How to Maximize Health Benefits With Greens Powder

What are Greens Powders?

A greens powder is a dietary supplement made from dried and powdered vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other plant-based ingredients. They are typically used as a convenient way to boost your daily intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are naturally abundant and found in plant-based foods, especially when your intake is less than recommended.

Are Greens Powders as Good as Fresh Produce?

While a greens powder can be a convenient way to boost your intake of plant-based nutrients, it should not be considered a replacement for fresh produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain a wide variety of phytonutrients, fiber, and other micronutrients that are essential for good health and are sometimes difficult to preserve in a powdered supplement form.

One of the other important differences between fresh produce and a dietary supplement is the bioavailability of nutrients. The nutrients in fresh produce are more readily absorbed and utilized by the body than those in powdered form, thanks in part to the preservation of natural enzymes that support absorption.

This is because the process of drying and powdering vegetables and fruits can inadvertently degrade some of these constituents and make the finished product less bioavailable.

Despite these differences, a greens powder can still provide a convenient way to supplement your diet with plant-based foods, especially if you struggle to eat enough fresh produce on a daily basis. For this reason, the best course of action is to make such powders an adjuvant to an already solid diet, especially considering that recommended vegetable intake per day stands at 2-3 cups.

Are Greens Powders Good for You?

For the most part, consuming greens powder is a good thing. Given that you consume a high-quality product, they do play a part in supporting overall health and wellness by providing a concentrated source of plant-based nutrition.

However, it’s important to remember that they are not a one-size-fits-all solution, as individual needs may vary.

Common Ingredients Found in A Top Greens Powder Supplement

Vegetables

Spinach: Spinach is rich in vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, which is involved in the regulation of mood [1] and has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Additionally, spinach contains carotenoid phytochemicals such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to improve cognitive function and protect against age-related cognitive decline.

Kale: Kale is high in antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and K, as well as flavonoids and carotenoids, which can help reduce inflammation and support brain function. Kale also contains sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Leafy greens are amongst some of the richest sources of antioxidants found in nature.

Broccoli: Broccoli contains sulforaphane, as well as other beneficial compounds such as glucosinolates and carotenoids, which have been shown to improve brain function and reduce symptoms of depression. Additionally, broccoli is a good source of fiber, which can help support healthy digestion and promote feelings of fullness.

Beetroot: Beetroot is high in nitrates, which can improve blood flow to the brain and improve cognitive function. Additionally, beetroot contains betalains, which are pigments that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Fruits

Blueberry, cranberry, and acai: These berries are high in antioxidants such as anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve cognitive function and protect against age-related cognitive decline. These berries also contain other beneficial compounds such as flavonoids and ellagic acid, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Goji berries: Goji berries are high in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, iron, and zinc, which can support overall health and wellness. Additionally, goji berries contain unique polysaccharides and antioxidants such as zeaxanthin, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects.

Pomegranate: Pomegranate is high in antioxidants such as ellagic acid and punicalagins, which can reduce inflammation and improve heart health. Additionally, pomegranate has been shown to have protective effects against age-related cognitive decline.

Herbs

Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that is one of the best supplements for anxiety [2], helping to also reduce stress and improve mood. The active constituents in ashwagandha include withanolides, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo Biloba is an herb that can improve blood flow to the brain and is regarded as one of the best supplements for brain fog and cognitive function, especially in the elderly [3]. The active constituents in ginkgo biloba include flavonoids and terpenoids, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Turmeric: Turmeric contains curcumin, a polyphenolic compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Curcumin can help neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body, which may help improve brain symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, curcumin has been shown to support healthy immune function and promote healthy digestion.

Other Ingredients

Wheatgrass and barley grass: Wheat grass and barley grass are high in chlorophyll, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effects. Additionally, these grasses contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help support overall health and wellness.

Chlorella and spirulina: Chlorella and spirulina are blue-green microalgae that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as unique compounds such as phycocyanin and chlorophyll. These compounds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, and may also help support healthy immune function.

Green tea extract: Green tea extract is high in catechins, which are polyphenolic compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Catechins can help neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body, which may help improve brain function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Soluble fiber: Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the intestines. This can help slow the absorption of sugar and reduce spikes in blood sugar levels, which can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression [4]. Soluble fiber can also help improve digestion and promote feelings of fullness, which can help reduce overeating and promote healthy weight management. Examples of soluble fiber include inulin, pectin, and psyllium husk.

