What do Lea Michele, Jennifer Aniston, Nick Jonas and Liam Hemsworth have in common, aside from being at the height of fame? They all swear by green powders.
Green juices have spiked in popularity, fueled by celebrity fans, Instagram-worthy photos and the rise of superfoods—many of which happen to be leafy greens. Nearly 30% of nutrient-packed food and drink launches globally happened right here in America. Juicing alone now represents a $3.4 billion market. Out of the green juice craze comes green powders, which in theory pack the superfood nutrients of green juice into a supplement that can be added to smoothies, baking recipes and more.
But are green powders as health as green juices? How do they stack up to an actual plate of greens? And do you need this supplement to begin with? Here’s what you need to know about this ever popular powdered dietary supplement.
What are green powders?
Green powders claim to pack the health benefits of your daily dose of greens into a scoop of powder. These powders can taste a bit like, well, grass; some use sweeteners to mask the decidedly “green” taste. They range from around $20 to upwards of $100 per package.
In green supplements, you’re getting a powdered form of herbs, veggies, and fruits that typically have been freeze-dried. Blends can vary, but many include ingredients like algae spirulina, kale, kelp, beets,wheatgrasss, beets and ginseng. Some contain probiotics and digestive enzymes for an extra boost.
On their own, these ingredients live up to the superfood hype. Spirulina, for instance, is packed with vitamins A, B12 and K, plus iron and magnesium. Its green color comes from its high concentration of phytonutrients like carotenoids. It’s also full of quality protein. Kale is a good source of fiber, and has tons of antioxidants to fight free radicals that can lead to disease when left unchecked. Wheatgrass might not taste very nice, but it’s amazing for the body, cutting your glucose levels, helping with weight loss and even potentially impacting your skin. Much like spirulina and kelp, wheatgrass’ green color comes from chlorophyll, which could promote natural detoxification.
But there’s a big difference between eating kale and taking it in powdered form. So do green powders work as well as a plate of leafy greens?
Do green powders work?
In one study, green powders were found to help balance your body’s acidity and basicity, which the body needs to keep in check for overall health. In another, taking a fruit and vegetable powder for 90 days lowered participants’ blood pressure. A spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that green powders do deliver some of what they claim— better immunity, boosted energy, enhanced fitness performance and potential fat loss—but as with anything, claims should be taken with a grain of salt.
And there’s a big difference between eating whole foods and those foods in a powdered form, mostly due to the interaction and absorption of their nutrients within the body. This is also an issue with some vitamins, which are sometimes less easily absorbed into the body than food sources of the same vitamins.
Which green powder should you choose?
So while there are some signs that green powders can be beneficial to your diet, they shouldn’t replace whole fruits and vegetables. And as with any supplement, not all green protein brands are created equal—and none of them are regulated by the FDA.
Which brand should you choose, if you decide to give green powders a try? Bon Appetit did a comprehensive test of the green powders on the market along with two registered nutritionists. They ranked Amazing Grass’ Green Superfood near the top of the list, in part because it packs both fiber and probiotics, enhancing absorption. Dr. Cowan’s Garden Perennial Greens Powder, though more expensive, used perennial greens that are often difficult to track down in your local produce aisle. But if you’re not into the actual taste of greens, this one might not be for you.
Personally, our favorite green drink powder based on the ingredient label and overall nutritional value is the Total Living Drink by Kylea Health & Energy.
At the end of the day, read ingredient labels closely and check out trusted, non-biased reviews to increase your chances of choosing the best green powder. And if you’re ambivalent about the limited research on green powder benefits, don’t sweat it. You can always go for the real stuff instead: leafy green vegetables like kale, wheatgrass (despite the taste), algae, broccoli and the many other green superfoods. Trust us, your body will thank you in more ways than one.