Posted on: September 23, 2016 at 9:03 am
Last updated: August 20, 2020 at 10:33 am

Coffee is a worldwide breakfast staple, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But for the coffee-lovers that are getting their fix on the go, it’s important to be careful about what kind of drinks they’re buying. Starbucks is an extremely popular choice for their sheer number of options available- unfortunately, most menu options have hidden GMO ingredients and a jaw-dropping amount of preservatives, sugar and salt. 


Starbucks and GMO foods

‘In the past two years alone, Starbucks has been a part of a GMA-led coalition that has donated more than $70 million dollars to defeat GMO labeling efforts in California and Washington State,’ said a spokesperson for Food Democracy Now. ‘By opposing GMO labeling, Starbucks has willingly climbed in bed with Monsanto and the GMA and is intentionally misleading customers about their commitment to sustainability and ethical sourcing.’  

It’s a heavy statement and is certainly warranted. Considering that they have over 23,000 stores in 64 different countries, Starbucks has a huge influence on farmers.


Most recently the group has been attempting to prevent GMO foods being labeled as GMO to consumers in California and Washington. Two years ago they failed to prevent Vermont passing the first measure of this kind, which came into law in July of this year. Act 120 now ensures that all GMO products or ingredients must be clearly labeled, in order for the consumer to make their own decision to use the product. Since the bill passed, early indications suggest that GMO foods sales have decreased significantly.

Although Vermont is a much-needed success story, Monsanto, Starbucks and the GMA have, thus far, successfully prevented the passing of similar acts in 30 other states, at an expense far exceeding $100 million. Big business and big cheques are undermining the very fabric of democracy.

Starbucks’ milk currently comes from factory farmed cows, usually owned by their partner Monsanto. These cows, like the majority in the dairy industry, are kept in terrible conditions, pumped with unnatural antibiotics and fed GMO grains. According to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) in 2011, Starbucks used over, ‘93 million gallons of milk per year, enough to fill 155 Olympic-sized swimming pools.’

Considering their continued growth over the past five years it is likely that the figure today would be even higher. Their continued desire to quash legislation that calls for the labeling of GMO foods equates to an awful lot of people consuming them without their prior knowledge.


Dangers of Common Ingredients

Sugar Addiction

Our diets should only have about 6-9 teaspoons of sugar every day; this is about 24-36 grams, half the amount in a Unicorn Frappuccino.  The health risk of consuming too much sugar is overwhelming. Diets with too much sugar see a greater risk of:[iv]

  • Weight gain
  • Cavities
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Death

Watch this Dr.Axe video which shares even more about the dangers of sugar:

Too Much Salt

Salt fills the American diet — this is a concern for the elderly, those with high blood pressure, and people with diabetes.

Salt also causes trouble for your kidneys which must deal with extra sodium in the bloodstream.

Our blood vessels also have trouble with extra salt as more water fills our veins to dilute the sodium in our blood, putting pressure on our circulatory system which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. [v]

Potassium Sorbate

The Unicorn Frappuccino is filled with ingredients that contain Potassium sorbate, a preservative that stops bacteria, fungi, mold, and yeast. Large quantities can lead to allergic reactions leading to symptoms like itchy mouth, throat, eyes, and skin, as well as congestion, runny nose, and abdominal pain.

Potassium sorbate can also lead to migraines which can result in other problems like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. [vi]

Juice Concentrate

This is processed fruit juice which has an increased shelf life and is made because it can be shipped easier. However, nutrients are lost in the process as the fresh juice is extracted through evaporation and filtration techniques.

