EVERYTHING, IT seems, is coming up green.
Or at least in the supplement world.
As a registered dietitian, I’ve heard more and more of my clients asking about greens supplements—powdered mixes of green fruits and vegetables ready to be stirred into shakes and smoothies to improve health.
If you regularly take greens powders, does that mean you no longer have to chew your way through another stem of kale? Do these powders really offer the same heart-helping, disease-fighting, diabetes-busting benefits of dark green leafy vegetables? Can these supplements help with that oh-so-tricky-to-consume-enough-of nutrient, fiber? And what about immunity? Greens powders are good for immunity, right?
Well, not exactly. There’s a lot more to powdered greens supplements than what you read on their labels.
But I understand the hope fueling the hype.
Pair the hope of an immunity boost with the data that also shows most Americans aren’t anywhere close to meeting their goals for their recommended intake of fruits and veggies and the appeal of these products is alluring.
If you can just drink all your fruits and vegetables in one fell swoop and be done with it, then that surely is less time-consuming, less expensive, and less work than preparing and eating them all, right?
Well, antioxidants, the primary health-helper in green produce, are more complicated than that. And then there’s what you’re missing when you’re not chewing your way through your greens.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a place in your diet for greens supplements, you just have to consider your overall diet—and look for a few key factors in the product you purchase.
Are Greens Powders Good for You?
I’m admittedly somewhat bullish on some of them—not as a replacement, but rather a compliment to a quality diet with a solidly balanced plate that’s full of color.
I’m not alone. “I like a good greens product as a supplement for individuals who have an aversion to veggies, cannot consume enough veggies, or during travel,” adds Abbie Smith, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an associate professor of exercise physiology at UNC Chapel Hill. “The best greens products have natural sources of vitamins and minerals, including key micronutrients that are often deficient in our diet.”
Another: “High quality greens powders are loaded with powerful plant nutrients and are a great way to supplement your diet with all the amazing compounds found in greens,” says Danielle Omar, M.S., R.D., an Integrative Dietitian at FoodConfidence.com.
That said, don’t be fooled to think a scoop of powder replaces the quality of a pile of greens on your dinner plate. Greens powdered aren’t dangerous for you, but I’d rather have you spend your dollars on actual produce if it’s an either/or option.
At the end of the day, eating powdered kale (or any powdered green) doesn’t quite have the same fiber bang (or flavor) as when you chew it in a salad, soup, or however you may enjoy it.
What Should You Look for in a Greens Powder?
Smith continues “I suggest looking for products that have been third party tested, to ensure what is listed on the label is actually in the product.”
Those third parties include the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and Informed Choice for Sport. And their testing means that what’s advertised on the label of the supplement is actually in the supplement and that it’s been tested for banned substances. Remember: The FDA does not regulate supplements, so it’s largely a wild west world.
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