It can be difficult to eat enough greens, but they’re an important source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. One way to sneak greens into your diet is to incorporate greens powders. They look promising with their seemingly nutritious ingredients and a handful of health claims, but is a greens powder necessary for you?
What are Greens Powders?
Greens powders are dietary supplements made from dried, powdered greens, vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients. They are viewed as sources of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, probiotics, digestive enzymes, antioxidants, and protein.
“Greens powders are dietary supplements that contain dehydrated, pulverized vegetables and fruits in a very concentrated form,” explains Laura M. Ali, RDN. “The nutritional value varies but they are typically high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Some greens powders have added benefits such as vegetable protein, probiotics, and green tea.”
Many people incorporate greens powders into their diets as a way to boost their nutrient intake. They are often claimed to help improve digestion, boost immunity, and enhance overall wellness.
Dietary supplements, including greens powders, tend to have a lot of health claims surrounding them. Greens powders are associated with an ample amount of potential health benefits, but there isn’t a lot of evidence supporting those claims.
Increased Vitamin and Mineral Intake
“The main benefit of using a greens powder is to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals,” says Brittany Poulson, MDA, RDN, CD, CDCES. “They are often high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as vitamins A, C and K, selenium, chromium, potassium, and iron.”
One of the main reasons people turn to greens powders is to increase their intake of nutrients that they would otherwise miss out on in their diet. Instead of eating handfuls of kale every day, for example, some consumers find it easier to chug a green drink. For this reason, some view greens powders as the dried version of a green juice or green smoothie. However, the nutrients in fresh or juiced greens may not be the same as those found in dried, powdered foods.
Research shows that increased fruit and vegetable consumption may be beneficial for overall health and reduce the risk of disease, but it’s unclear whether the powdered form of such foods contributes the same benefits.
The nutritional information of a greens powder depends on the ingredients, which varies per manufacturer. Common ingredients in greens powders include dried spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, kale, broccoli, apple, moringa, lemon, and spinach.
Garden of Life's Green Superfood Juiced Greens Powder is an example of a popular greens powder. One scoop, or 6.9g of this powder, contains:
- Calories: 25
- Protein: 2g
- Carbohydrates: 4g
- Fiber: 1g
- Sugars: 1g
- Sodium: 50mg
- Calcium: 38mg (2% DV)
- Vitamin A: 330mcg (35% DV)
- Vitamin K: 88 mcg (70% DV)
If you eat enough greens, you may not need greens powder. “If you do not eat greens, a greens powder might make a difference,” says Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD. “But, there’s little to no research on greens powders to know with certainty whether they will help you meet your nutritional goals.”
Source of Beneficial Nutrients
Some greens powders are potent sources of beneficial nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. This depends on the ingredient in the specific product you chose.
The fiber content in some greens powders is especially appealing to those who may be dealing with digestive issues.
“If your diet is low in fiber, a greens powder with added fiber may be beneficial,” Spano says. “The average American gets half of the fiber they need daily for good health.”
It’s estimated that only 5 percent of U.S. adults meet the recommendations for dietary fiber. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 22-28 grams of fiber per day for adult women and 28-34 grams of fiber per day for adult men.
Increased Fluid Consumption
Since greens powders are usually added to beverages like water or juice, consuming them can encourage you to drink more liquids. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends consuming 11.5 cups of fluids per day for women and 15.5 cups per day for men. This includes fluids in both foods and beverages.
Some greens powders also contain hydrating, electrolyte-rich ingredients like powdered coconut water.
Greens powders may be beneficial, but there is little science to back up the purported health claims. For some people, the potential drawbacks may outweigh the benefits.
Supplements are Unregulated
One of the main drawbacks of greens powders is that they are considered dietary supplements, which are unregulated by the FDA. This means that they are not checked for safety or efficacy. A label may say that a product contains certain amounts of ingredients or specific nutrients, but this hasn’t been proven.
“We don’t know if the beneficial compounds in greens powders are actually found in the finished product,” Spano says. “While greens powders contain antioxidants and other plant compounds that are important for good health, some of these are destroyed upon exposure to high heat and processing.”
Since supplements like greens powders are unregulated, consumers can’t assume the labels are correct. This means they may be under the impression that they are meeting their nutritional targets, though they may not be.
“While greens powders can be useful for providing nutrients that may be lacking in many diets, they should be considered a supplement and used in addition to, or with, a well-rounded, varied diet,” Ali says.
Long Ingredient Lists
Greens powders may contain questionable ingredients, such as dyes, fillers, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and sugar alcohols. Some of these ingredients can have negative health effects.
“Some [greens powders] contain a laundry list of ingredients that may include herbs or herbal extracts that may not be safe for everyone. Because they are based on green leafy vegetables, most powders are high in Vitamin K which can interfere with some medications including blood thinners,” Ali says.
The long ingredient lists may also contain ingredients that lack demonstrated efficacy for the general population, such as probiotics, enzymes, and botanical extracts.
“These powders also often contain sugar alcohols which may cause gastrointestinal upset in some people, and some have hidden sources of caffeine that can interfere with sleep,” explains Ali. Some powders also contain a variety of herbal supplements that may also interfere with some medications and are not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women.”
Greens powders are naturally low in fiber, as the fiber is removed in processing, however, some powders add fiber back in as a supplemental ingredient. This can be tricky, so you may have to read the long ingredient lists and figure out what meets your dietary needs.
Always consult with a healthcare provider before taking any supplement, including greens powder.
There’s No Universal Definition of “Greens Powder”
“Greens powder” is open to interpretation since there is no universally accepted definition. This means that each greens powder on the market is unique. The lack of one specific formulation or definition of “greens powder” can make it more confusing for consumers to know what they are purchasing and consuming.
Lack of Research
Since there isn’t a universal formulation of a greens powder, there isn’t enough scientific research. With a lack of research on the safety and benefits of greens powders, it’s difficult to determine whether they’re a valuable addition to your diet.
However, it's important to note that there is evidence to support the benefits of greens and certain ingredients found in greens powders. While these individual ingredients may have beneficial features, further research is needed to support the general use of these ingredients as part of a greens powder supplement.
What to Look For
If you choose to add greens powder to your diet, look for the following criteria:
- Organic ingredients
- No artificial ingredients like sweeteners, colors, flavors, etc.
- Ample amount of vitamins and minerals
- Independent Third-party testing (ex: NSF, Consumer Lab, or USP)
“Pay attention to both the nutrition facts label and the ingredients list,” Poulson says. “Look for a greens powder that is low in sugar and has no artificial colors and sweeteners. If digestive support is important to you, make sure to find one with fiber. For overall quality and safety, look for one that has been third-party tested.”
How to Incorporate Into Your Diet
Choosing a greens powder is the hard part. Incorporating it is the easy part. For minimal effort, simply mix the recommended serving size of greens powder with water or juice. You can also add it to smoothies and protein shakes for a nutrient boost.
According to Poulson, “Greens powder can be taken in a variety of ways: Add it to oatmeal, pancake batter, hummus, cottage cheese, or yogurt. Sprinkle it on top of avocado toast, roasted vegetables, or put it in some homemade protein bites.”
Here is a sample smoothie recipe containing greens powder:
- ½ cup frozen blueberries
- ½ banana
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- 1 scoop of greens powder
- 1 scoop of protein powder
A Word From Verywell
Incorporating a greens powder seems like a simple way to consume more vitamins and minerals. While this is the goal of a greens powder, they aren’t regulated by the FDA and their efficacy isn't supported by solid scientific evidence. If you choose to incorporate a greens powder, less is more. Look for one that contains simple, organic ingredients and omits ingredients like dyes, sweeteners, and probiotics.
If you’re on the fence about greens powders, try incorporating more leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables into your diet first before turning to a supplement. Add more spinach and kale to your morning smoothies and make side salads to go with your lunches and dinners.
If you eat a balanced diet, adding a green powder may be more of a nutrition booster rather than a necessity to reach your vitamin and mineral needs. You might not need to invest in green powder if you are eating your daily servings of fruits and vegetables.