What Are Greens Powders — and Are They Worth the Hype?

By Matthew Kadey, R.D. |

Move over supplements and protein powders — the newest health product hitting shelves are veggie-packed “greens powders.” Here’s what you need to know.

Are greens powders good for your health

When it comes to eating enough fruits and vegetables, most of us could do a little better. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 1 in 10 American adults is eating the recommended amount of fruit (1 1/2 to 2 cups) and vegetables (2 to 3 cups) daily. And that could lead to some troubling nutritional shortcomings.

But what if there was an effortless way to add more fruits and veggies to your day and get all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need? So-called “greens powders” claim to be the answer. Just mix a scoop or two into your water or favorite drink and get all the nutrition you might be missing out on. The powders claim that they can promote gut health, boost immunity and improve brain health, just like the fruits and veggies that they’re made of.

So, is drinking your greens just as healthy than eating them? Let’s break down if these supplements deliver on their promises and are worth the lofty investment.

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What Are Greens Powders?

In general, greens powders are made by dehydrating various plant foods and crushing them into a fine powder. That powder can then be stirred into water or juice, or blended into a smoothie.

The name can be a bit misleading. Many of these powders contain plenty of non-green ingredients, too. Formulas vary by brand, but here is what you can find in many of the supplements:

  • Greens, such as wheatgrass, kale, oat grass, spirulina, barley grass, broccoli, or chlorella
  • Fruit, such as pomegranate, cherry, blueberry, or elderberry
  • Mushrooms, such as reishi, cordyceps, or turkey tail
  • Rhizomes, such as ginger or turmeric
  • Extracts and herbs, such as milk thistle or ashwagandha
  • Seeds, like chia or flax
  • Probiotics, or healthy bacteria that benefit your gut
  • Prebiotics, such as oligosaccharides, that feed the healthy bacteria in your gut
  • Spices, including cinnamon, black pepper, or cayenne
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Sweeteners, such as stevia or monk fruit extract

The Pros and Cons of Greens Powders

Greens powders may not be a nutritional slam dunk. There are many things to consider when deciding whether or not to try them out.

Pro: Greens Powders Are Convenient

If you’re struggling to get your daily dose of fruits and veggies, green powders could help fill the gap. Let’s face it — they’re a lot more convenient than chopping up a salad.

Pro: Greens Powders Can Provide Important Nutrients

Greens powders can work much like a supplement by providing essential vitamins and minerals. But unlike other supplements, those nutrients are coming from real foods. Some brands will give you 100 percent or more of the daily recommendation for several important vitamins and minerals including magnesium, zinc, and folate.

And with ingredients like grape seed extract and spirulina, it’s very likely greens powders will provide things that you’re not getting from your normal diet. (Of course, whether all those exotic add-ins are beneficial to your health is up for debate.)

Con: Greens Powders Don’t Have a Lot of Research Backing Them Up

There’s not much research at this time on greens powders and whether they can improve your health. Research may be found on the benefits of individual ingredients like broccoli or mushrooms — but not on the entire blend.

Keep in mind, too, that serving sizes for greens powders are usually pretty small. And they can contain a dozen or more ingredients. So the amount of an individual ingredient, like broccoli, in a single serving may not be enough to give you all the research-backed benefits of eating whole broccoli.

Con: Greens Powders Don’t Contain as Much Fiber as Whole Fruits and Vegetables

One notable nutritional shortcoming is fiber. Eating whole fruits and vegetables can give you a big boost of fiber in addition to all the good-for-you nutrients they contain. And fiber can help with everything from keeping your bowel movements regular to lowering your cholesterol.

Greens powders lose a lot of fiber during processing. So you won’t get as much fiber from them as you would from whole fruits and vegetables. That’s concerning considering most Americans aren’t getting enough fiber.

Recommended reading: How to Start Eating a Plant-Based Diet: The SilverSneakers Guide

Con: Greens Powders Are Not Regulated

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Greens powders can boast all kinds of lofty benefits. But keep in mind that these powders are considered supplements. This means that those heath claims are not verified or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Con: Greens Powders May Cost More Than Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Gram for gram, greens powders are a lot more costly than most whole fruits and vegetables. A daily dose of greens powder can add up quickly. So, it may not be a viable supplement if you’re on a tight budget.

Bottom Line

If you’re falling short on key nutrients, these powders can act as a supplement to help you meet your needs. But they shouldn’t replace whole fruits and vegetables in your diet. You’ll get lots of other benefits from eating the real thing.

Greens powders should be treated like any other dietary supplement. That means that you should talk to your doctor before you start using them. Your doctor can help you decide if you need a supplement to meet certain nutrition needs. And, they can help you choose a safe product that won’t interact with any medicines you’re taking.

See our sources:
Fruit and vegetable consumption in America: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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