Like most juice, it is also high in sugar which can be an issue for your pancreas, and for diabetics. Additionally, if these juices are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup it may increase your chances of diabetes, and acid reflux disease while irritating ulcers. [vii]


Dextrose is made from starchy vegetables and turned into monosaccharides which are essentially sugars. Is dextrose bad for you? The answer is yes: This sugar is pure energy which often can’t be used quick enough by the body and is turned into fat as a result. Dextrose has many of the same effects as sugar and is associated with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. [xiv]

Since dextrose is a product of GM corn people who eat these products may putting themselves at risk.[viii] Dr. Mercola worries that when you eat GM corn and products containing the GM product you are allowing it to cause problems with your health as it sits in your gut and affects the good and bad bacteria in your digestive tract. [ix]

Worst Starbucks Drinks To Avoid: Other Calorie Filled Drinks

Other than the unicorn frappuccino, there are many other sugary and unhealthy drinks at Starbucks you may want to avoid such as: [xi] 

  1. Double Chocolatey Chip Cream Frappuccino – for a grande cup, you’re adding 420 calories to your diet. This drink includes milk, whipped cream, frappuccino syrup, mocha chips, and mocha sauce (this contains corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, cocoa, potassium sorbate).  
  2. Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino– for a grande cup, you’re adding 370 calories to your diet. This drink includes milk, cream frappuccino syrup, strawberry base, whipped cream, and the classic syrup (this contains sugar, water, citric acid and potassium sorbate).
  3. Java Chip Frappuccino– for a grande cup, you’re adding 470 calories to your diet. This drink includes milk, coffee frappuccino syrup, whipped cream, mocha sauce and frappuccino chips.
  4. White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino– for a grande cup, you’re adding 520 calories to your diet. This drink includes milk, coffee frappuccino syrup, coffee, whipped cream and white chocolate mocha sauce.
  5. Caramel Coco Cluster Frappuccino– for a grande cup, you’re adding 450 calories to your diet. This drink includes milk, coffee frappuccino syrup, whipped cream, coffee, caramel sauce and mocha sauce.

Best Starbucks Drinks Under 150 Calories (Tall)

Thankfully, there are still healthier and safer options left on the Starbucks menu, if you’re still craving your morning cup. Instead of drinking sugary, fattening drinks filled with calories, try these tasty alternatives instead: [x]

  1. Caffe Americano (you can also get this iced) (11 calories) –  made with a shot of espresso and topped with hot water.
  2. Caffe Misto with Soy (63 calories) –  a combination of brewed coffee and steamed soy milk. You can substitute this for almond milk as well.
  3. Cappuccino (91 calories) – an espresso, heated with soy milk.
  4. Teavana Shaken Black Iced Tea (30 calories) – just tea which means you can afford to lightly sweeten it with sugar. [xiiii]
  5. Teavana Sparkling Berry Sangria Herbal Tea (120 calories)-  if you know you want to splurge on a Starbucks drink, opt for this, one of many alternatives that is better than those fattening frappuccinos. [xii] 

[i] Commons J. This is how much sugar is in a Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino. Evening Standard. 2017. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.

[ii] Journey A, Coke S, us C et al. Coca-Cola Sugar In A 330ml Can | FAQ | Coca-Cola GB. Coca-colacouk. 2017. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.

[iii] Unicorn Frappuccino® Blended Crème. Starbucks Coffee Company. 2017. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.

[iv] Corliss J. Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease – Harvard Health Blog. Harvard Health Blog. 2016. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.

[v] Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium. The Nutrition Source. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.

[vi] Nnama H. Adverse Health Effects of Potassium Sorbate. LIVESTRONGCOM. 2011. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.

[vii] Mayo Clinic Staff. High potassium (hyperkalemia) When to see a doctor – Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.

[viii] Vance S. What is Dextrose and Why it’s in Your Food. LIVESTRONGCOM. 2010. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.c

[ix] Daily Mail Reporter. Is GMO CORN making you sick? How one woman discovered that the widely-used ingredient caused her insomnia, chronic nausea and headaches. Mail Online. 2013. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.

[x] S, L. (2011, December 29). 15 Delicious Drinks All For Less Than 150 Calories. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from

[xi] Starbucks Frappuccino® and other blended drinks. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017, from

[xii] (n.d.). Teavana® Sparkling Berry Sangria Herbal Tea. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from

[xiii] (n.d.). Teavana® Shaken Iced Black Tea. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from

[xiv] Vance S. What is Dextrose and Why it’s in Your Food. LIVESTRONGCOM. 2010. Available at: Accessed April 25, 2017.

[xvii] (n.d.). Caramel Light Frappuccino® Blended Coffee. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from

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