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Nutrition

Can Greens Supplements Replace Daily Dose of Veggies?

Greens are one of the best foods you can eat—when it comes to health, that is. Although not always the most delicious food group, they are packed with nutrients that help with digestion and prevent disease. To get the most health benefits from them, you should eat large daily serving sizes. This combined with the fact that many people find them to be unappealing makes them difficult to eat regularly. The supplement market saw this as an opportunity to introduce a new product that would show people how to eat more vegetables. This product was a greens supplement.

Taking a greens pill or drinking a greens powder definitely makes it easier to reach your daily recommended vegetable intake. But are they as healthy as eating the green vegetables they were made from? Their labels claim that they boost your immune system, increase your energy, and act as an antioxidant, but is this true?

Greens Supplements Chemical Composition

Greens supplements’ chemical composition varies by brand, but they generally are made up of 40 or more similar ingredients. All of them also tend to taste a bit grassy. The most common ingredients in each supplement are:

  • Leafy greens
  • Seaweed
  • Grasses and a few other vegetables
  • Green tea extract
  • Probiotics
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Fiber
Ingredients may contain Moringa, leaves, seeds in making greens supplements.
Ways To Make Green Supplements Are Drying, Fermenting And Juicing (Image Source: Shutterstock)

These ingredients are made into greens supplements in a few different ways. The first is to dry them and then grind them down into a powder. The second is to juice the veggies first and then dry them. The third is to ferment the vegetables. This increases the vitamin concentration in the greens supplement.

Powdered veggies are generally very low in calories. However, some may be meal replacement supplements. This means they are higher in calories and replace the nutritional value of a full meal.

One other thing that’s important to note is that powdered greens aren’t always vegan! This might seem like an oxymoron since they’re supposed to come from veggies. However, many aren’t, so it’s always important to check labels.

Physical Benefits of Greens Supplements

The physical benefits of greens powders have been tested in a few studies already, but the results are not yet conclusive. This is mainly because each brand uses a different product formula. Therefore, based on the ingredients they use, some brands have more positive health benefits than others. These studies are further complicated by the fact that many greens manufacturers fund their own studies. Naturally, this brings up the question of bias. Can these studies be trusted?

A grandmother happy after working out.
Nutrients Used In Green Supplements May Support Overall Wellness (Image Source: Shutterstock)

In general, it’s still believed that the nutrients used in green supplements may support overall wellness. However, these must be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Greens powders cannot be used in place of veggies or in place of vitamins.

That being said, they are usually high in vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and probiotics. These seem to effectively support immune function and digestion, unlike the digestive enzymes that are added in. Unfortunately, the digestive enzymes that are added into greens supplements seem to be useless.

Are Powdered Greens Good for You?

Green pills and powders do seem to have some health benefits, but they just can’t compete with actual green vegetables. When you process any foods, nutrients are lost—and greens are no different! When you turn veggies into a powdered state, you have to process them to get them that way, and you are going to lose vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients along the way.

Green smoothie with spirulina, spinach and blueberries.
When You Turn Veggies Into Powdered State, You Might Lose Vitamins, Minerals And Other Supplements In The Process (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Fiber is one of the most important things lost. Since this is one of the main reasons you eat vegetables, you could ask yourself, “Are greens supplements even worth it?” Fiber is essential for a healthy diet. It regulates your digestion, aids in gut health, controls your blood sugar levels, and helps you achieve a healthy weight. If you choose a supplement over actually eating green vegetables, you will miss out on this important nutrient. 

Are There Risk of Using Greens Supplements?

Some green powder companies have come under fire for containing harmful contaminants. Lead, cadmium, and other heavy metals have been found in excess well beyond what’s allowed in any edible products by law. Make sure you check the company’s website of the powders you want to buy to see if they mention its purity.

Woman drinking spirulina cocktail on indoors.
Some Health Risks Are Only Present In Greens Supplements, Not The Actual Vegetables They Came From (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Greens powders and supplements are also usually high in vitamin K and certain herbs that may interact with medications. These nutrients can be helpful for healthy individuals, but deadly for those on certain prescription drugs. Vitamin K interferes with blood thinners, for example, whereas certain herbs cause risk to women that are pregnant or anyone on medications.

