Hooray, you want to add more greens into your diet! Your best bet? Eating nutrient-dense produce in their fresh or frozen form. But if you don't want to grab a bag of spinach or can't stand the taste of kale, there is a nutritional supplement that might be of interest to you: greens powder.
What are greens powders?
"Superfood greens powders are a powdered blend of fruits and veggies that provide a nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich product to support optimal health," says Lauren O'Connor, MS, RD, owner of Nutri Savvy Health.
Greens powders are often made "from leafy greens, green tea, dark berries, or other antioxidant-rich foods," says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living. They can either be a blend of just powdered green vegetables or powdered greens with other supplements like protein powder or probiotics.
Are greens powders healthy?
Greens powders tout their nutrient-dense benefits, but are they really as healthy as you perceive them to be? "It is important to note that taking green powder should not be used as a substitute for a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains," Kostro says.
Instead, "think of superfood green powders as nutrition supplements. There is minimal regulation by the FDA over supplements, so it is difficult to know exactly what you are getting and how potent it may be. There is also limited research in regards to getting antioxidants from supplements rather than food," she adds.
With that being said, Kostro Miller does admit that adding greens powders into your daily routine can give food or drinks a boost of flavor, color, and even help you slip some extra antioxidants into your diet.
Greens powder side effects.
Greens powders follow the standard rule: too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. "If you are on Warfarin/Coumadin blood thinners and start taking high doses of green foods/supplements (that may be rich in vitamin K), your medications may need to be adjusted (and you have to then be very consistent with your vitamin K intake)," says Kostro Miller.
"Also, while you may think that more vitamins and minerals equate to better health, those with kidney conditions can actually cause more harm than good if they get too much of certain nutrients," Kostro Miller warns.
Always consult with your doctor or nutritionist before adding these powders to your diet.
What to look for when picking the best green powder.
When scanning the labels of so-called "greens powders" O'Connor advises you "look for real food, organic ingredients. I skip those that contain chemical additives, added sugars, and fillers."
What are the best greens powders?
Below, nutritionists reveal their favorite green powders and what makes them adore each pick.
1. Nested Naturals Super Greens
Have you tried Nested Naturals yet? It may be your match made in greens powder paradise. "With more than 40 alkalizing and antioxidizing ingredients including spirulina, chlorella, spinach, kale, and barley grass, this powder is designed to help boost your energy and improve your digestion and overall health. From Nested Naturals, this super greens powder gets high marks all around," shares Brocha Soloff, RD. "It's free of many common allergens, including soy and dairy, and is 100% vegetarian."
To use, mix one scoop with water, juice, or a smoothie and drink it down. Each serving adds just 35 calories and one gram of sugar to your beverage of choice.
2. Garden of Life Raw Organic Perfect Food Green Superfood Powder
"This tastes so good that it doesn't have to be mixed into a smoothie, making it even simpler to get all the benefits of a greens powder without taking the time to make a smoothie—or a mess. We just stir it into water, no blender needed," says The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure. "It's an easy way to pack in lots of antioxidants with 34 raw superfoods. We love that it's organic and non-GMO verified and contains prebiotics and probiotics. Plus, it's not super calorie-dense (only 25 calories), so you still can eat an entire meal to get even more nutrients."
3. NOW Organic Spirulina Powder
Have you tried spirulina before? "Spirulina has unique benefits and aside from containing potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, spirulina also may improve cholesterol ratios, fight cancer and improve muscle strength and endurance," says, The Nutrition Twins.
The problem is that "it's hard to find spirulina that is not mixed with anything else, and that's organic and from a company we trust. That's why we love that NOW's Spirulina Powder only contains organic spirulina with no other ingredients. Plus, every aspect of the manufacturing process is examined, including lab testing methods for stability, potency and product formulation, so we feel good about having it."
