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Are Greens Powders Actually Benefit Your Health? According to a Nutritionist

4 mins read
Taisiia Dobrozorova
Written by Taisiia Dobrozorova on June 09, 2022
Ievgeniia Dobrynina
Fact checked by Ievgeniia Dobrynina
Dr. Olena Avdiievska, MD, RDN
Medically reviewed by Dr. Olena Avdiievska, MD, RDN

If you have formed an ambivalent opinion about superfoods, in particular about greens powders, then it's time to figure out what kind of benefits and harm they can bring to the body. In this article, you will receive answers to your most frequent questions from a professional nutritionist!

Table of contents

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It may sound too good to be true, and you may be absolutely right not trusting the effect of supplements. 

But let's be consistent. Today we will talk about greens powders - dehydrated, ground superfoods that have all the benefits of a few bowls of vegetables.

But before you decide to drink greens instead of eating spinach every day, you need to understand if these foods are really as good as marketologists say.

What are greens powders?

Greens powder
Greens powder

No, it's not just ground spinach. Most greens powders are a blend of many different green herbs, spices, and superfoods1, so they're a great way to incorporate ingredients like wheatgrass, beetroot, or algae into your daily diet — foods you probably don't normally eat on a daily basis.

Thus, greens superfood powders usually contain tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Some powders also contain additional nutritional, non-green ingredients, including probiotics, chia, and flax seeds, matcha, and fruit extracts. So, in some cases, the products really aim to be a one-stop-shop for all your dietary needs.

What does greens powder do?

Let's start with the positives. So far, little real and deep research has been carried out in this area, but there are some beneficial effects that are possible due to the very composition of greens powders.

The nutrients and plant compounds in greens powders can support overall wellness when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

For example, greens leafy powders are usually rich in vitamins A and C, which help support immune function2. In addition, probiotics added to greens powders may help your digestive health.

Some greens powders are claimed to boost your energy. However, they tend to be low in calories and therefore do not necessarily provide much energy.

Some of these powders contain compounds that may help you feel more alert and energized, including green tea extract, which contains caffeine.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the plant compounds in greens powder may help reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Again, all of these beneficial impacts are best when taken in combination with a healthy diet!

Summary of good effects

Greens powders can:

  • improve overall well-being, 
  • support immune function and energy level;
  • reduce the risk of chronic disease. 

Can greens supplements replace whole vegetables?

But from this point on, the shortcomings begin. Of course, no superfood can replace regular food.

Real vegetables are rich in amino acids, useful elements, and vitamins. Most importantly, they have a balanced composition of valuable substances. Therefore, if you choose between greens powders or vegetables and fruits, choose the second ones.

For example, according to nutritionists, goji berries can be replaced with dogwood, which surpasses them in the amount of beta-carotene.

In general, vegetables are enjoyable to chew and contain a lot of water. Both of these aspects promote satiety and can help prevent overeating. In this regard, powdered greens are less satisfying.

In addition, greens powders are low in fiber, typically only 1-2 grams per serving, although extra fiber is sometimes added.

Eating a variety of whole vegetables and other foods as part of a complete diet is the best way to achieve nutrient balance and avoid excess of any one nutrient.

Are greens powders safe?

Greens powders can rarely cause significant harm to the body, but they can do it if you do not follow the dosages.

For example, nutritionists recommend taking up to 10 grams of spirulina per day. The therapeutic dose is 2-10 grams. In case of a large overdose, you can experience temporary yellowing of the skin due to the large amount of beta-carotene in spirulina4.

Although, even with strict adherence to the rules, no one guarantees you the absence of side effects. You don’t know which trace elements in your body are not enough at the moment, and which ones are in excess. Therefore, consultation with a doctor or nutritionist before taking supplements is highly recommended.

If supplements have unfamiliar ingredients, they may also affect your digestion. So, start small and work your way up to your recommended daily serving.

If you are breastfeeding or pregnant, or have thyroid problems, avoid daily green powders. Some contain high levels of sodium, iodine, and selenium, which can impair thyroid function and potentially harm a newborn's health.

If you are taking any medications, of course, check with your doctor to make sure none of the ingredients in the powder will have side effects.

How to drink greens powders?

A girl holding a glass with diluted greens powder
A girl holding a glass with diluted greens powder

If you still decide to take greens powders, then do it right. You can add them to water, dissolve and drink - yes, it really is that simple. We also recommend adding them to smoothies, especially if it’s a greens product that contains additional fats and proteins to turn the mixture into a meal.

If you do not want to drink greens powders, you can:

  • add them to scrambled eggs;
  • sprinkle over fried vegetables;
  • mix them with homemade salad dressing;
  • mix them in vegetable sauce;
  • add them to soup.

However, when you heat your greens powders, you can reduce or get rid of some nutrients, including vitamin C and probiotics.

If your vegetable intake tends to drop while traveling, consider taking greens powder with you to keep your diet going.

Nutritionist’s opinion

Professional dietitians are not fans of greens powders. According to a qualified nutritionist, there are a number of significant and visible cons, for example:

No fiber and water

As you already know, greens powders will never replace either fresh vegetables or wholesome nutrition. They have practically no fiber and water. But this combo: “fiber + vitamins + water” makes up the main value of vegetables! The concentration of vitamins and minerals in such powders is no more (and often even less) than in encapsulated vitamins. 

Too many vitamins

Yes, it happens. In general, all superfoods and sports supplements work in the same scenario. So how is this possible? And what exactly is the problem?

All in all, these supplements are almost useless. You can add them to a healthy diet, but do not count on any quick or seriously tangible effect from them. Actually, with a sound approach, you don’t need to accept everything in a row. First of all, try to examine the body and understand which microelements and vitamins it needs and which ones are not necessary (perhaps, on the contrary, they are in excess). It makes no sense to take a mixture of a bunch of vitamins. That is why side effects begin from such things.

- Ievgeniia Dobrynina, Dietitian

Weight loss myth

Honestly, there is not a single product that helps burn calories (this is a myth also invented by marketers). Calories are burned only with the help of activity and normalization of metabolism. You can only achieve it with the help of a complete balanced diet/sleep/drinking regimen and exercise, but not with the help of any particular extract or product.

Final thought

Greens powders are supplements made from greens, vegetables, seaweed, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and more.

They have many advantages, but you need to take them correctly. The best way is to add greens powders to your healthy and balanced diet. In this case, they may boost immunity and reduce the risk of chronic disease. 

Research on these foods is limited, and although they are nutritious, they should not replace whole foods. You should still eat plenty of fresh greens, other vegetables, and a variety of healthy ingredients.

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Sources:

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By choosing high-quality sources, we make sure that all articles on the Unimeal blog are reliable and trustworthy

1.
S. S. Byun, R. F. Spaide. (2021, May 1). Carrots, Blueberries, and Spinach-Vision Superfoods. Retina (Philadelphia, Pa.). DOI:https://doi.org/10.1097/iae.0000000000003089
2.
C.K. Singh, X. Liu, N. Ahmad. (2015). Resveratrol, in Its Natural Combination in Whole Grape, for Health Promotion and Disease Management. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111%2Fnyas.12798
3.
M. Vergara-Jimenez, M. Almatrafi, M. Fernandez. (2017). Bioactive Components in Moringa Oleifera Leaves Protect against Chronic Disease. Antioxidants. DOI:https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fantiox6040091
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P.D. Karkos, S.C. Leong, C.D. Karkos, et al. (2011). Spirulinain Clinical Practice: Evidence-Based Human Applications. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093%2Fecam%2Fnen058