These health risks are only present in greens supplements, not the actual vegetables they came from. Eating a wide variety of vegetables in a balanced diet is the best way to promote your health and protect yourself from getting too much of a nutrient and developing a blood toxicity. If you do decide to add a greens supplement into your diet, do you research on brands and speak to your doctor before you make your final decision.

Greens Supplement Benefits

Green supplements do have some benefits and can complement a healthy lifestyle. For example, most greens contain calcium and potassium, minerals that have been linked to good blood pressure. In one study, participants who took a daily scoop of greens powder saw a reduction in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings. In another study, 40 subjects with high blood pressure saw a reduction in their systolic and diastolic blood pressure, too. After 90 days, their overall blood pressure had decreased by 8%.

Man smiling at woman exercising with weights at home.
Preventing Damage To These Blood Proteins Is Important For Immune System Support (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Greens supplements may also support a healthy immune system and prevent chronic disase.In a four-week study, 10 subjects experienced 30% lower levels of damaged blood proteins. Preventing damage to these proteins is important for immune system support. Often, they protect you from developing cancer and other chronic diseases. Some of the specific nutrients in greens that fight infections are vitamin A, which has an anti-inflammatory, and selenium, which fights infection and oxidative stresses.

Some green powders may also increase your energy levels. The caloric content of these supplements is usually low (unless they are meal replacements), so the energy they give you isn’t coming from calories. However, many contain green tea extract, which can make you feel more energetic and focused. Green tea extract contains caffeine and other compounds that speed up your metabolism, burning more calories. It’s no surprise, then, that a three-month study of 63 women found their energy levels to increase significantly after taking one tablespoon of greens powder every day. 

More research needs to be done on greens powders and energy levels. Although this study provides interesting evidence, it needs to be replicated. It also needs to be replicated with greens powders that don’t provide green tea extract to see if they provide the same results.

Daily Dose of Vegetables

No matter how beneficial your greens supplement is, though, it will never fully replace the real thing. Processed foods are never as good for you as unprocessed. Natural greens offer vitamins, minerals, and fiber that aren’t found in powdered greens. They also don’t carry many of the health risks that their man-made counterparts do. Never rely solely on a supplement to fulfil your needs if a real food source is available.

Whole Greens vs. Green Juices vs. Green Powders

To get the recommended serving of vegetables per day, women must have 2 ½ cups of vegetables and men must have 3 cups. If you’re eating greens, the recommended serving is double tha—so 5 cups for women and 6 cups for men. That’s a lot of vegetables! It’s understandable why greens supplements have become so popular.

Eating this many vegetables a day does have its upside, though. Veggies are high in water and give you the psychological satisfaction of chewing. Both of these components help prevent overeating and help your brain realize when it’s full. Since they’re so low in calories per cup, they can help fill you up while helping to lower your caloric intake.

The fiber in vegetables, lacking in greens supplements, also helps satiate you. This, combined with their phytochemicals, antioxidants, electrolytes, and vitamins make them essential for a healthy diet. Many studies have found that diets low in vegetables correlate with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, respiratory diseases, and mental health disorders. The anti-inflammatory properties of vegetables make them vital for protection against disease.

The Bottom Line on Greens Supplements

Greens supplements are made up of greens and other veggies, seaweed, probiotics, herbs, digestive enzymes, and more. They can be very helpful if used in conjunction with a balanced diet, but they should never replace real vegetables or multi-vitamins.

If you find it hard to get all of your veggies in each day, a greens powder can be a great way to supplement your diet. This can be especially helpful if you find it difficult to get in veggies when you’re on vacation. Ladder Superfood Greens is a great product option with high quality ingredients that tastes great.

Make sure you are still eating vegetables every day along with your greens supplement, though. If you’re taking greens supplements, you still need more vegetables in your diet because you aren’t getting all of the essential nutrients you need from the powders and pills.

If you do decide to use a greens powder, do your research! Not all are created equal. Some have better ingredients and therefore better immunity boosting properties than others. Some even contain dangerous metals or shouldn’t be taken in conjunction with medications.

Whatever you do, check with your doctor first and never stop eating fresh greens and vegetables!

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