Nutritionist Answers: Are Greens Powders a Waste of Money?

greens powder drink

Greens powders are the latest wellness hype on social media. But with their hefty price tag and bold claims, it might leave you wondering: are greens powders a waste of money?

As a nutritionist, I completely understand the lure these products have. The claims associated with these greens powders range from giving you a flat stomach and reducing bloating to boosting your energy and immunity.

But hang on, before you add anything to your shopping basket, let’s explore whether these greens powders are really worth the money…

What Are Greens Powders?

Before we dive in, let’s understand what greens powders actually are.

Greens powders are dietary supplements made from a concentrated blend of various vegetables, fruits, algae, grasses, probiotics and other plant-based extracts (usually with around 20-30 different ingredients).

They are often marketed as a convenient way to increase your intake of essential nutrients, like vitamins, minerals and fibre, especially for those who struggle to meet their daily fruit and vegetable quotas.

The typical recommended way to consume greens powders is mixed into a glass of water. But people do also blend them into smoothies.

How Much Are Greens Powders?

Greens powders come in many forms and typically range from 50p per serving to £3.23 per serving.

If you have one serving per day over a week, that’s an extra £3.50 – £22.61 added to your shopping bill every week (depending on the brand you buy).

Greens Powder Claims: Are They Trustworthy?

I have done some research on the main claims that greens powders are making – and there’s quite a few!

So let’s evaluate if these claims are really back by scientific evidence.

greens powder claims, are they trustworthy?

‘High in Fibre’

Whilst this claim is often accurate, it’s important to consider the context of how greens powders are consumed to understand if they’re actually worth the money.

One greens powder I found had 25g of fibre per 100g, which would make it ‘high in fibre’ (to legally use this claim, a product should have at least 6g of fibre per 100g). However, the serving size of the greens powder is just 5g, meaning that one serving contains only 1.25g of fibre.

Putting this into a dietary context, the daily recommended intake of fibre within the UK is 30g. Which means that a single serving of this greens powder would only provide you with 1/24th of your daily recommended fibre intake. So, this isn’t that amazing compared to some whole fruits and vegetables (1 apple has 4.8g of fibre).

There are some greens powders that are higher in fibre than others, with some providing around 3.8g of fibre per serving. But this isn’t much more than a portion of kale or raspberries – which are a lot cheaper!

So instead of reaching for a greens powder for a daily dose of fibre, you’re probably better off having an extra side of broccoli or snacking on an apple.

fibre in greens powder vs whole fruit and veg - are greens powders a waste of money?

‘Supports Digestion and Reduces Bloating’

Many greens powders include probiotics and digestive enzymes, which claim to support gut health and digestion.

As for digestive enzymes, these are added to greens powders with the claim that they support digestion and reduce bloating. One I came across a lot was bromelain, which is a mixture of enzymes derived from pineapples. However, there is very minimal high quality evidence to support any digestion or bloating benefits, especially within the context of a greens powder.

On the topic of bloating, it’s also important to note that these greens powders often contain prebiotics (such as inulin) which can cause bloating and abdominal pain in some people or when consumed in excess. So if you have similar issues with other prebiotics, consider giving these greens powders a miss.

‘Increased Energy’

I am going to guess that this is referring to the vitamins and minerals that help increase your energy levels, because there’s definitely not enough calories or carbs in these greens powders to actually GIVE us any energy (some are as low as 19kcal per serving).

Most greens powders contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that support normal energy-yielding metabolism (AKA the process by which our cells acquire and use energy).

Vitamins and minerals that support normal energy yielding metabolism include:

  • Biotin (vitamin B7)
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
  • Phosphorus
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Thiamin (vitamin B1)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C

Whilst this may be helpful if you struggle to get a range of nutrients in your diet , it’s important to note that if you aren’t deficient or low in any of these nutrients, then taking a greens powder is unlikely to increase your energy levels. There is only so much these vitamins and minerals can do after all.

Did you know?

Water soluble nutrients like B vitamins and vitamin C aren’t stored in our body, so whatever you don’t need will just be peed out.

‘Boosted Immunity’

This claim is an interesting one. On the one hand, greens powders do often contain vitamins and minerals that can support our immune system (like vitamin C).

However, the idea that we can “boost” our immune system isn’t really possible (or that desirable – a heightened immune system isn’t a good thing!).

What these vitamins and minerals WILL do is help your immune system work normally. So, if you are low in any of these immune-supporting nutrients, taking a daily greens powder may be helpful in increasing your body’s immune defence back to normal levels.

But if you are already eating a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in plants, you don’t need to spend your money on an expensive greens powder to “boost your immunity”.

The Pros: Benefits of Greens Powders

  1. Convenience: One of the primary advantages of greens powders is their convenience. In our fast-paced lives, preparing and consuming a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits daily can be challenging. Greens powders offer a quick and easy solution, allowing you to simply mix them with water or add them to smoothies.
  2. Nutrient-dense: Greens powders can provide a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. They often contain ingredients like spirulina, wheatgrass, kale and spinach, which are rich in essential nutrients. That being said, most people can get enough nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet and taking too many nutrients could lead to unwanted side effects.

The Cons: Downsides of Greens Powders

  1. Cost: Greens powders can be expensive (some are as much as £3.23 per serving!). So it’s really important to consider if their potential benefits align with your health goals and budget. It will be more affordable, and just as nutritious overall, to eat a varied diet rich in whole plant foods.
  2. They are ultra-processed vegetables: Whilst greens powders offer some nutritional benefits, they should not replace whole fruits and vegetables in your diet. Ultimately, they are just ultra-processed vegetables – so you’re probably better off sticking with the whole food versions (which are also a lot more satisfying!).
  3. Lack of regulation and potential for contaminants: Unlike the food industry, the supplement industry is not regulated, which means that the nutrient content of greens powders may vary widely and some products may not contain the levels of nutrients advertised on the label. There is also a risk of contamination with heavy metals. To help eliminate these risks, check if the brand does third party testing to ensure quality and safety.
  4. Risk of over-consuming nutrients: Taking a greens powder may also increase your risk of over-consuming certain nutrients, which could lead to adverse side effects. So, if you already have a healthy balanced diet, be very careful what supplements you choose to take on top of this. Having a daily greens powder alongside other supplements like a multivitamin and fortified protein powder is most likely way too much (and definitely a waste of money).
  5. Taste: I haven’t tried many greens powders, so I can’t comment on them all. But in the main, they don’t tend to have the best reputation for their flavour. A green smoothie with handful of spinach or kale might be more enjoyable.

Conclusion: Are Greens Powders a Waste of Money?

So, are greens powders a waste of money? The answer depends on your individual needs, lifestyle and budget.

If you struggle to meet your daily fruit and vegetable intake, and the convenience of greens powders fits your routine, they may be a valuable addition to your diet. However, they should always complement, not replace, whole foods.

It’s also important to choose a reputable product with third party testing and, if possible, consult a nutrition professional before incorporating greens powders into your daily regimen. This is because it might be be nutritional overkill if you already have a nutrient-dense diet or take other supplements (and there are dangers to consuming some nutrients in excess).

Ultimately, they are not the magical solution to optimal health and their claims don’t really stack up against the evidence.

My personal verdict: I will pass on the greens powders and save my money.

Share:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *