St. Patrick’s day is Tuesday March 17th and that means two beverages will be on the top of Bostonian’s list:

1.  Guiness.

1.  McDonald’s shamrock shake.


Unfortunately for both, they contain at least one ingredient that is cause for health concern.  The list of harmful ingredients is much longer for the annual McDonald’s beverage.  The McDonald’s shamrock shake has fifty four ingredients in it.  This may not be too alarming on the surface, until the layers are peeled back and it is more visible what each main ingredient is composed of.  You can see the full list of ingredients on the McDonald’s website.

Main ingredients in Shamrock Shake:

*Reduced fat vanilla ice cream. ( contains carrageenan)

*Shamrock syrup. ( Contains two ingredients that are banned in Norway, Finland, Austria and Belgium, Yellow #5 and Blue #1)

* Whipped cream.

* Maraschino cherry.

One ingredient in particular found in the reduced fat vanilla ice cream, carrageenan, has been recognized as potentially hazardous to consumer’s health.  In an article review done by Joanne Tobacman in 2001 at the University of Iowa College of Medicine titled ” Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects From Carageenan in Experiments with Animals”, Tobacman found that in 1982 The International Agency for Research on Cancer cited enough evidence that consumption of foods containing carageenan posed a carcinogenic risk to humans potentially leading to gastric ulcerations and/or neoplasms. Are we still ” Lovin it ?” Even with the findings from IARC carrageenan is still widely used as a substitute in many foods in the United States.  Consumption of any of the other additives and preservatives in the recipe are still very much a concern.  Processed foods aren’t natural and are harder for the human body to process.  Extra work for the digestive system will take a toll over a life time.  Tobacman’s review of research found that exposure to carrageenan is a possible factor in contracting inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer.  The review does cite that the higher the exposure the more likely the incidence of contracting a disease.  Clearly the occasional ice cream sundae or shamrock shake won’t instantly kill anybody.  It is wise to seek alternative foods whenever possible wth fewer harmful ingredients.

Least we overlook the quantity of calories that are in a large shake.  A 190 lb male would have to run at 6 MPH for over 60 minutes in order to burn off the 820 calories that would get consumed in under ten minutes.  Doesn’t sound like a smart or fair trade off.


Calorie breakdown in a large:  

820 calories

23 grams of fat

15 grams of saturated fat (73% of RDA)

1 gram on trans fat

115 grams of sugar ( Over 3x amount the AHA recommends consuming per day)

High fructose corn syrup, which may be the biggest nutrition villain of them all currently, is a main ingredient in the whipped cream that tops the shamrock shake.  HFCS’s rap sheet is long to say the least.  It’s biggest crime is being linked to the obesity epeidemic.  In an article from 2004 titled ” Consumption of high fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the obesity epidemic,”  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that the increase of HFCS consumption coincides with the outbreak of the obesity epidemic, and indicate a direct correlation with calorically sweetened beverages with HFCS.

The list of unhealthy ingredients goes on but rather than vilify McDonald’s turning attention to healthy alternatives is a much more ” fruitful” pursuit.  Consumers have the power to make choices every day what to put in their bodies and the mouths of their children.  It goes without saying making a home made and healthier version of this cult classic beverage can go along way towards preserving health.  Indulging in a beverage similar to the shamrock shake every once in a long while won’t bury anybody.  Regular consumption of the above mentioned ingredients and other preservatives in the shamrock shake will lead to inflammatory responses in the digestive system.  Inflammation is the cause of many health issues in the body including acne, ADHD, blood sugar imbalances and many more.  Now, let’s turn the focus from unhealthy to healthy with a homemade nutritious and delicious alternative to the McDonald’s shamrock shake.

Recipe courtesy of Chocolate Covered Katie.

* 1 large, frozen banana

* 1 palm full of cacoa nibs or chocolate chips

* 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract

* 2/3 cup – 1 cup milk of choice.  If dairy free then full fat coconut will make a nice think smoothie consistency.  The fats from coconut are medium chained digested easier and more readily available to be used as an energy source for the body.  Almond milk is also an option. ( Homemade almond milk is very easy to make.)

* 1/4 cup frozen spinach

* Optional:  2-3 slices of an avocado go well with the  almond milk version

Blend until smooth and enjoy without having to run 6 MPH for over an hour.  Vanila whey protein can also be added and serve as a very good post workout drink.  Wellcoin users can earn Wellcoins two ways after reading this post.

1.  Using a healthy recipe.

2.  Choosing a healthy beverage.


1.  Huffington Post article.  ” The Shamrock Shake.  What’s Really In McDonald’s St. Paddy’s Day Drink?” Posted 3/15/2013 by Chris Spurlock.

2.  College of Medicine University of Iowa, Iowa City.  Review of Harmful Gastrointentinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animals by Joanne K Tobacman.  Volume 109, number 10 October 2001.

3.  American Heart Association,, Sugars 101.


5.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  ”  Consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup in Beverages May Play a Role in the Obesity Epidemic.  George A Bray, Samara J Nielsen, and Barry M. Popkin.  October 2003.







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