Greens Powders vs. Real Vegetables: The Verdict
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We all know that we should be eating five to ten servings of vegetables and fruits every day, preferably closer to the ten serving mark. Despite this common knowledge, most of us fail to even reach the minimum five, and the impact of this is showing up in our health. Whether it’s our busy schedules or we just plain don’t like their often bitter taste, there’s no questioning it: We need to eat more greens!
The health and wellness industry has responded to the veggie-consumption crisis by inventing an easy, versatile way for us to get more greens without spending time prepping or choking down salad after salad in the form of Greens Powders. Made up of everything from familiar veggies such as kale, broccoli, and spinach, to slightly more out-there ingredients such as wheat grass, alfalfa, or sea veggies like kelp and chlorella, these powders claim to match regular fruit and vegetable consumption serving for serving in only a few teaspoons. Is it actually okay to forgo real, whole vegetables and rely on the powdered version for your vegetable needs? Let’s dig in.
What exactly are greens powders?
Greens powders are more than just pulverized vegetables in a container. While ingredient lists vary from product to product, common ones you will see are:
- Probiotics and enzymes (lactobacillus acidophilus, coenzyme Q10)
- Herb and spice extracts (dandelion, wolfberry, ginger, turmeric)
- Added vitamins and minerals
Each of these can come in varying amounts and concentrations will be different for each product, as each will have their own recipe.
What are the benefits of greens powders?
Greens powders come with plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, some probiotics, and even fiber. They are convenient, can be added to smoothies, sprinkled on cereal, even baked with. There are several reasons why greens powders are a great option for those on-the-go or who struggle to consume enough vegetables each day.
They can be easier to digest.
Though some who have highly sensitive digestive systems could experience tummy upset from greens powders, for most they are easier to digest than a serving of raw broccoli, kale, or spinach. Many people simply don’t chew their cruciferous vegetables enough, which is why they experience gas, bloating, and discomfort. Greens powders have essentially done that step for you. Some brands also have probiotics and digestive enzymes in their formulas, which also aid the natural digestion process.
They are extremely convenient.
Thanks to their powdered form, these greens are highly versatile. With the equivalent of a cup of spinach or a half cup of broccoli concentrated into one little scoop of powder, it’s easy to sprinkle it over your morning bowl of oats, toss into a smoothie, or even shake into a cup of water as you rush out the door in the morning. Greens powders are fantastic for long, busy days, or when you are travelling. You may not be able to pack kale in your suitcase, but you can pack your greens powder!
Can you actually replace real vegetables with greens powder?
If you’re thinking this all sounds too good to be true, you are right – sort of. Greens powder supplements are fantastic ways to get extra nutrients and vegetables into your diet, but the key word there is they are supplements. Meaning they are there to add to an already healthy diet, not be the focal point.
Why you still need to eat real vegetables.
That’s right, your primary source of vegetables and fruits should still be coming from the real thing, for a range of reasons.
Actual whole vegetables (and fruits!) contain water and natural fiber to keep you hydrated and regular. Though greens powders contain fiber, it is much less than that found in actual vegetables.
They’re still a processed food product.
Though much better for you than most other prepackaged, processed food products, greens powders are processed versions of the real thing. If your supplement is processed or stored improperly, it could actually have significantly less nutrient value than you think. On top of that, our bodies are meant to eat, digest, and use whole foods. Your body may not respond to your attempts to fast-track yourself to a better nutrition status as well as you hope it will.
Greens powders do not come cheap, nor are they created equal. While the more expensive brands may be harder on your wallet, buying the cheapest brand you can find is likely a complete waste of your money. If your finances are at all a concern, we suggest skipping the powder and sticking to produce aisle.
If you stick to the suggested daily amounts that are indicated on the packaging, you won’t have any issues with overdose. Go overboard, however, and you could find yourself consuming dangerously high levels of the fat-soluble vitamins D, E, A, and K. For example, it’s extremely difficult for you to eat enough carrots to turn yourself orange, however a few too many scoops of a beta-carotene containing greens powder? You could wake up looking like an Oompa Loompa.
Greens powders make it easy to down multiple vegetable servings in 5 minutes or less, however they don’t help keep you full the way real, whole vegetables do. Eating real vegetables takes up room in your stomach that you may otherwise fill with higher calorie and fat foods. They also keep you full and energetic for longer, preventing you from reaching for that mid-afternoon sugary donut pick-me-up.
The Bottom Line
If you are a person who struggles to consume at the very least five servings of vegetables every day, you’re travelling, or you have higher than average nutrition needs (athletes, we’re looking at you!) then a greens supplement may be a good option for you. Just remember that these are still supplements, and you should still be aiming to get most of your veggie intake from the real thing.
If you are someone who loves vegetables and regularly consumes upwards of ten servings a day? Save your money, and keep doing what you do.
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