Are greens powders worth it? from JV's blog

As a sports dietitian, I have specialized training in supplements and their indicated use. And I have NEVER recommended a greens powder to any client. Why? It seems healthy! Isn’t it a good way to get extra nutrients? Or what if you are not a fan of vegetables, should you use a greens powder then? Still probably not, and here is why. Please note this is my opinion! It is not medical advice or a nutrition recommendation.

Do greens powders actually work?

It depends on your definition of “work.” By “work,” do you mean they are expensive and likely not as useful as fruits and vegetables in their whole form? Greens powders are marketed to be able to do all sorts of things, like help with aging, digestion, cognition, immunity, stress management, and more. It is cheaper and likely healthier to get benefits of greens through whole veggies. The entire food matrix has many substances that could be lost (or too concentrated) in a greens powder.

Problems with greens powders

One product doesn’t usually do multiple things for your body effectively, safely, or even at all. Multiple health claims are a red flag. Another red flag is they usually have multiple ingredients. One very popular one boasts 75 ingredients–as if this is a good thing. This is actually quite problematic. Why? Multiple ingredients means you don’t know how they will interact with each other. Is it the therapeutic dose for each ingredient? Is each ingredient actually then absorbed properly if 74 other ingredients are taken at the same time? Is it harmful to take in 75 different ingredients/vitamins/minerals/adaptogens? Many compounds in powdered greens (especially ones with 75 ingredients) can interact with medications. (DOI: 10.31080/rcpt.2022.10.00693)

Greens powders are often very expensive but have limited evidence for usefulness.

They have risk for contaminants, including harmful bacteria and fecal matter ???? from chlorella and spirulina (common ingredients in greens powders) PMID: 29169006

Are there any side effects with greens powders?

While some don’t list caffeine on the label, some have green tea extract, a common source of caffeine. One testimonial on a popular greens powder website (that has green tea extract) says “I don’t drink coffee…due to a caffeine allergy, but AG works fantastic…to get me amped up for the day!” Guess what, buddy, you are probably amped from the caffeine.  If you don’t know you are getting caffeine from this product, you may also get other sources throughout the day. Too much caffeine may be harmful for sleep and heart health, become addicting, and cause irritability and jitters. Some powders may also upset digestion.

Supplements are unregulated in the US. You have no idea what is in the bottle. The actual ingredients and the label do not have to match up. If you choose to use a greens powder, use one that is third-party tested NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice. Contaminants have been found in many supplements include heavy metals, prohormones, steroid-like compounds, and more.

Are there any benefits to greens powders?

If you literally never eat fruits and vegetables, you may possibly benefit from a greens powder. Look for one that is third-party tested for contaminants, and look for one that has simple ingredients such as powdered vegetables and leafy greens, without a lot of additional ingredients that seem to be thrown in for marketing purposes. However, training your taste buds to tolerate vegetables is a much better route for overall health.

For these reasons, I have never recommended that someone start a greens powder. You are much better off and safer just eating your fruits & veggies!

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