Greens powders promise to help us reach the recommended five cups of vegetables and fruits each day. They also tout benefits like digestive support, energy enhancement, and disease prevention, which is quite appealing. But do these supplements really deliver? Though they can’t compare to whole foods, greens powders may offer up some potential benefits.
What are greens powders?
Greens powders are made either by dehydrating and crushing whole vegetables, fruits and other ingredients, by juicing them first, then drying and grinding them into a powder, or a combination of both. They generally contain a blend of lots (upwards of 40 or more) of green vegetables, grasses, sea vegetables and herbs. Non-green veggies are often in the mix, along with fruits for additional antioxidants and sweetness. Some brands add natural sugar substitutes, probiotics, and fiber.
Because greens powders are supplements, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means ingredients, quality and serving size may be questionable. Make sure the manufacturer is a trusted source and look for brands that are certified through a third-party testing laboratory.
Different ingredients between brands means different nutritional values, but a serving (one scoop, which is about two tablespoons, or 10 to 12 grams) of greens powders is likely low in macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs), dietary fiber, sodium and sugars, but a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and K, iron, zinc and folate. Keep in mind, greens powders are not a replacement for whole vegetables and fruits, as research shows that processing vegetables and fruits diminishes some of the nutrients and health-promoting compounds.
How to use them
The simplest way to use greens powders is to mix it into liquids like water, milk, juice and broth or blend it into smoothies, yogurt and hot cereals. They’re also an easy add-in to scrambled eggs, frittatas, soups and stews, sprinkled over roasted or sauteed vegetables and whole grain side dishes, or mixed into sauces, dips and dressings. They do, however, cost significantly more than whole vegetables and fruits.
It’s always better to consume whole vegetables and fruits, but supplements like greens powders may help increase nutrient and overall vegetable intake. The best approach is to combine them as part of a healthy lifestyle and diet that’s also rich in whole vegetables and fruits.
Environmental Nutrition is written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition.