Health Advice



Environmental Nutrition: Should you try greens powder?

Matthew Kadey, Environmental Nutrition on

Published in Health & Fitness

If the sales pitches are to be believed, then you should consider a greens powder as your nutrition savior. Just mix a scoop into water or your favorite drink and get all the nutrition you might have been missing. Since eating fruits and vegetables is known to promote gut health, boost immunity, and benefit the brain and heart, these powdered greens may claim to do the same (and certainly in a way that is more convenient than prepping a salad).

In general, greens powders are made by dehydrating various ingredients and then crushing them into a fine powder. Many of these powders contain plenty of non-green ingredients, too. Formulas vary by brand, but many are made up of greens like broccoli and barley grass, fruits, mushrooms, herbal extracts, probiotics and micronutrients.

Greens, the good

These supplements may help fill in some nutritional gaps in your diet. Some brands provide 100 percent or more of the daily recommendation for several important vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, zinc, and folate. So, these can be considered akin to a multivitamin and helpful in overcoming any nutrient shortfalls. And with ingredients like medicinal mushrooms and herbal extracts, it’s very likely a greens powder will provide you with plant compounds that you’re not likely getting from your normal diet. Some of these may provide benefits like increasing cognitive functioning.

Greens, the cautionary

There is scant research to support all the lofty health claims, which is not surprising as many of these products vary substantially from brand to brand in composition, making comparisons challenging. Research may have found benefits of individual ingredients like kale or mushrooms — but not the entire blend.

Because many brands are made with numerous ingredients, there is the real possibility that some of them, including probiotics and mushrooms, will be supplied in amounts that are less than what research shows is required to have a health benefit. There’s no minimum amount of any ingredient that needs to be in a product, so it can be miniscule.

One notable nutritional shortcoming in most of these products is fiber. For something that is so veggie- and fruit-rich, you’d think there would be more fiber in a greens powder. But that is typically not the case and another reason these are not an appropriate substitute for eating whole vegetables and fruits.


Some may also experience the licensing effect where one good habit, such as taking a greens powder, justifies (maybe subconsciously) a less healthy act like eating fewer veggies or exercising less.

Not to be overlooked is that gram for gram, greens powders are going to be significantly more costly than most fruits and vegetables. And, like most supplements, you can only expect benefits if the powder is consumed regularly, which makes the cost something to consider.

The bottom line

If you are having a tough time working enough healthful foods into your diet, these powders can help boost your overall daily nutrition, at a cost. But what these powders are not is a reason to leave actual vegetables and fruits off of your plate. If you are eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of whole-food variety, then a greens powder is optional.

(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384.

©2024 Belvoir Media Group. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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