In the sphere of health products multivitamins and vitamin supplements have got to be up there as some of the best-selling products which claim to give some sort of health benefit. But there is a rising trend for super green powders and superfood-based supplements which also claim a broad range of benefits.
Suggesting that people are not getting enough nutrition from their daily diet is the general approach to selling these products, so I wanted to take a look at the claims and evidence surrounding the two, to see whether there really can be any advantage or disadvantage to taking either of these supplements.
What are the Super Greens Claims?
The health claims for super greens include: detoxifying effect, increased energy, supported immune system, better-looking skin and improved metabolism, among others.
Broad-spectrum multivitamins tend to suggest general health support in that the specific vitamin and mineral content (although varying) normally meets the daily recommended dose of micronutrients for metabolic support.
These products usually come in a capsule or tablet form, although for infants and young children they can be formulated as syrups or gummy chews (therefore have added sweeteners and gum ingredients). They tend to be a more complete source of daily recommended intake values for the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals.
When it comes to efficacy, or proven benefits, the research on multivitamins is established. But the issue all too often is that we tend only to reach for a ‘cure’ when we are already feeling run-down or actually sick, so the effects of taking a supplement may not be felt immediately, or not until the body is returning to its usual healthy state.
Not only might it be too late, the elements our body actually needs may be available only at ‘trace’ amounts, i.e. too low to be effective or may pass through the body before being properly absorbed (many nutrients need to be taken in tandem with one another for absorption).
We also can’t recommend taking multivitamins or multivitamin powder as a replacement to a food source.
Insufficient Veggies and Fruit in our Diet
Not everyone likes or can swallow capsules or tablets though. According to a recent Harris poll 40% of the US population have difficulty taking pills or tablets, so the powder-in-water form may be the best solution for this large group of consumers.
It is worth considering also the potency of ingredients in a pill or capsule – being as the usual dose for such an item is only about 600mg.
Daily supplementation of health through, for example super greens powders, or foods derived from the whole food, is called ‘functional nutrition’. The idea of this phrase is that the body is better at absorbing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients when they are taken in the whole-form and in a way that most closely resembles how they are found in nature.
But doesn’t this work against the idea of taking a nutritional supplement in powdered or liquid form?
Most Common Found Ingredients in Super Greens
Let’s take a look at the most commonly-found ingredients in super green powders to give an example of how this works. Freeze-dried leafy greens, seaweeds and grasses (which have effects on the body ranging from immunity-boosting to detoxification) are the ‘top’ super food ingredient. They also tend to include fiber-rich plant ingredients, fruit and vegetable powders and contain carbohydrates, protein and amino acids. They can be incorporated into actual foods such as smoothies or yoghurt.
On Examine.com we can find out more about the scientific research that has been done into some of these broader ingredient areas. For example Spirulina (a blue-green algae) is a vegan source of protein, but it also has metabolic properties in that it has been found to improve lipid and glucose metabolism. There is evidence to suggest it may support brain function. 1-8g per day is the recommended dose.
While we might be impressed by the breadth of ingredients available in these products, there’s obviously a cost element too. You might be prepared to pay more for something that you consider to be a ‘whole food’ replacement, such as a super greens powder, your one-stop daily dose of nutrition, multivitamin powders or capsules tend to come in at a much lower price point.
However, for the more value-conscious it is worth remembering that value isn’t all about price, it is about (in this case) ingredients, potency, effectiveness and the amount of what is inside each product.
In an article over at healthline.com I read recently that all too often the blend of these super greens powders can be a ‘proprietary’ blend, so we are not really sure how much of each ingredient is included in the blend. Unless we really know (from the ingredients label) what is inside, we should be wary of believing the health claims.
Similarly, all too often people take super green supplements in the assumption that they must be good for you, without really studying the label, or as a total replacement for a balanced daily diet (one high in fruits and vegetables).
Better Than Multivitamins
So, in summary, it appears that there are added benefits to taking your daily supplement as a super greens powder as opposed to a multivitamin capsule or powder, but you should be prepared to fit them in to your daily routine rather than reaching for a solution when you feel run down.