Are green powders a waste of money? I’m going to cut to the chase: green powders are definitely worth it if you pick the right ones.
For very simple reasons, they are definitely a boon to health in most cases.
As always, I’m going to dig in a little deeper regarding the research on this topic. Let’s take a look.
What are green powders?
Green powders are a diverse type of supplements that are mostly made from green vegetables.
But they often contain other ingredients. These include herbs, spices, mushrooms, grasses, digestive enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, and more.
They are meant to enhance the diet and contain a wide array of green vegetables. Vegetables often included are leafy greens, chlorella, spirulina, seaweed, kale, spinach, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, grasses, cabbage, kelp, cucumber, limes, lemons, pineapple, berries, various other fruits, and more.
As far as calories go, they contain 50 calories or less.
It is important to note that the best green powders are ones that are certified organic for obvious reasons.
They should also use natural sweeteners like monk fruit or stevia instead of artificial sweeteners.
How expensive are green powders?
A good organic greens powder tends to be around $1 per day such as Bulletproof Greens and Amazing Grass Greens Blend Superfood.
Not too bad considering your typical coffee shop charges around $4-5 for a fancy coffee drink.
And you get a lot more nutrition without all the added sugar and cost of espresso drinks and blended drinks.
Granted, some green powders will cost you a bit more, such as Athletic Greens and Genius Greens which come in around $2 or more per serving.
But the cost is still nothing compared to what you might spend on other drinks.
Have you seen the cost of sports drinks and energy drinks too? These energy drinks are lots of (mostly) empty calories for plenty of money.
That should put the cost of green drinks in better perspective.
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Are green powders a waste of money?
No. There are many reasons that high-quality green powders are a good value for health.
The benefits of green powders are:
- They add variety to your diet
- Contain digestive enzymes so they can aid digestion
- Usually, they provide healthy probiotics and/or prebiotics for both body and mind health
- Are nutritious and can fill in gaps in your diet
- Often have healthy herbs as well
- Ingredients in green powder supplements can decrease inflammation
- May boost energy levels because of their nutrients
- Research shows they help blood pressure levels
Let’s break down each of these benefits a little bit more.
They add variety to your diet
Green powders can definitely add variety to your diet. Variety in your diet is important because it enhances the number of antioxidants and phytochemicals you get.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, increasing the types of foods in a day may be more important than almost anything you do for health.
Research shows that increasing the types of foods you eat in a day to over 14 types of foods may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. Increased variety in the diet may even reduce the risk of death [R, R].
Many green powder drinks contain over 30 types of antioxidant-rich foods. So they definitely help meet the goal of dietary variety.
One feature of cultures that live long lives is that they eat a lot of variety. A couple of examples are people who live in Japan and in the Mediterranean. They often eat over 36 types of foods a day.
By the way, the average American only eats about 8 types of foods per day.
They aid digestive health because they often contain digestive enzymes
Many high-quality green powders contain natural digestive enzymes. By doing so, they may help reduce indigestion symptoms like gas, bloating, and heartburn.
As we age, our bodies make fewer digestive enzymes [R]. This decline in enzymes can lead to inefficient nutrient absorption.
Additionally, the typical American diet causes inflammation in the gut. Inflammation in the gut further reduces the ability to make enzymes and digest foods.
And digestive enzymes aren’t just for digestion either. Some research shows that they can help reduce inflammation in the body. They are also often used for joint health too.
So high-quality greens powder brands can help support health in this way. In other words, you may want to take a green powder for bloating, inflammation, and more. Just make sure your greens powder has digestive enzymes.
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Rich in prebiotics and probiotics
Many types of greens powders contain as many prebiotics and probiotics as supplements that are marketed for that purpose.
So, your green powders may be able to replace the need for probiotic supplements in some cases.
Just make sure to check your greens powder label to see if it contains high-quality probiotics. Bulletproof Greens Powder is a good option because it contains the spore-based probiotic called Bacillus coagulans and plenty of prebiotic fibers from mushrooms and vegetables.
If you are looking for one with more prebiotic fibers, a good choice is Transparent Labs Prebiotic Greens.
