90 percent of Americans do not consume the recommended daily amount of two cups of fruits and three cups of vegetables (1).
Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies require to function properly and be healthy.
Similar to how protein powders exist to help individuals hit their daily protein intake, greens powders serve to help you meet your daily recommended vegetable intake.
Every greens powder product claims that it offers multiple benefits. Some examples include strengthening your body’s immune system, boosting energy levels, body detoxification, and more.
However, have you wondered if these benefits are backed by scientific research?
What Are Greens Powders?
Greens powders are dietary supplements that can be easily consumed and ingested by mixing it with water or juice.
The look and taste of the greens powder mix may vary depending on the brand. Generally speaking, you can expect to have a green colored drink, with a tinge of fresh grass flavor. Natural sweeteners, such as Stevia, are usually added to improve the taste of the product — relax, it’s not the nasty vegetable drink that you’re thinking of!
Depending on the brand, the ingredients of greens powders will differ. They typically contain anywhere between 25-40 or more different ingredients. Here are some of the common ingredients included (2, 3).
- A variety of leafy greens: Spinach, parsley, kale, and collards
- Other vegetables: Beets, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, soy sprout, and broccoli
- Different types of seaweeds: Kelp, chlorella, spirulina, and dulse
- Edible grasses: Wheatgrass, alfalfa grass, barley grass, and oat grass
- Fruits rich in anti-oxidants: Acai berries, raspberries, goji berries, acerola berry, and blueberries
- Extracts from nutritional foods: Ginkgo biloba extract, green tea extract, licorice root extract, and grape seed extract
- Probiotics: Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium lactis, and L. acidophilus
- Digestive enzymes from plants: Protease, amylase, lipase, papain, and cellulase
- Healthy herbs: milk thistle, holy basil, astragalus, and echinacea
- Mushrooms: Shitake and maitake mushroom extract
- Natural sweeteners: Stevia leaf extract, monk fruit extract
- Fiber: Apple fiber, rice bran, and inulin
Greens powders are largely vegan, and made from organic ingredients — but you should always check the product label just to be certain.
How Are Greens Powders Made
There are multiple ways of making greens powders. One common method is to dry out all the ingredients, before blending the dried ingredients into powder form.
Another method used is to juice the ingredients and dehydrate it until only its powder remains.
In recent years, sprouting or fermentation of ingredients is becoming popular methods of adding ingredients to greens powders.
One benefit of using such methods is that it preserves the vitamin levels in the greens powder. Moreover, fermentation also helps to break apart compounds that may impede certain mineral absorption — leaving you with a food product that could be of higher nutritional value (4).
Price of Greens Powders
Depending on the ingredients used and the method of production, prices of greens powders can range from 22 cents to over 2 dollars per serving (10-12 grams per serving).
Note that cheaper isn’t always better, it is definitely more worthwhile to pay for a product made from quality ingredients.
Summary of What Are Greens Powders
Different brands of greens powders have their own unique blend of ingredients. Even so, you can expect greens powders to be made from a wide range of vegetables, grasses, fruits, herbs, and other superfoods. This makes it a supplement that can help you meet your daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables.
Nutritional Value of Greens Powders
As previously mentioned, the ingredients of greens powders will differ slightly from brand to brand. Hence, the nutritional value of each type of greens product would vary too.
On average, you can expect one serving (~10 grams) of greens powder to contain (5):
- Calories: 40 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 7 grams
- Fat: 0.5 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Dietary fiber: 2 grams
- Sugars: 1 gram
- Vitamin A (as beta-carotene): 80% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin C: 80% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 60% of the RDI
- Sodium: 2% of the RDI
- Calcium: 5% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
- Iodine: 100% of the RDI
- Iron: 20% of the RDI
- Selenium: 70% of the RDI
- Chromium: 60% of the RDI
A drink made from mixing greens powder and water is typically low in calories. However, the calories add up if you consume them with juices that are filled with sugars — do take note for those who are looking to cut back on some calories!
Depending on the brand, certain greens powders are made with the intention of being meal replacements. Hence, more effort would be placed into ensuring that the drink is more nutritionally balanced without being excessively high in calorie content.
Furthermore, greens powders are packed with polyphenols and various plant compounds that can play a role in reducing inflammation and oxidation in our bodies (2).
Summary of The Nutritional Value of Greens Powder
Greens powders offer us a supplement packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It saves you the need of consuming excessive amounts of food or calories. Some of the common vitamins included are vitamin A, C, and K.
How Greens Powders Benefit You
Given that greens powders are made from a variety of nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, and plants, they are an extremely micro-nutrient dense supplement. This may have added health benefits when used in conjunction with a well-balanced diet and an active lifestyle.
For instance, greens powders are rich in vitamins A and C, which are proven to be essential in maintaining a healthy immune system (6, 7).
Furthermore, greens powders contain probiotics. In recent years, there has been a growing body of evidence supporting their health benefits — namely improving the digestive and immune functions of the gut. While the current research results are optimistic, more research is still required to fully ascertain the effectiveness of plant-based digestive enzymes (8).
Currently, the research conducted on greens powders is still inconclusive. This is due to the small number of studies and the varied formulation of different greens powder brands.
Greens Powders May Boost Energy Levels
Skeptics might wonder how some greens powder companies claim that their product can offer an energy boost despite being a low-calorie drink — because fewer calories equal lesser energy.
