Do you eat enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis? If you live in the U.S., chances are good that you belong to the 90% of Americans who do not get the recommended amounts of these healthy foods per day (1). If you are having a hard time eating enough fruits and vegetables, you might be looking for an easier way to get the nutrients you need.
Maybe you have seen promotions for green powders, also known as superfood powders, as a way to get several servings of fruits and vegetables in one glass. But are green powders healthy, or are they just a useless fad?
When it comes to figuring out if things like green powders are healthy, there is usually no simple yes-or-no answer. With a little research and common sense, though, you can figure out whether green powders are a good choice for you. I will help with a simple guide to when green powders are healthy and when they are a terrible idea.
Not a replacement for whole foods.
The most common criticism I see related to green powders is that they are no substitute for whole fruits and vegetables, and that is a valid point. The benefits of fruits and vegetables are well-known and well documented, and some of those benefits seem to rely on the food being whole.
For example, certain foods contain nutrients which are best absorbed in the presence of other nutrients contained in the same food. Some studies have found that vitamins are more readily absorbed from whole foods than from supplements (2).
Since green powders fall somewhere between whole foods and isolated vitamins on the nutrition spectrum, it is hard to say how many benefits they share with the foods they are derived from. Many green powders do contain the dehydrated forms of whole foods, so it is possible that they retain some of the synergistic effects of whole foods.
Some studies have shown some interesting potential benefits of green powders, and I will discuss the research more later in this article. Still, the surest way to reap the benefits of fruits and vegetables is to eat more of them fresh. Green powders are best used as a supplement to a balanced diet rather than a remedy for poor eating habits.
Of course, there are some people, both children and adults, who still won’t eat vegetables despite the health benefits. They are the one group of people who would benefit from green powders as a substitute for whole food. (If you want to purchase green powder for a child, be sure to read the nutrition information carefully and make sure it does not contain caffeine.)
Excess amounts pose potential risks.
One of the main distinguishing features of green powders is that they contain highly nutritious foods in a very concentrated form. This means that they contain the nutrients of multiple servings of fruits and vegetables in just a scoop of powder. The highly concentrated nutrition of green powder is one of its main selling points. After all, if you are getting more nutrients with less effort, that can only be a good thing. Right?
As it turns out, it is entirely possible to get too much of certain nutrients, especially when they are in supplement form. When talking about excess nutrients, it is important to understand the difference between water-soluble and fat soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins (C and B-complex) dissolve in water, so excess amounts of these vitamins are typically flushed out in urine. On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) dissolve in fat, not in water. Instead of being excreted, they are stored in body fat and can build up to toxic levels (2).
To avoid unwanted side effects, pay attention to the nutrition content of your green powder and avoid ones that contain over 100% recommended daily value for a vitamin. Also, be mindful of the amount you consume. Since green powders aren’t nearly as bulky as vegetables, it is easier to take too much. Find out what the serving size is and don’t take more than one serving daily.
Detoxification and immune support.
Now that we have the necessary warnings and caveats out of the way, it’s time to find out how green powders can benefit you as part of a healthy lifestyle. When they are used correctly, green powders have some features that are worth getting excited about.
Out of all the benefits of green powders, their detoxifying effects may be the greatest. With often upwards of a dozen whole food ingredients, green powders are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants work by fighting free radicals, damaging compounds that are released through biochemical reactions in the body. By deactivating harmful free radicals, antioxidants may help prevent common chronic diseases and reduce the effects of aging. One four-week study in 10 healthy people found that green powder taken daily over four weeks lowered blood levels of oxidatively damaged proteins by 30% (3).
Green powders may also be beneficial for immunity. They are often high in vitamins A, C, and K, which support immune system function. In one study, fruit and vegetable extracts taken over 77 days boosted immunity in healthy adults, as well as protecting against DNA damage (4). So, a green powder just might be what you need to fight off infections during the upcoming cold and flu season.
Improved energy, digestion, and more.
In addition to antioxidants and vitamins, green powders often contain probiotics (live bacteria and yeasts which aid in healthy digestion) or probiotic enzyme blends (enzymes derived from probiotics). Many people report more regular digestion from taking a green powder including a probiotic blend. It is worth a try if you suffer from digestive issues.
Another commonly reported effect of green powder is increased focus and energy. In one study, healthy women who took a green powder supplement for three months reported a significant increase in energy, while the placebo group reported no increase in energy (5). The green powder included green tea extract, so the increase in energy could have been from the caffeine. However, many green powder users rave about the increases in energy, regardless of caffeine content. Personally, I have noticed that my energy and ability to stay productive throughout the day have improved since starting to take green powder.
On top of all these perks, green powder might even improve high blood pressure. This is a problem that many people suffer from due to an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle. In one 90-day study in people with high blood pressure, daily green powder decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure by about 8% (6). If you suffer from this dangerous condition, daily green powder along with lifestyle changes might help you to turn your health around.
How to use green powder for the greatest benefits.
So, are green powders healthy? After weighing the evidence, I have concluded that green powders are healthy in moderation and as part of a balanced lifestyle. Given all the positive health effects of green powder, I believe the benefits outweigh the risks. I am excited to have discovered this product and have made it a part of my daily routine.
If you decide to join me and give green powder a try, it will be important to choose a high quality product. Some contain excess vitamins, fillers like sugar and emulsifiers, and even toxic materials like heavy metals. Thankfully, there are also companies that are committed to only delivering the best green powder to consumers. The safest way to ensure you are buying a safe, high-quality product is by sticking to those that are tested by third parties, such as Amazing Grass Green Superfood.
Once you have your green powder, you can blend it with water, a smoothie, or the beverage of your choice. You can even mix it into dishes when you are cooking. However you use your green powder, you can feel good about doing something extra to support your health.
Do you use green powders, or are you interested in trying them? Have you noticed in health benefits from taking them? Please share your experience in the comments below!