Have you got your greens in today?
If your answer is no, don’t worry - you’re with the majority of the population. In 2018, it was found that just 28% of adults were eating the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day!
We all know that consuming enough fruit and vegetables is a significant part of having a healthy and balanced diet, and yet so many of us seem to slip up on including enough of them in our meals. What if you could just drink one magical powder packed full of your daily dose of greens and be done with it?
Okay, so that’s not actually the premise of greens powders - there is no substitute for eating real, whole foods, and so we live to face the Brussels sprout another day. However, people aren’t downing their green juice for no reason. The rising popularity of green powders point to their benefits when used to supplement an already healthy diet, full of fruit and veg that you do actually chew.
In this guide we’ll be covering:
What are green powders?
Green powders are dietary supplements (not replacements!), taken to help people meet their daily recommended intake of vitamins and minerals through dried green foods. These are vitamins and minerals that you could and should get through your meals but, as human beings, it can be easy to slip up on certain vitamins which are essential for supporting the immune system and encouraging healthy energy levels.
Believe it or not, greens powders aren’t just filled with piles of wilted spinach; in fact, despite their name, they aren’t even only made of green things! Many contain lots of healthy, non-green ingredients - common ingredients include leafy greens, other vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, herbs, algae, probiotics, digestive enzymes, natural sweeteners… And the list continues.
In terms of processing, green powders can be made two main ways: air dried, or freeze dried. Air drying occurs at high temperatures, which can destroy some of the nutrients, which is why raw, freeze dried blends are optimum.
What types of green powders are there?
Google search ‘green powder’ and you’ll find a huge variety of various blends in different quantities and qualities, but most of their ingredients list should be pretty similar, filled with dark leafy greens and other good veggies. However, there are a couple of other ‘superfoods’ which green powders often contain.
- Sea vegetables/marine sources
Sea vegetables most commonly used in greens powders include seaweed, spirulina and chlorella. The most significant health benefit that sea vegetables can offer is that they’re high in iodine, a key mineral for thyroid health. Our bodies need iodine to keep our metabolism working properly, and so consuming sea vegetables is a great way to support thyroid function.
Seaweed and algae aren’t common in Western diets, so get your dose of antioxidant-rich sea veggies, which also reduce LDL cholesterol, balance blood sugar levels and provide immune support, through your green powder.
- Grass sources
Nutritional grasses like wheat, buckwheat, barley, alfalfa, rye and oat have been used as food supplements since the 1930s in the US, when it was observed that livestock thrived and produced more nutritious eggs and milk when fed them. Nowadays, we can cut out the animals and consume the grasses ourselves - some people even take raw shots of things like oat and wheatgrass!
Grasses are a good source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, chlorophyll and enzymes, and their nutritional profiles are similar to many dark green vegetables. Buckwheat, for example, is highly abundant in manganese, copper, magnesium, iron and phosphorus.
It’s also worth noting that things like wheat grass and barley grass are the young grasses of the wheat or barley plant, and are different from the grain that grow on the same plant that contain gluten - so if you’re wondering why your green powder contains one of these grass sources yet is marked gluten-free, that’s because it is!
Not all green powders will contain probiotics (also known as live cultures) but they’re a good thing to look out for as they promote good gut health and encourage the growth of healthy bacteria. Examples of probiotics in greens powders include Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus, L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis.
What to look for in a green powder
With all these different ingredients and powders claiming their formula is the best for optimal health, it can be difficult to decide which one to go for. An algae-based blend, one full of nutritional grasses or a simple dark leafy green mixture?
The best greens powder would combine all of these ingredients to cover all bases. THRIVE: Living Multinutrient, our greens powder & multivitamin supplement, for example, is a blend of buckwheat, fruit and vegetables, 10 billion live cultures, algae, medicinal mushrooms and much more!
It’s also important to consider the ingredients that you don’t want in your green blend. If the label says “proprietary blend”, you’ll want to ditch the product, as that means the manufacturer doesn’t have to include the amount of each ingredient, so you don’t know how much of what you’re consuming.
If the packaging mentions being non-GMO, vegan and organic, that’s a huge green flag, as it erases the possibility of the powder containing any synthetic additives like pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Additionally, choose a brand that tests for heavy metals and contaminants as, due to polluted soil and pesticide use, metals such as lead and mercury can find their way into supplements: one study tested 13 products, and found harmful contaminants in 4 of them! We’re all too aware of this problem within the supplement industry, which is why we test all of our raw materials at the source, and then batch test the finished products.
What are the benefits of green powders?
All greens powders contain different ingredients in differing quantities, so these are some general health benefits that most green powders will contain.
- Like green vegetables, green powders possess loads of antioxidant qualities, which reduces the risk of chronic disease - one study found that two tablespoons of greens powder a day lowered blood levels of oxidatively damaged proteins by 30%!
- Protect heart health by improving blood pressure
- High in vitamins and minerals, which support the immune system
- Support healthy energy levels
- Help maintain normal blood sugar levels
- Enhance brain health, due to being rich in vitamins and minerals which support cognitive function
How much greens powder do people need?
Green powders will usually come with a scoop or instructions as to how much 1 dose of the powder is. This should be consumed alongside a healthy amount of greens anyway, so you shouldn’t drink more than what the package instructs.
If you don’t like drinking your green blend with just water (no one really drinks it for taste, after all), it can be mixed with juice or in a smoothie, or you can even eat it by sprinkling it over or in food!
Do greens powders treat deficiencies?
Although greens powders are extremely nutrient dense, they don’t contain a complete array of vitamins and minerals so, while they can be useful to supplement with, you should try and treat deficiencies through whole foods. Plus, supplementing with only greens can lead to imbalances of other nutrients which would have been found in food, so it could actually end up being counterproductive.
Who are green powders good for?
Green powders are good for anyone looking to fill the gaps in their otherwise healthy diets. While we should be getting all of our nutrients in our food, it can be difficult to ensure that we do so every day. Greens powders are a safety net to fall back on for anyone who doesn’t feel that they hit their vitamin and mineral intake every day, not for people looking to replace food with a powder (which we would never recommend!)
Are powdered greens as good as fresh?
No. While powdered greens are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and loads of other good stuff that you might not usually consume, they also don’t contain everything that whole foods do.
Fibre, for example, is essential for bowel movement and other bodily functions. Green powders are often quite low in fibre in comparison to vegetables, and don’t provide the same hydration, as the majority of fresh greens consist of a lot of water, which is lost through the drying process.
Consuming your greens as a powder is also much less satiating as, when you chew your food, you feel more satisfied quicker and are less likely to eat too much throughout the day.
So, are superfood powders worth it?
Given how many of us aren’t quite hitting our recommended daily intake of fruit and veg, green powders are an effective and convenient way to pack in all the nutrients you need a day in one quick dose. As long as you find a powder organically or chemically-free grown, and cold-pressed for maximum nutritional value, one scoop a day alongside a healthy, balanced diet is only going to benefit you.
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