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Here’s What’s Actually Inside The McDonald’s Shamrock Shake

It's green, minty, (debatably) delicious, and absolutely not health food.

Last updated on July 3, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. ET

Posted on March 16, 2018, at 4:28 p.m. ET

Every March, McDonald's reissues its infamous mint-flavored "Shamrock Shake" to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Caroline Kee / BuzzFeed News

And some people are really excited about it!*

im at work but im daydreaming about infusing vodka into a Shamrock Shake

*The Shamrock Shake is very contentious on social media. But whether you hate it or love it, the green milkshake is basically a March tradition.

Fun fact: It's probably older than you are (it first debuted in 1970), so it seems that some people love them enough for McDonald's to keep bringing the shake back year after year.

But what's actually inside this bright green drink?

instagram.com / Via mcdonalds.com

The current version is made with reduced-fat vanilla soft serve, whipped light cream, and "Shamrock Shake syrup," according to McDonald's. The soft serve and whipped cream are both made with lots of milk, cream, and sugar, and some preservatives. The flavored syrup is chock-full of high-fructose corn syrup, and, unsurprisingly, various dyes and flavors to make it extra minty and green. The shake does not contain actual shamrocks.

A small Shamrock Shake has 460 calories, a medium has 560 calories, and a large shake has 800 calories. Obviously, these numbers might change if you decide to skip the whipped cream — but there aren't many other adjustments you can make. The vanilla soft serve and shamrock syrup are premade, so you can't really ask to swap the whole milk out for soy or almond, for example.

McDonald's tagline for this frothy green goodness is "cool, minty & full of luck." By that criteria, the luckiest ingredient of them all? Sugar! While using reduced-fat vanilla soft serve and the "light" whipped cream may cut the amount of fat, it does not decrease the jaw-dropping amount of sugar in these shakes.

A medium Shamrock Shake has 78 grams (or about 20 teaspoons) of sugar. That's a lot of sugar.

Let's see how that measures up to other sugary food and drinks:* One 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew has 46 grams of sugar.* One Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar has 24 grams of sugar.* One grande Unicorn Frappuccino has 59 grams of sugar.* One 5-ounce bag (4 servings) of Haribo Gummy Bears has 72 grams of sugar.
Weixx / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

Let's see how that measures up to other sugary food and drinks:

* One 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew has 46 grams of sugar.

* One Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar has 24 grams of sugar.

* One grande Unicorn Frappuccino has 59 grams of sugar.

* One 5-ounce bag (4 servings) of Haribo Gummy Bears has 72 grams of sugar.

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That said, the other McDonald's shake flavors (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla) have similar amounts of sugar. So the Shamrock Shake isn't particularly bad compared with its peers.

Vanilla has the least amount of sugar out of all the shake flavors (72 grams in a medium) and strawberry has slightly more. Personally, I always thought the Shamrock Shake was a vanilla shake with green food coloring, so it must be the added minty "Shamrock Syrup" that adds the sugar. Chocolate has the most sugar out of all the shakes (89 grams in a medium and 122 grams in a large).
Fcafotodigital / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

Vanilla has the least amount of sugar out of all the shake flavors (72 grams in a medium) and strawberry has slightly more. Personally, I always thought the Shamrock Shake was a vanilla shake with green food coloring, so it must be the added minty "Shamrock Syrup" that adds the sugar.

Chocolate has the most sugar out of all the shakes (89 grams in a medium and 122 grams in a large).

But keep in mind that one Shamrock Shake has nearly *two and a half times* the maximum amount of added sugar that's recommended per day.

Sugar in your diet can be either be naturally occurring or added. Naturally occurring sugars are found in things like fruit (as fructose) and dairy (as lactose). "Added sugars" are any sugars or syrups that get added to food during processing, preparation, or at the table. Now, no single ingredient is "good" or "bad," and there's nothing wrong with a bit of sugar. But experts do recommend limiting added sugar when possible because consuming too much sugar is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.One Shamrock Shake, any size, is still more added sugar than the upper recommended limit for any given day. (The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25–36 grams of added sugar per day, or 6–9 teaspoons.) Even the small shake (which has 63 grams of sugar) is two times the daily recommended limit. And the large size (which has 113 grams of sugar) has almost FOUR TIMES the upper limit.
virtustudio / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

Sugar in your diet can be either be naturally occurring or added. Naturally occurring sugars are found in things like fruit (as fructose) and dairy (as lactose). "Added sugars" are any sugars or syrups that get added to food during processing, preparation, or at the table.

Now, no single ingredient is "good" or "bad," and there's nothing wrong with a bit of sugar. But experts do recommend limiting added sugar when possible because consuming too much sugar is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.

One Shamrock Shake, any size, is still more added sugar than the upper recommended limit for any given day. (The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25–36 grams of added sugar per day, or 6–9 teaspoons.) Even the small shake (which has 63 grams of sugar) is two times the daily recommended limit. And the large size (which has 113 grams of sugar) has almost FOUR TIMES the upper limit.

That said, if you're in the St. Patrick's Day spirit or you have a big sweet tooth, go for it — one shake probably won't hurt.

Author's note: I had never tried a Shamrock Shake before, so I went out and got one to drink while I wrote this article. I thought it tasted like melted ice cream mixed with toothpaste, but to each their own. At least it didn't turn my mouth green.
Caroline Kee / BuzzFeed News

Author's note: I had never tried a Shamrock Shake before, so I went out and got one to drink while I wrote this article. I thought it tasted like melted ice cream mixed with toothpaste, but to each their own. At least it didn't turn my mouth green.

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