ARE SUPER GREENS AS HEALTHY AS THEY CLAIM TO BE?
It is no longer news that the consumption of vegetables is declining, and at a fast rate. People are no longer eating vegetables as much as they should.
And so, supplements are created to help people reach their daily recommended intake of vegetables. Green powders are an example of these supplements.
Producers of green powders claim that these supplements can boost the body’s immunity. They also claim that green powders can also detoxify your body, and also enhance your energy levels. But are these claims true? Are they supported by science?
This article discusses the health benefits of greens and more.
Overview of green powders
Green powders are supplements that you can dissolve in water and other liquids.
They have a characteristic green hue with a somewhat grassy taste. The flavor of green powders is usually improved with natural sugar substitutes.
Generally, green powders are produced with 25-40 different ingredients, but these vary according to the brand. Ingredients commonly used in the production of green powders include (1, 2):
Seaweed: Chlorella, kelp, dulse, and spirulina
Leafy greens: kale, spinach, parsley, and collards
Other vegetables: Beets, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, and green cabbage
High-antioxidant fruits: Raspberries, acai berries, blueberries, goji
Grasses: Wheatgrass, alfalfa grass, oat grass, barley grass
Nutritional extracts: Grape seed extract, green tea extract, ginkgo Biloba extract
Herbs: Astragalus, holy basil, milk thistle, echinacea
Plant-based digestive enzymes: Cellulase, amylase, papain, lipase, and protease.
Probiotics: Bifidobacterium lactis, L. acidophilus, Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus
Mushrooms: Shiitake mushroom extract, Maitake mushroom extract.
Extra fiber: Inulin, rice bran, apple fiber
Natural sugar substitutes: Monk fruit extract, stevia leaf extract.
Before these ingredients are used, they are dried and ground into powder. sometimes, they may be juiced, after which they will be dehydrated.
But there's a new trend – which is fermenting or sprouting the ingredients. Fermenting and sprouting elevate the vitamin levels and also breaks down the phytocompounds that can interfere with the absorption of minerals (3, 4, 5).
Green powders are often formulated as vegan and are organic, but you must verify from the product label.
The price varies depending on the ingredients used.
Nutritional composition of green powders
The ingredients used for the production of green powders vary based on the brand. Their nutritional value also differs.
On average, the nutrient content of a scoop of green powder (2 tablespoons or 10g) contains the following (6):
Total carbs: 7g
Dietary fiber: 2g
Vitamin A: 80 percent of the reference daily intake
Sodium: 2 percent of the reference daily intake
Vitamin C: 80 percent of the reference daily intake
Calcium: 5 percent of the reference daily intake
Vitamin K: 60 percent of the reference daily intake
Potassium: 5 percent of the reference daily intake
Chromium: 60 percent of the reference daily intake
Selenium: 70 percent of the reference daily intake
Iodine: 100 percent of the reference daily intake
Iron: 20 percent of the reference daily intake
Green powders do not contain many calories. However, if you mix them with anything other than water, then you may increase its calorie content.
Green powders contain vitamins and minerals but not as complete as a standard mineral or multivitamin supplement.
Some manufacturers may formulate their products as meal replacements, which improves their nutritional value and calorie content.
Green powders also contain polyphenols and other phytocompounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds (1).
The health benefits
Green powders contain compounds and nutrients that may boost wellness when combined with a healthy lifestyle and diet.
For instance, green powders contain vitamins A and C, which boosts your immune system (7, 8).
Also, probiotics, when combined with green powders may boost digestive health and immune function (9, 10, 11).
Several studies have been carried out, but the results vary by supplement formulation and brand.
Prevents chronic ailments
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of the phytocompounds in green powder may minimize your risk of chronic ailments.
In a one-month study involving ten healthy participants, 2 tablespoons of green powder taken every day reduced the blood levels of proteins damaged through oxidation by 30% (1).
Proteins such as enzymes play a very important role in the body. They are vital. Some of their functions include protecting your body from chronic diseases like cancer (12).
In a 3-month study involving 90 high blood pressure patients, a daily intake of 10g (2 tablespoons) of green powder caused an 8 percent decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Of course, there was no improvement in the control group (13).
Improves energy levels
Some brands of green powder can boost energy levels. However, their calorie numbers are low, and they don’t boost energy as much.
It is important to note that some green powders contain phytocompounds that energize the body and increases one's level of alertness. Green tea extract is an example. It contains caffeine and other phytocompounds that enhance calorie burning (14).
In a 3-month study involving 63 women with no health issues, a tablespoon of green powder with green tea extract taken daily caused a significant increase in energy levels. Of course, no change was reported by the placebo group (15).
Other health benefits
Green powders have detoxifying properties. As in, they can detoxify your body and increase its pH (towards the alkaline level).
But then, the consumption of green powder will not affect your blood pH. The human body maintains its pH within a narrow range (7.35 – 7.45) (16).
Conversely, the pH of your urine fluctuates within a broad range (4.5 – 8.0). Consumption of greens can cause a slight elevation in your urine pH, thus increasing its alkalinity (2, 16, 17).
According to results from some researches, slight increases in the alkalinity of urine may help your body to flush out toxins, like pollutants and pesticides. However, there is a need for more research on this (16, 18, 19, 20).
Green powders can also detox your body in other ways. For instance, the detoxification of some compounds by your life can cause the generation of free radicals, and free radicals have a damaging effect. Green powders contain a lot of antioxidants, which can fight these free radicals (21, 22, 23).
Green powders should not be used as a substitute for whole vegetables
There’s no better way to achieve nutritional balance than eating a wide variety of whole vegetables (24).
Whole vegetables have high water content and also give that satisfactory feeling that comes with chewing. These properties prevent overeating and promote fullness. But then, green powders are not as satisfying (25, 26).
Also, the fiber content of green powders is low, with each serving providing just a gram or two, although in some cases, extra fiber may be added (27).
Green powders are rich in vitamin K. However, vitamin K interacts with some medications, like blood thinners. Thus, they may disrupt treatment (28).
Some green powders may also contain contaminants, like lead. One analysis, for instance, found that 4 out of 13 products tested were contaminated. Before you choose a product, visit the manufacturer’s website to see if the purity of the product is verified.
Some green powders should not be taken by children, breastfeeding or pregnant women, or people currently on some medications. These products contain concentrated extracts and herbs that may constitute a risk.
You must consult your doctor before you take a green powder or any other supplement for that matter.
Best way to use green powder
You’ll get the best results by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Of course, they are usually written on the canister of the product.
You can stir the powder into juice, water, smoothies, milk or milk substitutes.
For safety, you must refrigerate unconsumed rehydrated powders.
If you don’t feel like drinking the green powder, you may:
There’s something you should take note of. Anytime you heat the powders, you have reduced its nutrient content, like probiotics or vitamin C.
If you're traveling, or maybe you're on a busy schedule and can't take as many vegetables as you should, then you can consider using green powders to boost your nutrient levels.
Green powders classified as supplements. They are made from vegetables, greens, probiotics, seaweed, digestive enzymes, etc.
Green powders also boost your immunity and minimize your risk of chronic diseases. However, usage results vary based on the ingredients contained in each product. As useful as green powders are, they shouldn’t replace whole foods.
Eat your vegetables fresh and green!