Whether you call it powdered greens or greens powder, this trendy nutritional supplement is touted in social media and magazine articles. So — is it good for you?
Before we get to a clear answer, we have to acknowledge a couple of complicating factors.
First, there is no standard recipe for powdered greens. There are dozens of brands available, and every one contains different ingredients from the others. Check the labels, and you’ll see everything from alfalfa and beetroot to spirulina and wheatgrass. Many contain lots of powdered fruits and vegetables, but you’ll also see coffee bean extract, matcha (green tea) powder, algae, and sweeteners. Since they all contain different things, they have different nutrients.
Second, their value depends on what you’re comparing them with. If you normally skip vegetables or make do with French fries and the lettuce on your fast food burger, a daily smoothie with powdered greens could be a step up nutritionally. If you swap powdered greens for actual produce, you’re taking a step backward.
No replacement for fruits and vegetables
Dieticians agree that nutritional supplements in general, and powdered fruits and vegetables in particular, are not the same as eating fresh produce.
You may get vitamins and minerals from the freeze-dried stuff, but like breakfast cereals, they’re just about the same as taking a multivitamin tablet. The processing removes a lot of the nutrients.
Powdered greens don’t include the fiber you get from fresh or frozen vegetables and fruit. There’s plenty of research showing the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. It is not as clear that powdered supplements provide any of these benefits.
Powdered greens aren’t bad for you
Powdered greens may contain phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals just as fruits and vegetables do. It depends on their ingredients, but powdered greens appear to be safe, and their labels will tell you what nutrients they have to offer.
One study found that people who used powdered greens (specifically, NanoGreens) for 90 days saw lower blood pressure. A control group saw no change in their blood pressure. Neither group had any adverse effects.
A UK maker of powdered greens pointed out that many people don’t get the variety of fruits and vegetables that they need. If you eat fruits and veggies, but it’s mostly just carrots and bananas, powdered greens could round out your vegetable intake to some extent.
The convenience of powdered greens could make a difference for you, too. Check your fridge. Any produce in there? If not, being able to add a spoonful of powdered greens to soup, dips, or other dishes could help you increase your vegetable intake.
The bottom line
Don’t deceive yourself. Powdered greens don’t take the place of fruits and vegetables, and adding them to your orange juice every morning won’t make up for missing veggies the rest of the day.
If you like them, however, they might provide a stepping stone to eating vegetables. You can toss spinach or kale into your smoothies, add grated carrots to muffins, and incorporate greens into every meal. Once you develop the habit of including vegetables in your meals, you’ll probably find that you enjoy them.
One thing powdered greens do for you that whole veggies can’t: they make great food coloring. Turn pancakes and baked goods a really nice shade of green with a little of that powder!