The reason behind some greens powder’s energy boosting effects could be attributed to a number of the ingredients — one such being green tea extract.
Research has found that green tea contains caffeine — something we’re no stranger to. Although green tea contains lower levels of caffeine compared to regular coffee, the presence of caffeine plays a role in making you feel more awake and energized.
A study conducted on 63 healthy women reported that individuals who consumed 10 grams of greens powder containing green tea extract experienced a significant spike in energy levels. On the flipside, no significant changes were noted in the placebo group (9).
Overall, existing research shows that greens powder may increase energy. However, its effects may vary depending on one’s lifestyle. Individuals who have been reliant on highly caffeinated beverages may require some time for their body to adapt to the energy-boosting effects of natural foods. After all, greens powders contain little to no stimulants when compared to a cup of coffee or a can of energy drink.
Greens Powder May Improve Your Health
Greens powders are made from ingredients that have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, which may lower your risk of contracting chronic illnesses.
One study found that consuming 10 grams of greens powder daily resulted in a 30 percent reduction in levels of oxidative damage to proteins cells in the body (2).
This is important because our cells are exposed to oxidative stress daily, and considerable evidence has been found linking oxidative damage in cells and cancer (10).
Hence, it is important for us to consume anti-oxidants to reduce the damage done to our cells so as to protect ourselves from cancer and other age-related chronic diseases.
Additionally, another research study on greens powders found that consuming 10 grams of greens powder daily resulted in an 8 percent decrease in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure among individuals with high blood pressure (11).
All in all, the current research on the health benefits of greens powder seems to support its effectiveness. However, the degree of effectiveness is still reliant on the individual’s existing health conditions and lifestyle habits.
Greens Powder May Aid Detoxification
Some companies claim that greens powders help detox your body by increasing your body’s alkalinity — meaning being higher on the zero to 14 pH scale.
Your urine pH is kept within a broad range of 4.5 to 8.0. Research has found that the consumption of leafy greens and other vegetables results in a moderate increase in the alkalinity of the urine, increasing their pH levels (3).
There is significance in increasing urine alkalinity. Studies suggest that a slight increase in pH levels in urine might increase your body’s ability to remove toxins (e.g. pollutants and pesticides) that you make have unknowingly consumed (12).
Additionally, there are other ways where greens powders can enhance detoxification. One example is that greens powders contain anti-oxidants which may assist in addressing the free radicals that are produced when your liver detoxifies certain compounds (13).
Summary of The Benefits of Greens Powders
Greens powders may improve your overall wellbeing, strengthen your immune system, and keep chronic diseases at bay. Future research is required to further ascertain the generalizability of the positive benefits of greens powders across all populations.
Greens Powders Versus Whole Vegetables
While greens powders are packed with a wide variety of vitamins, micro-nutrients, and are incredibly convenient, there are still some benefits of eating whole vegetables.
It is important to consume a wide range of whole fruits and vegetables as it ensures that your diet meets the nutrient requirements for optimum health. You should avoid overconsuming a certain nutrient or vitamin as excess amounts of certain nutrients can have detrimental health effects — more isn’t always better.
For those who are looking to lose weight, whole fruits and vegetables may be your best bet. Whole vegetables are high in water and promote the feeling of satiation through chewing. These two factors ensure that you would feel full, reducing the chances of overeating. In this aspect, greens powders shouldn’t be taken in replacement of a balanced diet as whole vegetables may offer more satisfaction when consumed (14).
Furthermore, whole vegetables are high in fiber. Adequate consumption of dietary fiber is recognized to have beneficial effects on health.
Keep in mind that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, and individuals on medications should seek the advice of their physician when consuming green powders. Their weakened body constitutions and the presence of medical drugs in their systems may have some interactions with the herbs and concentrated extracts found in greens powders.
Before consuming any new supplement, it is in your best interest to seek your doctor’s professional opinion to determine your suitability of consuming them — greens products are no exception.
Maximizing the Benefits of Greens Powder
For maximum results, follow the recommended directions of the manufacturer.
The most common method of consuming greens powder is to mix it with water, milk, juices, or smoothies.
It is important to store your rehydrated greens powders in the refrigerator if you are unable to consume them immediately. This ensures that your greens powder mix does not go bad, especially if you live in warmer climates.
Avoid heating your greens powders as it might lose some of its nutrients as some of them (e.g. probiotics and vitamin C) are less resistant to heat.
Summary of Greens Powder Versus Whole Vegetables
Overall, there are benefits to consuming both whole vegetables and greens products. While whole vegetables help satisfy hunger, greens products certainly do provide a convenient way of consuming micro-nutrients found in vegetables. Additionally, greens powders can help supplement the vitamins and minerals which you are missing in your diet.
Super Greens Powder: A Supplement Worth Considering
Greens powders are made from a variety of vegetables, leafy greens, seaweeds, probiotics and more.
Greens powders are definitely nutritious and research has found that they may have multiple health benefits (e.g. reducing risk of chronic illnesses, improved immune system). However, benefits may differ depending on the individual, their health and lifestyle.
Ultimately, greens powders are a product that supplements your nutritional needs and helps you to access the powerful plant ingredients you may be lacking in your diet. You should always try to ensure that your diet consists of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Consider using super greens powder as they can help you maintain your nutritional needs, especially if your fruit and vegetable consumption is low due to a busy work schedule or when you’re traveling!