4. Navitas Organics Cacao and Greens Superfoods Protein Powder
"I like this Navitas Organics green powder because it has everything I want to add to my morning smoothie: organic greens, probiotics, and plant protein, without any of the additives I'm looking to avoid such as added sugar, artificial flavors, or colors," offers nutritionist Maggie Moon, MS, RD, author of The MIND Diet. "Its nutrients come from whole food ingredients, not by simply adding in isolated nutrients, which can lead to over-consuming them."
Try it in a protein smoothie combined with almond milk and a frozen banana.
5. Amazing Grass Green Superfood in Chocolate
Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, the founder and director of Real Nutrition is fan of this powder for good reason: "The ingredients in this blend are top-notch, non-GMO and contain everything from greens including sea vegetables to superfoods such as açaí which is a powerful antioxidant and finally even adaptogens such as Maca which have a calming yet energetic effect on the body," she says.
"The chocolate makes it taste delicious and therefore I can get my kids to enjoy it as well. We travel with this mix for days when greens and vegetables are not abundant but I also cook with it at home. One of my favorite things to do is to add a serving of Amazing Greens to any muffin or baked good I make for breakfast." Kids especially will love the chocolate taste.
6. Further Food Superfood Matcha
In general, Nicole Avena, PhD, nutrition expert, professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, visiting professor at Princeton University, and author of Why Diets Fail, is a fan of greens powders combined with adaptogenic herbs: "Superfood green powders are packed with antioxidant-rich, nutrient-dense green superfoods that serve multiple functions in the body. Greens on their own contain tons of vitamins and minerals to help the body reset. Combining greens with adaptogens that literally help the body adapt to stress makes certain green blends even more powerful," she says.
"Matcha green tea powder is an energy machine and detoxifier on its own," she says of her favorite powder blend from Further Food. "Combined with wheatgrass, ashwagandha, cordyceps mushrooms, and ginger, this is the ultimate nutrient-dense greens powder that also helps lower cortisol levels and boost metabolism."
7. Vega Protein & Greens
"Not only does each scoop of Vega Protein and Greens contain two servings of greens, but I love how it also contains 20 grams of protein from multiple plant-based sources (including pea, brown rice and Sacha inchi protein)," comments Peggy Kotsopoulos, a registered holistic nutritionist. "It saves time and money with buying a separate protein supplement and it contains only one gram of sugar. Plus, the taste is delicious!"
8. PaleoPro Paleo Greens Powder
"I like PaleoPro Paleo Greens Powder for it's simple, short ingredient list. It makes it easy to decipher it is indeed a solid nutritional choice. This product has no fillers nor any added sugars." says O'Connor. "I also love that it contains organic hemp seed protein. The fact that it has five grams of protein and three grams of fiber is a bonus. With just enough monk fruit extract (the last ingredient), it has a mildly sweet, pleasant taste and it's easy for me to enjoy simply blended with my favorite plant-based milks or even as an addition to my overnight oat combos."
9. Mija Naturals The Superstar
Craving a matcha fill? Check out this incredible option: "This matcha-based product is fantastic because it was created with a lot of thought and love by registered dietitian nutritionist Sarah Koszyk to fill in the gaps of where Americans are likely experiencing nutrient shortfalls," advises Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. "First of all, it's delicious. You can add it to a smoothie or blend it with steamed milk. More importantly, it contains a whole bunch of nutrients that come from plant-based ingredients. So in addition to supplying morning caffeine, you also get a quarter of the daily value for immune-helping vitamin C, as well as 10 percent of the daily value for vitamin B6, important for energy."
10. Garden of Life Raw Perfect Food Green Superfood Juiced Greens Powder Capsules
"While I recommend opting for food first as the primary source of nutrition, there are some supplements available for special occasions. For example, when I travel and do not have access to the abundant leafy green veggies I typically eat, I sometimes will take these green capsules," comments Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, author of The Healthspan Solution and Plant-Based Nutrition (Idiot's Guide). "These are an easy way to make sure I take in my hefty daily dose of a plethora of phytonutrient-rich veggies, fruits, and even sprouts."