Garden of Life Reviews
Garden of Life Raw Meal Shakes are certified organic, vegan and gluten-free. You can find the shake powders at retail stores including Walmart, The Vitamin Shoppe and Whole Foods.
To help you to make a more informed decision.†
|Soy Free Protein|
|No Artifical Sweeteners|
|Price Per Serving||$2.43||$3.50||$2.55||$1.80||$1.95|
Garden of Life Raw Meal Shake Review
Did you pass a container of Garden of Life Raw Meal Shake at your local department store and now you’re yearning to know more about it? You may be familiar with the Garden of Life brand name while knowing very little about the actual products, and what makes their meal replacement shake different from others in the field…
This review will answer your questions about how this diet shake measures up to other competing products in overall health and weight loss benefits. It will also touch on the essentials such as taste, price, and potential side effects (all based on current Garden of Life reviews). Read on to learn more…
The Garden of Life protein meal shake comes in just four main flavors: Chocolate Cacao, Vanilla, Vanilla Chai and Lightly Sweet (which includes cane sugar, whereas the other flavors include only natural sugar alternatives). Though some users were extremely enthusiastic about the taste of these shakes (especially for plant-based, vegan drinks), the majority expressed their dislike of them. Many of the negative reviews specifically mentioned that they didn’t like the flavor of the shakes, but the texture was the bigger issue. (4)
Some Garden of Life reviews mentioned:
- The texture of the shakes is really thick, like concrete
- Shakes have a chalky taste and grainy texture
- They need to be blended (otherwise there’s chunks of powder)
- They leave a bad aftertaste
- The flavor couldn’t be “covered up” with additional ingredients
Most of the shakes include natural sugar alternatives (such as Erythritol), and if people aren’t used to those, it could be what’s causing the “aftertaste” for some. As for the texture, the ingredients in these shakes are raw, whole foods, which could be adding too much bulk to the drink and preventing that smooth consistency users are seeking.
The reviewers who did like the taste of the Garden of Life Protein shakes mentioned that they mixed them in a blender with other healthy ingredients including banana, almond milk, berries and ice – which could be the key to better-tasting shakes. They also mentioned that they were drinking them more for the health factor and results, not for the taste.
GARDEN OF LIFE RAW MEAL INGREDIENTS
There’s definitely a lot of impressive things about the Garden of Life Raw Meal Shake ingredients, starting with the fact that there’s no gluten, soy, dairy, tree nuts, filler ingredients, artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives in any of them! Great news for vegans.
Another thing about the ingredients is they’re all “RAW” …a new food movement stemming from the notion that food should be eaten in its most natural state, which isn’t cooked. Raw foodies believe that heat and processing destroys nutrients in the foods and can denature proteins. Although there is no doubt health benefits from eating food in the raw, there’s also something to be said about the potential safety (more about that later).
In addition to having RAW ingredients, the Garden of Life Raw Meal Shake is also USDA-Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project verified, and is certified vegan and gluten-free.
Let’s take a look at the Garden of Life Vanilla Shake label to check out the specific details of each shake serving, and what that means for you…
115 Calories Per Serving (Vanilla)
When looking for a meal replacement shake, you want to pay attention to the calories in each serving, because they can add up fast. If there are too many calories in your diet shake, it won’t work to help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. But if there aren’t enough, it won’t keep you full – so you need to find the optimal balance for you. The best number of calories for a meal replacement shake intended to help you lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle is around 100 calories per serving.
This way, you can keep your daily calorie-count nice and low by only having the shake powder with water or low-fat milk (if you have a large weight loss goal). Or, if you’re managing your weight, you can use it to make healthy smoothies by including additional nutrient-rich ingredients. With a protein powder that has around 100 calories per serving as a base, you can add in some higher-calorie ingredients if you chose, such as peanut butter, avocado and Greek yogurt.
The Garden of Life Vanilla Meal Shake has 115 calories per serving, which puts it into a great range for healthy weight management. Many meal replacement shakes contain a higher number of calories per serving (some even in the 300’s), so it’s great that Garden of Life keeps it low, leaving the door open for possibilities, based on your goals. In comparison, our #1 rated meal replacement protein powder, 310 Shake, has an even lower number of calories at 90 per serving – while still providing abundant nutrients.
20g of Protein Per Serving
Another pivotal part of every meal replacement shake is of course the protein used in it. The right amount of protein from the right sources is absolutely critical to a shake that will help boost your metabolism, keep you full and satisfied, help you slim down and build lean muscle.
Research shows that maintaining good protein intake each day is important for your weight loss goals (with an aim of about 30% of your calories from protein, which is at the high end of the usual recommendation of 10-35% daily). The bottom line is, you can quickly and effectively boost your protein intake with the best meal replacement shakes.
