberry puree reportedly contains “reconstituted strawberry puree, white grape juice concentrate, natural flavors and lycopene for color“. At first glance, this doesn’t sound too bad. Until you learn that the term “natural flavors” is barely regulated by the FDA and is permitted to contain naturally occurring “glutamate” bi-products like MSG , a neurotoxin. The MSG does not need to be labeled when it is naturally occurring, thus the label will just say “natural flavors”. I specifically asked Starbucks if their natural flavors contained “any rice syrup, sweetener, yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, malted barley, gelatin, or glutamates“, and they refused to respond. Am I saying that Starbucks secretly puts hidden MSG in their beverages to make them taste more addicting? I don’t know. They chose not to disclose their top secret list of ingredients, so it is anyones guess!
Natural Mango Orange Juice
Ah, there is that word “natural again! According to what I’ve read, the “natural mango orange juice” that Starbucks uses to make their Mango Orange Smoothies is Naked Juice brand. This is very interesting in light of the fact that Naked was just sued for claims that their juice was falsely advertised as “All Natural”. Naked’s labeling practices have misled some customers and now Naked agreed to pay $9,000,000 to settle and is removing the “All Natural” claim from their labels. Yet, Starbucks is still getting away with calling it natural juice. The term “natural” on a label does not equal healthy. This term is not very well regulated by the FDA, so it means virtually nothing. I looked up the ingredients in this juice on Naked’s website and found that it also contains “natural flavors”. Nice.
Whey Protein Powder
Starbucks uses whey protein isolate to formulate their protein powder. Whey protein isolate is far inferior to whey protein concentrate, and is stripped of many beneficial qualities such as phospholipids, phosphatidylserine and cortisol. Isolate protein is highly processed with heat and acid, and likely contains additives. Starbucks refuses to provide a list of the additives that it contains (if any), but reportedly it also contains “natural flavors”. In addition, processed whey protein isolate powders are generally derived from factory farmed antibiotic-infested cows and often contain genetically modified (GMO) soy lecithin to help them blend well.
Starbucks apparently mixes their proprietary protein powder with chicory root extract. The inulin in chicory root is high in fiber, and is inexpensively added to processed foods (like Fiber One bars) to artificially boost the fiber content. But not to worry. Inulin’s biggest risk is that it makes you fart (seriously, accordingly this study published by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association). My main concern is that regular consumption of chicory root fiber by pregnant women MAY have abortive effects. If you are expecting, take note of this.
It’s no surprise that Starbucks’ secret sauce contains refined sugar as the main ingredient. The refined sugar in the mocha syrup is likely derived from GMO beet sugar, as this is the least expensive form of sugar that is permitted to be labeled simply as “sugar”. It is possible they they use refined cane sugar but they did not respond to my inquiry.
Try my protein smoothie recipes; I freely list the ingredients!
Clearly, we do not know exactly what is in a Starbucks Smoothie. It is possible that they contain GMO ingredients and maybe even hidden MSG. This is why I will not drink them anymore and make one kick-ass smoothie at home that tastes way better anyway. Actually, I make two. I like to use Garden of Life RAW Protein Powder, but a good hemp protein would work as well.
Starbucks is very protective of their ingredient list and refuses to share it with the public
The primary reason I started this website is to share what I’m finding when researching what I’m really putting in my body. This can be difficult when a company flat out refuses to tell you what their ingredients are. There are numerous reports online from other individuals who attempted to get ingredient information from Starbucks with dismal results. I can’t tell you how difficult it was for me to research this article. I firmly believe that Starbucks should be transparent and disclose their complete ingredient list to the public. Below are the exact questions that I posed to Starbucks. I encourage you to ask the same questions. You can contact Starbucks here.
1. What is in the “natural strawberry puree” besides strawberries?
2. Does the puree contain “natural flavorings” and if so, what are those?
3. Does the puree contain any of these – rice syrup, sweetener, yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, malted barley, gelatin, or glutamates?
4. Is the orange mango juice the Naked brand?
5. What are the ingredients in the juice? Does it contain any of these – rice syrup, sweetener, yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, malted barley, gelatin, or glutamates?
6. What are the ingredients in the whey protein?
7. Does they whey protein powder contain any of these – rice syrup, sweetener, yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, malted barley, gelatin, or glutamates?
8. What kind of sweetener is in the whey protein?
9. What are the ingredients of the fiber powder?
10. Does the fiber powder contain soluble or insoluble fiber, or both?
11. Does the fiber powder contain Cellulose?
12. Does the fiber powder contain inulin?”
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