By Matt Neatock
You likely know that fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. But between busy schedules and flavor preferences, you might struggle to eat enough of the foods that are good for you.
Green powder supplements are a convenient way to help fill the gaps left by unbalanced diets. While they may also boast some impressive health benefits, not all greens supplements are the same. Many have similar makeups, but the quantity of nutrients and quality of ingredients can vary wildly between brands.
We'll walk you through ingredients commonly found in greens supplements and what to look out for.
The right greens supplement can have many health benefits. Here's why you should consider adding one to your diet.
Antioxidant-like compounds can help counteract the oxidative stress caused by free radicals and thereby prevent or delay cell damage. Look for greens supplements that primarily contain superfoods high in antioxidant-like compounds, such as matcha, spinach, and goji berries.
Can greens supplements boost your energy levels? It depends on whether they contain green tea extract or matcha. Research suggests that people who take a green tea extract supplement may experience better energy levels.
Many greens supplements contain veggies, fruits, and plants, such as green tea, that might support the immune system.
Plus, many greens supplements are high in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin D, which are necessary for our immune system to function well.
The words "detox" and "cleanse" are so overused at this point that many don't believe the hype anymore. Truth is, your body is perfectly capable of flushing the toxins itself — but it never hurts to offer it some support.
Maintaining good health and wellbeing will help your liver, kidneys, and other organs expel toxins efficiently. In that sense, eating foods or taking supplements high in antioxidant-like compounds and drinking plenty of water can help support the body's natural detoxification processes.
If you decide to use a greens supplement, you want to go with one that provides concentrated amounts of essential nutrients that are otherwise hard to come by.
Always pay attention to the ingredients listed on the label, and remember, when it comes to greens supplements, less is more: You want a supplement with a high concentration of a few main ingredients, not tiny bits of 30+ compounds. Here are a few of the ingredients that are loaded with the nutrients you need.
Chlorella and spirulina and are two of the most widely-used and studied algae that get included in greens supplements.
Spirulina has been in use longer, and NASA even used it to supplement the diets of astronauts in space, but chlorella can be even more nutritious. "Chlorella edges out the win here due to having higher amounts of important nutrients," says LADDER Senior Scientist Paul Falcone.
Chlorella contains more than seven times the phosphorous, which is a key mineral and a structural component of DNA, RNA, and ATP (the energy molecule). It's also about 50 percent protein by weight, making it a good plant source of protein.
So you don't like to eat kale? No worries! Most greens supplements these days contain leafy greens in powder form.
Like all other leafy greens (kale, collard greens, cabbage), spinach has antioxidant-like compounds and minerals. For those who are avoiding dairy products, spinach and kale contain some calcium to help meet your daily recommended needs.
You will often see herbs such as Rhodiola, milk thistle, or echinacea added to greens supplements.
Rhodiola, in particular, shows promising benefits: Studies have looked at how supplements containing it might help support your body's natural response to stress.
Green tea is famous for its antioxidant-like compounds, but did you know that matcha is even more nutritionally dense than green tea? Matcha is made from whole leaves, which means that it has even more beneficial compounds than the already incredibly useful green tea.
Many greens supplements include powerhouse grasses, such as wheatgrass, alfalfa grass, or barley grass. These grasses have a long-standing reputation as superfoods.
Greens supplements can also contain chia seeds, mushrooms, and other veggies.
Greens supplements often have a bitter taste, so many brands opt to use sweeteners. These are completely fine, as they are usually natural and low in calories.
Be sure to check the ingredient label, though, and make sure sugar isn't a main component (not among the first few ingredients listed), especially added sugar. Watch out for artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors.
Short answer — no. Whole vegetables contain a lot of water and fiber, plus they are a perfect vehicle for delivering essential minerals and vitamins because they contain other substances that aid the absorption process.
But, can greens supplements help you fill some holes in your daily nutrition? Most definitely. Greens supplements can be an occasional substitute for a serving of fruits and vegetables, and in some cases, they can deliver vitamins and minerals that are scarce in usual diets.
Not many people make a habit of eating broccoli sprouts or Rhodiola roots. These extracts can support your health and wellbeing, so it's not a bad idea to consider taking them in supplement form.
Still, never forget the importance of a healthy and balanced diet, and always ask your doctor to help you choose the best supplement for you.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions around greens supplements.
Do greens supplements contain probiotics?
Probiotics and digestive enzymes are sometimes added to greens supplement blends. Probiotics are well known as an aid in maintaining a healthy gut flora, so if that's what you're looking for, check the ingredients list to see if probiotics are included in a particular supplement.
Is it OK to use a greens powder in a smoothie or other mix?
Greens supplements are usually dissolved in water or milk substitutes, but they can also be added to smoothies, acai bowls, or salads.