Garden of Life shakes contain 20g of protein from a custom blend including the following plant-based organic proteins: pea, sprouted brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, chia seed, adzuki bean, flax seed, garbanzo bean, lentil, pumpkin seed, sesame seed and sunflower seed.
The amount of protein is great, as you want your shake to have between 15-20g of protein per serving, to help you reach your goals. As for the type of protein, a few things stand out. Since it’s all plant-based, it will work for vegans, vegetarians and anyone who is lactose intolerant or has dietary restrictions, so that’s great. There is also no soy, which is a huge plus, as research shows soy protein may be linked to potential negative health effects (since it’s a mostly GMO product and estrogen mimicker once instead your body).
Instead, these Garden of Life Raw Protein Shakes contain nutrient-packed proteins, though we don’t know how much of each is in each serving. We do know, however, that some of the proteins have been shown to work beautifully for weight loss (such as the combo of pea protein with brown rice). Combined, the pair provides an optimal amino acid profile which is better than any solitary plant protein source, and also assists with muscle repair.
However, many of the other proteins in the shake blend are much less well-known, and while they’re definitely nutritious, there’s less evidence in the weight loss realm.
Moving onto the fiber and carbs in each shake, a good general rule (for overall health and weight loss) is for your shake to be well-equipped with fiber while being low in carbs.
Starting with fiber, this ingredient is mostly responsible for filling you up and helping you fight off cravings throughout the day. Since fibrous foods are incredibly satisfying, they can also help suppress your appetite until your next meal – being beneficial for weight loss.
And on the health front, fiber also helps you maintain proper bowel health, and supports your body’s natural toxin removal process. It can even help lower bad “LDL” cholesterol in your body and support heart health.
An ideal amount of fiber for meal replacement shakes is around 5-10g per serving – and the Garden of Life Raw Meal Shakes fall right in the middle of that with 7g per serving. Even though some reviewers said the shakes had a texture that was too-thick, many expressed that the shakes kept them full, and all the fiber bulk is a good reason why.
Moving onto the amount of carbs in each shake, less is more. You want your shake to have a low number of both total carbs and net carbs (especially if you’re following a low-carb diet such as Keto, Atkins, Paleo, etc.). The reason is because research shows that high-fat/low-carb dietary plans are very effective for weight loss and weight management.
And when a shake has low total carbs and net carbs, it helps ensure you stay in line with your daily carb limit while also ensuring you get a good amount of fiber. With 8g of total carbs and only 1g of net carbs (since there are 7g of fiber), the Garden of Life Raw Meal Shakes are a great choice for use on low-carb dietary plans.
< 1g of Sugar
Moving onto the amount of sugar in each shake, this is another extremely important factor to consider. Basically, you want your shake to contain an extremely low amount of sugar (or no sugar at all). Sugar is very addictive, and it provides empty calories since it doesn’t offer any nutrients. Therefore, it’s taking up space that could be used for more nutritious ingredients – and giving you more calories in the process, which could lead to weight gain.
It’s okay to consume sugar in moderation, but most people (especially in the US) eat far too much sugar, and the worst culprit is sugary beverages. When you eat a sugary food, such as cake or cookies, certain hormones signal your brain that you’ve eaten something, but that doesn’t happen with a sugary beverage. This can lead you to consume more calories overall. (1)
In addition to being bad for weight loss, research shows that sugar is simply bad for your health in other ways, such as potentially increasing your risk for heart disease (due to increasing triglycerides, or fat levels in the blood). Having too much of it can also increase your risk for developing diabetes.
Includes Organic Erythritol and Stevia Extract
In light of all that, Garden of Life Shakes impress with less than 1g of table sugar per serving (in their Vanilla Shake). Their Lightly Sweet shake option has 6g of organic cane sugar.
In the other flavors, they use natural sugar alternatives, which are great options to replace actual sugar. Here are some details about what they are…
Erythritol (in the Chocolate Shake): This is a sugar alcohol that’s generally regarded as “very safe”, with minimal side effects. However, you shouldn’t consume this ingredient in large amounts as it could cause digestive issues (bloating and digestive upset). (2)
Organic Stevia Leaf Extract (in the Vanilla and Vanilla Chai Shake): This is a natural sweetener that comes from the leaves of the Stevia plant. It has no calories, and is sweeter than table sugar… However, it may actually help keep your blood sugar levels in check if you have diabetes and lower bad cholesterol in your body. (3)
21 Vitamins and Minerals
Another crucial aspect of the best meal replacement shakes is how many vitamins and minerals are included – which are added to replace the ones you would normally get from a regular meal. In addition, having a nutrient blend in your shake helps ensure you don’t become deficient in any nutrients, especially if you’re dieting and consuming less food in general.
Each Garden of Life protein powder contains 21 essential vitamins and minerals, which is a nice amount, considering many so-called meal replacement shakes don’t contain any. In addition, many of the nutrients are at least 50% of the recommended daily value, including Vitamin B12 (100% DV), and Vitamin D, K, E, Riboflavin, and Folate (all at 50% DV).