Green powders are nutritious
Most green powders are rich in vitamins and minerals. They have carotenoids (provitamin A), vitamin K, vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin E, selenium, chromium, iodine, potassium, and magnesium. These are to name a few nutrients that you can get from a green drink.
It goes without saying, though, that green powders vary quite drastically, depending on the ingredients they contain.
Bulletproof Greens powder even contains vitamin K2, which is helpful for heart and bone health.
Can green powders replace vegetables?
No, this is not their intent. You should always aim to eat a diet rich in nutrients that come from whole foods like vegetables and fruits.
But, superfood green drinks are meant to enhance an overall healthy diet by adding variety and filling in some nutrition gaps you may have in your diet.
Most people either have gaps in their diet or are in denial. At a minimum, most people are missing out on antioxidants.
And green powders contain a wide variety of antioxidants.
Because of this, they are also anti-inflammatory. This means that they can help reduce free radicals in the body that can cause damage to your tissues.
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Green powders often have healthy herbs
Green powders made with herbs go a step further because they can help support a healthy immune system as well.
For example, Bulletproof Greens contain ginseng and Athletic Greens contains a lot of herbs like hawthorn berry, ashwagandha, milk thistle, and burdock root.
Both of these brands also contain medicinal mushrooms like Lion’s mane, Cordyceps, or Reishi mushrooms.
Powder drinks like these often have antioxidant-rich green tea extract too.
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Can decrease inflammation
One of the health benefits of green powders made with high-quality ingredients is that they can help reduce inflammation. This is good for both the body and the brain.
One study found that a green powder supplement increased antioxidant enzymes in the body. It also reduced oxidative stress in 10 healthy people using six teaspoons of greens+ per day for four weeks [R].
Oxidative stress causes inflammation in the body. So antioxidants in green powders often serve to decrease inflammation.
Research supports this too. In fact, in a group of obese women, supplemental veggie and fruit juice capsules reduced markers of inflammation and reduced oxidative stress after supplementation [R].
In other words, using a greens powder supplement likely helps your inflammation levels. They will work even better if they are combined with a gut-healing diet.
May boost energy levels because of their nutrients
Green powders, often made with chlorella, may boost energy levels. In fact, a study using chlorella found that it reduced fatigue after exercise in healthy men [R].
The nutrients they contain, such as magnesium and B vitamins, can help mitochondria function properly, which supports natural energy production in the body.
Although no research in humans has looked at whether green powders help specifically with weight loss, they definitely may help improve insulin sensitivity. And because of their diverse ingredients, they tend to support a healthy glycemic response [R].
They also contain natural electrolytes and healthy carbs, making them great for athletes too. For example, they are a healthy option for energy during sports events. This is because they contain electrolytes without all of the processed sugars that are in drinks like sports drinks.
Green powders help blood pressure levels
Taking a green powder can help reduce blood pressure levels according to research.
A pilot study showed that a green drink powder called Nano Greens significantly reduced systolic blood pressure [R].
Another study showed that a vegetable juice powder slightly improved both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with hypertension [R]. It also helped improve a marker of arterial flexibility.
It’s not a big stretch to think that a green powder drink could improve blood pressure. This is because they often contain ingredients that are known to support healthy blood pressure levels, such as vegetables, herbs, and fruits.
Many also contain green tea extract which may lower blood pressure [R]. A good example of a greens powder that contains green tea extract is Amazing Grass Green Superfood.
Commonly asked questions about green powders
Are green powders less safe than fresh vegetables?
Some research shows that a few green powder product brands contain heavy metals like mercury and cadmium in amounts above safe acceptable levels according to Consumerlab.com.
This may seem shocking and disconcerting.
However, consider this:
A research study found that fresh vegetables like fresh leafy green lettuce, tomato, eggplant, pepper, and cucumber all have greater than the maximum allowed mercury levels when grown near power plants [R].
Mercury is found in rice too and can be 3-fold higher than the maximum allowed mercury level [R].
The same is true for foods grown near high-traffic areas. Mercury can be almost anywhere because mercury comes primarily from air pollution these days.