Insoluble fiber: Insoluble fiber is a type of fiber that does not dissolve in water and promotes the movement of food through the digestive system. Greens powders aren’t often fortified with insoluble fiber. Common sources of insoluble fiber include flaxseed, chia seeds, and wheat bran.

What Are The Health Benefits?

Reduced inflammation: Many greens powders are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a variety of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Enhanced energy and stamina: A Greens powder is usually high in levels of vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that can help support energy levels and help reduce fatigue. This can lead to improved physical performance and endurance.

Improved immune function: Many greens powders are abundant in immune support nutrients such as vitamin C and zinc [5]. A strong immune system can help protect against illness and disease.

Reduced stress and anxiety: Some greens powders contain adaptogenic herbs, such as ashwagandha, ginkgo biloba, and Rhodiola that can help reduce stress and anxiety. These herbs have been shown to support healthy cortisol levels and promote relaxation.

Improved brain function: A greens powder might have ingredients that help support brain health and cognitive function. For example, green tea extract and ginkgo biloba have been shown to improve memory and concentration.

Increased nutrient intake: The best greens powder is often high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can help support overall health and wellness. Consuming a greens powder can help fill nutritional gaps and ensure that you are getting a diverse array of nutrients.

Improved digestion: Greens powders may contain digestive enzymes and prebiotic fibers that can help improve digestion and promote gut health and microbiome. This can lead to improved nutrient absorption, reduced inflammation, and better overall digestive health.

Cardiovascular health: Powdered greens blend can help support cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation, improving cholesterol levels, and supporting healthy blood pressure. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

How Much Do I Take and Do I Take It Daily?

The recommended dosage for greens powders can vary depending on the specific product and brand. In general, however, most greens powders recommend taking one scoop, which is typically around 5-10 grams, mixed with water or added to a smoothie, once or twice a day. It’s generally safe and recommended to take greens powders daily at the recommended dosage found on the label, but as with any supplement, it’s important to monitor your intake.

Who Should Not Use Greens Powders?

While greens powders might be beneficial for most people, there are people that may have specific health conditions that may not benefit from consuming them or may need to be cautious. These include:

  • Kidney disease: Greens powders are often high in potassium, which can be harmful to people with kidney disease.
  • Thyroid disorders: Some greens powders contain high amounts of iodine, which can interfere with thyroid function in people with certain thyroid disorders.
  • Blood clotting disorders: Certain greens powders may contain high amounts of vitamin K, which can interfere with blood clotting in people taking blood-thinning medications.
  • Allergies: Greens powders may contain a variety of ingredients that could trigger allergic reactions in some individuals, such as wheatgrass, spirulina, or bee pollen.
  • Women Who Are Pregnant Or Breastfeeding: Even though the majority of ingredients contained in greens powders are fruits and vegetables, the inclusion of herbs or other additives may make it unsuitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Questionable Ingredients to Watch For

While there are many beneficial ingredients found in greens powders, there are also some questionable ingredients that you may want to watch for. These include:

  • Fillers: Some greens powders may contain fillers, such as maltodextrin, cornstarch, or rice flour, the former of which is associated with an increased risk of developing irritable bowel disease (IBD).
  • Artificial sweeteners: Some greens powders may contain artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or sucralose, which have been linked to the disruption of gut bacteria.
  • Artificial Additives: It is not uncommon for a greens powders to contain additives such as artificial colors or flavors, which are often unnecessary and may cause allergic reactions or other adverse effects. Certified organic additives tend to reduce this risk.
  • GMO Ingredients: Depending on the source of the ingredients, some greens powders may contain genetically modified additives, which are sometimes linked to a variety of health risks. You should look for certified organic powders.
  • Thickeners: Greens powders may contain thickeners, such as guar gum or xanthan gum, which can also cause digestive issues in some people.
  • Pesticides and herbicides: Greens powders made from conventionally grown produce may contain traces of pesticides or herbicides, which can be harmful to human health.
  • Heavy metals: Powders made from certain types of seaweed, such as kelp, may contain high levels of heavy metals, which can be toxic in excess.
  • Allergens: Allergens such as wheat grass or bee pollen may be present and could potentially trigger allergic reactions in some individuals.

