Meal replacements have become a popular source of nutrition for those who need to refuel between classes, work meetings, trips to the gym and more. They generally come in the forms shakes, powders and snack bars, and they provide essential nutrients to your body when you don't have the time to prepare a full meal. Three brands -- Boost, Ensure and Soylent -- have emerged as the leading figures in this industry when it comes to meal replacements, but this begs the question: which of these three should you be consuming?

What Is Boost?

protein drink in a glass with protein powder on the side

Boost was created by Nestle Health Science to nourish patients suffering from a variety of medical issues, where it evolved into a popular meal replacement for the general masses. While Boost comes in a variety of flavors, it is most notable for its nine specialized formulas, such as "Original," "High Protein," "Glucose Control," and "Calorie Smart." While nutritional value varies from drink to drink, a serving of its original "Very Vanilla" formula contains 240 calories, 10 grams of protein and 26 different vitamins and minerals, although it does contain 20 grams of sugar. Boost is beneficial due to its vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, which lead to healthier bones, a stronger immune system and gaining or maintaining weight. Consuming Boost too frequently, however, can lead to health problems such as diabetes and heart disease due to the high sugar count.

What Is Ensure?

ensure energy drinks on a shelf

Ensure has a line of eleven different meal replacement powders and nutritional shakes. Ensure products are designed according to age, meaning children, adults and seniors can all find something that fits their nutritional needs. Ensure products come in flavors such as milk chocolate, dark chocolate, butter pecan, vanilla and strawberry, all while boasting varying levels of protein, sugar and antioxidants. An original Vanilla Ensure contains 220 calories, nine grams of protein and 15 grams of sugar. Ensure has a variety vitamins and minerals to hit those dietary needs, while also being gluten-free for those suffering from celiac disease. Unfortunately, Ensure is also filled with over 45 ingredients that are synthetic, such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners and GMOs, which can have negative impacts on your health over time. The high sugar count, much like Boost, can lead to diabetes and heart disease if consumed too frequently or in extremely high doses.

What Is Soylent?

meal replacement powder in a cup

Soylent comes in powder form you add to water, in premade drinks or as a snack bar. Soylent products use ingredients that are plant-based and they provide 20 percent of daily calcium, iron, Vitamin C and other nutrients. While Soylent carries a steep 400 calories per serving, it is low in saturated fat, includes just nine grams of sugar, and boasts 20 grams of protein per bottle. The natural meal replacement is deemed as a food product by the Food and Drug Administration rather than a meal replacement. While it does carry the lowest sugar count of the three brands, excessive consumption of Soylent can lead to weight gain, an upset stomach and an increase in blood sugar levels.

Which Should You Be Drinking?

Soylent appears to be the best all-around option when it comes to meal replacements -- the use of natural ingredients, low sugar content and high protein count make it great for loading up on essential nutrients and avoiding taking in too much sugar. Soylent not only refrains from using as many unhealthy fats and sugars, it also avoids the use of synthetic ingredients that Boost and Ensure use, meaning you're consuming only natural, organic ingredients with no added preservatives. The only instance in which you might want to look at Boost or Ensure is when counting calories, as Soylent's 400 calories-per-serving might seem a bit steep for some. Otherwise, Soylent appears to be the ideal meal replacement on the market.

soylent products with varying flavors

Of all three meal replacements, the one that proves to be the most nutritious with the least side effects is Soylent. One of the things that put this drink at the top of the list of meal replacements is its multitude of all-natural ingredients, and its remarkably low sugar content as a result. In addition, it has more protein than Boost and Ensure combined, and has less than half of the sugar of Boost. While most meal replacements are capable of helping an individual meet their calorie quota for the day, drinks like Boost and Ensure utilize more unhealthy sugars, fats, and synthetic ingredients to do so, while Soylent's ingredients help provide just as much nutritional benefit as a substantial meal would. Although Soylent is undoubtedly much higher in calories, those extra numbers don't compare to its content, as the lower calories in Boost and Ensure can't discount their high sugar and sodium content. Ultimately, Soylent is a healthier option above Boost or Ensure for its naturally-derived content, its lower levels of unhealthy and processed ingredients, and its high standards in comparison to a genuine, physical meal.

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