In addition to the vitamin/mineral blend, Garden of Life goes a step further with this meal shake, including whole food nutrients in an organic greens blend (alfalfa grass juice, spirulina, barley grass juice, oat grass juice and wheat grass juice).
They also include a raw probiotic and enzyme blend, including healthy bacteria (or probiotics) for gut health (at 1.5 billion CFU per serving), and enzymes to boost digestive processes and nutrient absorption.
CHOCOLATE CONTAINS CAFFIENE
7mg of Caffeine
If you’re a chocolate-lover, keep in mind that the Chocolate Cacao flavored shake contains 7mg of naturally-occurring caffeine, from the raw organic cacao. So, if you’re sensitive to the effects of caffeine, you definitely want to enjoy this particular shake flavor in the morning or early afternoon, to avoid it affecting your sleep.
As with any product, certain ingredients may cause sensitivity in different people and result in some unwanted side effects. Garden of Life reviews on Amazon mentioned that some users experienced uncomfortable effects such as indigestion, gas and constipation after drinking the shakes.
For people who aren’t used to consuming raw, whole foods (especially in a drink that immediately floods your body with nutrients) it could definitely take some time to get used to the additional fiber and other potent ingredients, and you may have a digestive reaction at first. In addition, you may find yourself using the restroom more often as your body adjusts and flushes out toxins. But if you continually experience side effects, then there may be an ingredient that doesn’t agree with your system and you should discontinue use of the shakes. (4)
Garden of Life is quite the giant, well-known brand in the natural products industry, offering a variety of Garden of Life products including Garden of Life protein bars and protein powders, health supplements including Garden of Life multivitamins, fish oil, superfood greens, digestive enzymes, pre-natals, essential oils and more. Their products are USDA and non-GMO project certified, vegan and gluten-free.
While Garden of Life has always been a staple for organic, whole food products, their umbrella company, Atrium Innovations, was bought out by Nestle in 2017. Although this shake review showed a very clean product, many consumers worry that the formulas may change over the years, and start to contain synthetic or non-organic ingredients. (5)
PRODUCT RECALL / REBRANDING
Going back to something we mentioned in the beginning of this review about RAW food products, as with any raw ingredients, there is always the possibility of infected ingredients (since you aren’t heating them up, which kills the bad bacteria). Of course, this is rare, and uncommon, however, in 2016, salmonella was found in the Garden of Life Organic Raw Meal Replacement Powders, leading to an initial recall of product followed by a larger recall. (6)
Since Garden of Life is a big brand and their products are sold in multiple brick and mortar retailers and online, this outbreak was a huge deal. Lab tests showed that at least 33 people in 23 states were infected with the outbreak strain, and tests eventually linked the contaminated ingredient to organic moringa leaf powder.
After the recall, Garden of Life renamed their shake powder to Raw Organic Meal Shake & Meal Replacement and redesigned the product labels.
A 34.2 oz (or 28-serving) container of Garden of Life Raw Meal Replacement in Vanilla is $50.39, (or $1.80 a serving) on the company website. This is a current sale price (which may or may not last), and the original price of the item is $62.99. At that price the shake would be $2.25 per serving.
In comparison to other meal replacement shakes on the market, this is definitely a good price (especially for the quality of the shake). It’s also a very accessible shake, since you can find it online and also at local retailers including Walmart, Vitamin Shop and Meijier.
In summary, the Garden of Life RAW Meal Shakes offer a lot of potential, with one major downside, and that’s the taste and texture. The majority of Garden of Life reviews said that for all of the healthy aspects of the shakes, they just couldn’t stomach the plant-like taste and gritty texture of the shakes. Of course, other reviewers disagreed, and enjoyed the shake powders blended with other ingredients in healthy smoothies.
As for the included nutrients, there’s a great amount of plant-based proteins, sufficient fiber, low carbs, and low sugar (with natural sugar alternatives included). There’s also an array of vitamins and minerals along with additional superfoods and probiotics. And the price point is great.
For some people, the shakes didn’t agree with their stomachs, and they experienced some uncomfortable side effects, but they were the minority; Most people in user reviews had no problems. Finally, this company has had one major recall of their RAW Meal Shake due to a salmonella outbreak in one of the ingredients, followed by a rebranding. Be extra careful with raw products if you’re pregnant or have another medical issue that puts you at greater risk with these types of illnesses.
Finally, before you make a final decision, make sure you compare this Garden Of Life Raw Protein Meal Replacement Shake with other hot contenders in this arena… Check out some below!
Garden of Life Raw Meal Shake Comparison:
1Nutritional information from https://www.gardenoflife.com/catalog/product/view/sku/658010116022. Price per serving calculated from a package price of $50.39 for 28-servings of Vanilla Protein Powder. Accessed 8/2/19.