Regardless of whether or not vegetables or green powders have some mercury in them, eating vegetables or green powders actually helps bind the mercury, making them less likely to be absorbed into your body.
This means that vegetables, whether you eat them fresh, get them in supplement form, or both, are helpful because they reduce the toxic burden of heavy metals [R].
Chlorella is especially useful in helping remove toxic heavy metals from the body. Many greens powders include chlorella in their ingredients such as Athletic Greens and Amazing Grass.
One way to be assured that you are avoiding heavy metals in your greens drink is to find brands that have independent, third-party inspections such as GMP certification or Certified Transparent Company [R].
Are green powders alkalizing?
Possibly. Super greens powder benefits may include gentle alkalizing, but only in the context of a healthy diet.
Diets rich in fruits in vegetables have a subtle effect on helping balance the pH in the body [R].
In contrast, a diet full of highly processed grains, sugars, and proteins results in a slightly more acidic pH.
Do green powders make your immune system healthy?
They probably help to a degree with your immune response. This is because they contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and immune-supportive probiotics and prebiotics.
It is impossible to know how much they ultimately will help you with immunity because the types of green powders vary a lot and so does your diet. Exposure to vitamin D and sunlight, for example, plays a big role in your immunity as well.
And so do adequate protein, zinc, selenium, and other nutrients. Probiotics are critical for a healthy immune system too.
Do they make up for not eating vegetables and fruits?
No. That is not the intent of green powders. They are meant to enhance an already healthy diet, so your goal should be to continue to eat a wide variety and large amounts of vegetables and whole foods.
And last time I checked, the CDC said that only 10 percent of Americans do eat enough vegetables.
Even if you do eat a healthy diet, soils these days can be very low in nutrients. Soil nutrients have decreased across the globe, which has decreased the nutritional value of foods [R].
So, by choosing organically grown foods, local foods, and supplements like organic green powders when needed, you stand your best chance of getting enough nutrients in your diet.
Are they rich in prebiotics?
Usually. The natural plant-based fibers in green powder drinks help to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut so they serve as prebiotics.
Additionally, some green powders add in natural prebiotics as well, such as acacia fiber or chicory root.
A good prebiotic green powder is called Transparent Labs Prebiotic Greens.
Do they help cholesterol levels?
Well, they certainly don’t make cholesterol worse and they may help.
Certain ingredients in green powders tend to help improve cholesterol ratios. These ingredients include apple pectin, broccoli, and chlorella.
Probiotics included in green powders may help reduce bad cholesterol called LDL cholesterol too [R].
Do greens powders help you lose weight?
Uncertain. However, because they can fill in gaps in your diet, you may feel more energy and less inflammation, and so you may naturally want to move more. This burns more calories.
What are the side effects of green powder drinks?
Side effects are pretty rare when it comes to green powders, but if you are sensitive or allergic to any of the ingredients, you should definitely avoid them. Make sure to carefully read the ingredient list fully before buying them.
That said, your body may not be used to the fiber or prebiotics and you may experience some temporary gas or bloating in this case.
How do I choose the best brand of green powder?
The criteria I use to choose a green powder is that it includes probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and a wide array of organic vegetables.
Additionally, the greens drink powder should have high ratings, a good brand reputation, and Good Manufacturing Practices or Certified Transparency. It is also important that they taste good, and my favorite one for taste and quality is Bulletproof Greens.
Also, if your greens drink has grasses, I recommend that you choose one that has fermented grasses for better digestibility. Fermented Green Superfood fits the bill.
Do green powders interact with medications?
If you take medications, you should always check with your healthcare provider first before starting a green powder supplement.
Some contain significant amounts of vitamin K per serving which can interfere with warfarin. Others contain herbs that may not match well with your prescriptions.
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Summary: are green powders a waste of money?
No. In general, they provide added variety, prebiotics, probiotics, fill in nutrition gaps, and antioxidants that support overall health.
They certainly don’t replace eating well, but they can be a great way to help enhance health.
After all, the goal for health shouldn’t be the absence of disease but the presence of vitality should be.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.