Glucerna Ingredients: Good for Diabetes?

Glucerna is one of the few drink products meant for people with diabetes to help control blood sugar. And some diabetes care providers may recommend it as part of diabetes diet. But when taking a closer look at the Glucerna ingredients, its carb content and artificial additives don’t convince us that this is helpful for diabetes.

We do a deep dive on the ingredients and tell you what we like, what we don’t like, and why you may want to think twice about adding Glucerna to your diet.

What is Glucerna

Glucerna is a nutrition shake meant for people with Type 2 diabetes. It includes their proprietary CARBSTEADY® blend of slow-release carbohydrates designed to minimize blood sugar spikes.

Glucerna drink

Diabetes care providers may recommend Glucerna for people with diabetes because it can be a convenient snack or meal replacement and could help with managing blood glucose.

Glucerna Nutrition Label

According to Glucerna, below is the nutrition information for one 8 fluid ounce serving.

Amount per ServingDaily Value (%)
Calories16 g
Total Fat9 g12%
Saturated Fat1 g5%
Trans Fat0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat4 g
Monounsaturated Fat4 g
Cholesterol<5 mg<2%
Sodium210 mg9%
Total Carbohydrate16 g6%
Dietary Fiber4 g14%
Total Sugars4 g
Added Sugars4 g8%
Protein10 g 20%

Glucerna Ingredients

The main ingredients are: Water, Milk Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil.

Less than 2% of: Glycerin, Fructose, Corn Maltodextrin, Soy Protein Isolate, Short-chain Fructooligosaccharides, Corn Oil, Soluble Corn Fiber, Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Phosphate, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Cellulose Gel, Salt, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Chloride, Acesulfame Potassium, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Ferrous Sulfate, Gellan Gum, Sucralose, Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Copper Sulfate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Phylloquinone, Sodium Molybdate, Biotin, Vitamin D3, and Vitamin B12.

What’s Good

The benefits of Glucerna for diabetes is it has a decent amount of vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins and Minerals

One serving of Glucerna has 100% DV of Vitamin C, 60% DV of Vitamin D, and 40% of Vitamin E.

Vitamin C is a key antioxidant, Vitamin D supports the immune system, and Vitamin E protects against cell damage.

A serving of Glucerna also has 50% DV of Chromium, which helps maintain normal blood sugar levels.

It also has 20% – 25% DV of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, and Zinc. These are all essential minerals for good health.

vitamins and minerals list of Glucerna drink

What’s Bad

However, there’s quite a few ingredients in Glucerna that make it an unhealthy or poor option for diabetics.

Mainly Carbs

Even though Glucerna boasts it has “slow-releasing” carbohydrates, the ingredients are still mostly carbs that can increase blood sugar.

One serving has 16g of total carbs or 12g net carbs, which is more carbs than a cup of apples. Balancing carbs and diabetes is hard enough so a shake with as much carbs as fruit doesn’t seem like the best option if you’re trying to lower blood glucose levels.

Plus, the carb sources in Glucerna come from different food additives like those below. While all these additives are considered safe, they’re highly processed ingredients that offer little nutritional benefits.

  • Corn Maltodextrin: is used as a thickener but has a high glycemic index and can spike blood glucose.
  • Glycerin: is a sugar alcohol that can be made from plants or animal sources.
  • Acesulfame potassium: is an artificial sweetener.
container of maltodextrin on table

Glucerna Ingredients Use Seed Oils

The other unhealthy part of Glucerna is that it has canola oil and corn oil, which are both industrial seed oils.

Seed oils are highly processed oils made from seeds (canola is from the rapeseed) through a process using solvents and chemicals. Also, seed oils like canola oil are high in omega-6 fatty acids that are pro-inflammatory, which can lead chronic inflammation.

bottles of seed oils on table with backlight

Altogether the process to make seed oils strips much of the nutrients but leaves chemicals, oxidized byproducts and trans fats.

Low Protein

Glucerna does offer protein but at only 10g of protein per serving, which is not that impressive.

Protein is an important macronutrient because they play many vital roles in supporting cell structure, DNA replication, transporting molecules and more. The recommended daily intake is about 1g of protein per 1 kg of bodyweight so it’s generally helpful to have protein in each meal.

But the 10g of protein in Glucerna is not very high, especially if you’re drinking it as a meal replacement. You’re much better off using protein powder, which have a lot higher grams of protein per serving and are mostly low in carbs.

Our guide on the best protein powders for diabetes includes powders with high-quality protein sources, health benefits and won’t spike blood glucose.

Glucerna Alternatives

Below are a couple nutritional shakes similar to Glucerna that you may have heard of and a quick comparison to see how they stack up.

Glucerna vs Ensure

ensure drink bottle

Ensure is another nutrition shake that isn’t specifically meant for people with diabetes but is pretty similar to Glucerna.

It has similar carb content (10g per serving) and similar ingredients (including the unhealthy additives). And it’s even made by the same company, Abbott.

The one small difference is Ensure is higher in calories at 220 calories per serving, while Glucerna has 190 calories per serving. The extra calories could make it a better meal replacement.

ingredient list of ensure drink
Ensure ingredients list

But because there’s not much difference between the two, Ensure is not much better than Glucerna as far as trying to control blood sugar.

Glucerna vs Premier Protein

premier protein drink container

Premier Protein is a ready-to-drink protein shake that is sometimes recommended by healthcare providers.

The main advantage of Premier Protein is it has 30g of protein per serving, which is three times more than Glucerna. It’s also lower in calories than Glucerna even though it comes in a larger 11 oz. serving size.

nutrition label of premier protein drink
Premier Protein nutrition label

Keep in mind though, Premier Protein also includes artificial additives and unhealthy seed oils like Glucerna. But if you had to choose between the two, Premier Protein has the added benefit of more protein than Glucerna.

Summary

Even though Glucerna is called a “nutrition shake,” the carb content and ingredients don’t make it a good option for your diabetes management plan.

An 8 oz. serving has 10 g of carbs, which should be lower if it’s really meant to help people with diabetes control blood glucose. And the carb sources are from highly processed, artificial ingredients that aren’t known to be healthy.

We understand that nutrition shakes and drinks can be a convenient meal replacement, especially when you’re short on time or energy. But the added convenience shouldn’t replace ingredients that are high quality and help make controlling blood sugar easier.

Eating whole, minimally processed foods are generally a healthier option for people with diabetes. But if you need something quick, you’re better off using protein powders that are high quality and low in carbs including powders good for diabetes.

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