It is always important to carefully read the label and ingredient list of any you are considering consuming.

How To Choose a Good-Quality Greens Powder

High-Quality Ingredients (Which Ingredients Are Best?)

Choosing a quality greens powder can be challenging, as there are many different products available with varying ingredients. However, by understanding the key ingredients to look for, you can make an informed decision and select a product that meets your needs.

One important factor to consider is the quality of the ingredients used in the greens powder. The best greens powders will typically use, whole food and certified organic ingredients that are minimally processed and have a high nutrient density.

It’s also important to look for a product that uses standardized, bioavailable ingredients rather than proprietary blends or non-standardized extracts. Standardized ingredients ensure that you are getting a consistent dose of the active compounds, and they have been shown to be more effective than non-standardized extracts.

Some common ingredients found in the best greens powders include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Wheatgrass
  • Chlorella
  • Spirulina
  • Beetroot
  • Green tea extract
  • Ashwagandha
  • Blueberries 
  • Acai
  • Goji berries
  • Pomegranate

Third-Party Tested

This is an important step in ensuring the quality and safety of greens powders. Third-party testing is conducted by independent labs that have no affiliation with the manufacturer or distributor of the product. These labs test the product for purity, potency, and contaminants, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and herbicides. Third-party testing helps to verify the accuracy of the label claims, and ensure that the product does not contain any harmful contaminants that could be detrimental to your health.

Additionally, findings of third-party lab tests should be available for review. This information should be readily available on the manufacturer’s website or the product packaging via a simple QR code.

Dosage

If a greens powder is recommending that you take an abnormally high dosage compared to other brands, it may indicate an inferior or low-strength product. This is because the potency of a greens powder is determined by the quality and concentration of the ingredients used. If a product requires a significantly higher dosage to achieve the same level of nutrients as other popular greens powder brands do, it may be an indication that the product is of lower quality, the ingredients are not as potent, or they are adding too much filler in an effort to reduce how much their greens powders cost.

Are Greens Powders Worth It?

Whether or not greens powders are worth it depends on your individual needs and preferences, making it a completely subjective call. While they are not absolutely necessary for everyone, they can be a convenient and effective way to supplement your moderately balanced diet with additional plant-based nutrition.

Many people struggle to consume the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, which can leave them deficient in key vitamins, minerals, and other plant-based nutrients. Greens powders offer a concentrated and easy-to-consume source of plant-based nutrition that can help fill these nutritional gaps and support overall health and wellness.

While it is always best to obtain nutrients from a healthy diet of whole foods, these powders can also be a helpful supplement for those who have time constraints, or dietary restrictions, or for those who are traveling or often on the road.

It’s also important to note that not all greens powders are created equal, so some top greens powders will inevitably be “worth it” more than others. Therefore, due diligence can also determine your perceived value worth of a greens powder.

Are Greens Powders Safe?

In general, greens powders are considered safe for most people when taken as directed. However, there can be potential risks and side effects, especially if taken in excessive amounts. Possible side effects of greens powders are mild in nature and may include transient digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. 

Additionally, if you have any underlying health conditions or take any medications, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider before adding any new to your routine, and keep and report adverse effects as they occur.

References:

[1] Eby, G. A., 3rd, & Eby, K. L. (2010). Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis. Medical hypotheses, 74(4), 649–660.

[2] Pratte, M. A., Nanavati, K. B., Young, V., & Morley, C. P. (2014). An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 20(12), 901–908.

[3] Scholey, A. B., & Kennedy, D. O. (2002). Acute, dose-dependent cognitive effects of Ginkgo biloba, Panax ginseng and their combination in healthy young volunteers: differential interactions with cognitive demand. Human psychopharmacology, 17(1), 35–44.

[4] Saghafian, F., Hajishafiee, M., Rouhani, P., & Saneei, P. (2023). Dietary fiber intake, depression, and anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Nutritional neuroscience, 26(2), 108–126.

[5] Maares, M., & Haase, H. (2016). Zinc and immunity: An essential interrelation. Archives of biochemistry and biophysics, 611, 58–65.

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.