Everything You Need to Know About Green Powders
According to dietitians. (Yes, you still need to eat your vegetables.)
Hard as we try, sometimes we can’t eat perfectly. Perhaps your diet’s been dramatically compromised because of Covid-19, or you don’t like eating vegetables. The ingredients in some green powders look like they pack your required dose of greens, so hurrah, no need to eat all that spinach then?
Ehm, not quite.
“Powdered vegetables cannot and will never be able to replace wholesome vegetables” says Jaclyn Reutens, clinical dietitian and founder of APTIMA Nutrition & Sports Consultants.
Accredited clinical dietitian Dr Naras Lapsys advocates a food first approach but says that “green powders are a good insurance policy, if you’re taking it in addition to eating in a better way or know your nutrition is compromised because your diet can’t provide it and you’re looking to get extra minerals.”
So, necessary or hype? Here’s everything you need to know.
What are green powders?
“They’re dried mixtures of plants and fruit, formulated to contain high amounts of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals and sometimes probiotics and digestive enzymes,” Reutens explains. “The common ingredients tend to be ‘green’ in nature, such as wheatgrass, chlorella, alfafa grass, broccoli, spirulina, kale and green tea.”
To consume, mix with water or any other liquid.
They can’t replace eating vegetables, but they can supplement your diet.
"Whole plant foods contain an array of phytonutrients that work naturally in synergy with each other to confer the benefits that you feel such as increase in energy levels, cell repair, antioxidative functions and improved digestive health,” Reutens says.
“While green powders do contain a vast amount of nutrients, absorption of vitamins and minerals from whole vegetables are higher than green powders."
She adds that the amount of fibre on a serving of green powders are low, compared to whole fruits and vegetables.
However, with a good quality product, you’d still be getting nutrients from an actual plant, which could contribute to your overall intake.
“Getting your nutrients from minimally, unprocessed food is the first port of call and green powders, like any other supplement, are still a processed food,” says Dr Lapsys says. “But under the circuit breaker situation for instance, some people aren’t able to get the food they normally get. With green powders you’re still getting vitamins and nutrients.”
“Some of these drinks do have a lot of fibre, and the satiety you get from having these drinks help to regulate appetite and how much else you eat. They’re good adjuncts to already healthy eating patterns.”
Do they boost your body’s immunity, energy levels and help with detoxification as so many brands claim?
“To say that a food can detoxify, cleanse and purify are rather strong claims that are hard to prove because of numerous confounding factors,” says Reutens. “I do think they have great potential to enhance energy levels and digestion, but I prefer to treat green powders as supplements. They help to seal the gaps that your diet is unable to fill.”
What should you look for when buying green powders?
The supplement industry is largely unregulated so focus on quality and powders that are organically or chemically-free grown; are cold pressed or extracted without solvents, for maximum nutrient value.
“Buyer beware, do your due diligence and find out where it’s made,” Dr Lapsys advises. “Often what you pay for what is what you get. Look for brands that push the envelope to produce a high-quality product, and have had clinical trials done.”
He adds that some green powders are made with ingredients from places where the soil is very rich and are likely to contain a lot of vitamins and minerals.
“It’s also safer if the company’s products have been checked by a credible third party lab such as Informed-Choice, known for checking sports supplements for Olympic athletes,” says Reutens.
Are there any risks?
“Start slow and be mindful of initial doses as your digestive tract may not be able to handle the full dose immediately,” Reutens says.
If you’re on medication, check with your GP first. Green powders tend to be high in Vitamin K, which can be counterproductive for some blood thinning medications. Children, pregnant and breastfeeding mums should not take these powders because of concentrated amounts of certain substances that can pose potential health risks.
Our Picks All products featured here are independently selected and paid for by DULU.
Welleco The Super Elixir™, from AUD$80 (about S$73.90)
What it says on the tin: Developed by nutritional doctors, it contains 45 naturally derived and cold-pressed whole food ingredients including green wholefoods, herbal extracts, vitamins, minerals and a mix of 4 probiotics. Vegan and non-GMO, free from synthetic ingredients; soy, refined sugar, wheat and dairy-free. Made in Australia.
Our Review: Maybe it’s by virtue of taking something that’s supposed to be good for me, but I feel more energised when I take it regularly. It’s definitely helped with my gut health, and my skin seems less inflamed (I have rosacea). It also tastes great, with a hint of citrus – I only ever have it with water. – Lydia Ng
Garden of Life Perfect Food Original (Super Green Formula), S$54.35
What it says on the tin: Made with 45 organic, nutrient-dense foods including concentrated cereal grass juices, and proprietary blend of probiotic microorganisms and plant-based digestive enzymes. Greens are dried at their farm within an hour of harvesting and one serving is equivalent to 148.5 grams of fresh grass juice. Unflavoured, unsweetened, and free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. USDA Organic and Informed Choice certified.
Our Review: This packs quite a punch with lots of probiotics. It tastes horrible with just water so I add it to grapefruit juice – I like to think I’m getting the added benefit of the juice too. The gut definitely works better, it keeps one regular and a healthy gut = healthy. – Dr Lucy Davies-Beh
The Beauty Chef Cleanse Inner Beauty Essential, AUD$65 (about S$60)
What it says on the tin: Contains more than 35 certified organic and bio-fermented fruits, vegetables, grasses, seeds, plant fibre, herbs, digestive enzymes. Microbiologist-approved, non GMO, no artificial flavours, preservatives or colours, no added gluten, dairy, soy, eggs or nuts. Made in Australia.
Our Review: One of the better tasting green powders I've tried. It doesn't have that grassy taste that many green powders have, and it's pretty easy to drink, even when mixed only with water. I like that it's chock-full of nutrient-rich ingredients including leafy greens as well as prebiotics and probiotics. I have a sensitive gut and noticed that my digestion improved after taking this green power regularly. My skin is also clearer and I no longer have breakouts during my period – Zarelda Marie Goh