In the age of juicing, Insta-detoxes and 10-a-day, more people than ever are extolling the merits of greens.
If the idea of tipping an unsightly scoop of crushed algae-green powder into your morning smoothie triggers your gag reflux, you’re not alone. However, you just might want to think twice.
As it turns out, vegetable and grass-based supplements come with an array of health benefits. In fact, due to their vitamin, mineral, fibre and antioxidant content, green food powders could overhaul your supplement game entirely.
In this article, we’ll look at how incorporating a greens blend into your diet could help you achieve your goals – whether fitness or health-related. We’ll also look at what goes into a good blend, explain why Full Disclosure Labeling is important, and identify various ways you can put your powder to use.
Let’s do this.
What are Greens Supplements?
Vegetable – and particularly grass – ingredients are increasingly being used in food products such as chews, bars, smoothies, fresh juices, even tablets. It speaks to a rising consumer need for healthy, wholesome produce; and a dawning awareness that ultra-processed food is a major contributor to obesity and illness.
Greens supplements are simply products which utilise natural plant-based ingredients. Green food blends – made up of concentrated vegetables, cereal grasses, algae, fruit and specially-selected botanicals – generally come in pill or powder form, though powder is by far the most popular.
The idea is quite simple. By distilling nature’s most nutritious foods into a fine powder, you can quickly get several servings of greens into your system. It’s the same reason bodybuilders chug a protein shake after a workout rather than head to the kitchen and cook a fillet steak.
Convenience for the unhealthy means a microwave ready meal. For the health-conscious, it’s often a supplement.
The great thing about green blends is that while they’re viewed as supplements, they’re also made from real food. This is only partly true of protein powders, which contain an assortment of gums, thickeners, artificial sweeteners, lactose etc. High-quality greens powders – the ones which are delicately processed and from reputable brands – contain recognisable ingredients from foods like broccoli, kale, wheatgrass and alfalfa.
Good-quality greens powders are also free from gluten and GMOs.
Why Use a Greens Supplement?
We’ve covered why green food supplements are convenient. But apart from saving you a bit of time in the kitchen, what benefits are to be gained from going green?
Among the most frequently touted benefits of greens powders are improved:
- Energy levels
- Bone health
- pH balance
- Liver health
It is difficult to assess all of these claims, since there are a many different formulas on the market. But because the benefits stem from the healthful properties of the foods themselves, the nutritional value of green blends relies on both the number of ingredients used and the dosages of those ingredients.
You can only determine these if the manufacturer provides an open breakdown on the Supplement Facts label. Not all of them do, as many greens powders are made from ‘proprietary blends’. This means that while you know what goes into the powder, you don’t know how much of each fruit or vegetable ingredient is included.
Certainly the benefits of eating vegetables cannot be understated. Only last year we learned that eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day should be the target if we wish to obtain optimal health.
Doing so was said to cut one’s risk of stroke by 33%; cut cardiovascular disease risk by 28%; cut heart disease risk by 24%; and cut cancer risk by 13%.
Those stats aren’t the half of it; a high intake of vegetables and fruit is also known to protect against elevated blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, asthma and osteoporosis.
Eating 10 portions (or 800g) of vegetables and fruit every day is tough going. In fact, the vast majority struggle to hit 5. It’s no surprise, therefore, that blending a scoop of powder with water and drinking your veggies instead of eating them is becoming de rigueur.
Should Greens Powders Replace Real Food?
The answer to this one is obvious: of course not.
While supplements are undeniably useful, the clue is in the term itself. Green supplements should be used to supplement a healthy diet and bring you closer to your dietary targets. They are not a panacea.
Whether you’re a meat eater, a vegetarian, a pescatarian or a vegan, you should obtain macro and micronutrients from a variety of foods. Supplements merely build upon the foundation created by solid square meals.
They also come in handy when you’re traveling, since eating on the go throws up an abundance of unhealthy options.
Occasionally vegetable-based blends are used as meal replacements, or taken alongside a cooked meal to boost the overall nutrient content. Sometimes they’re added to a chopped banana and peanut butter and blitzed in the NutriBullet. Everyone’s different, but no-one is advised to get their sustenance from green blends only.
At least, that’s our view. Huel – a powdered supplement self-styled as ‘nutritionally complete food’ – is a different concept, whereby users are advised to consume Huel and nothing but Huel. While it’s tremendously popular, giving up real edible food, with its complex of appetising flavours, textures and aromas, sounds like a miserable prospect.
How to Choose the Best Greens Supplement
As mentioned, there are a couple of key things you want to look at when shopping for a greens supplement. These are ingredients used, and ingredient dosage.
You’ll also want to choose a reputable brand; ideally one which has been in the market for a prolonged period and whose products have attracted many verified customer reviews: that way, you will get an idea about the taste, how well the powder mixes, and whether it has had the desired effect.
Obviously a brand which has won independent nutrition awards is worth looking at, and you’ll want to avoid companies which routinely use additives, GMOs, bulking agents and other undesirable components in their formula. If you’re after a greens powder, chances are you want only the good stuff.
When researching greens, you are likely to come across one again and again: Vibrant Health. Founded in 1992 on the second floor of a barn in Great Valley, New York, the company has gone from strength to strength in the decades since.
Although they began with a single greens supplement composed of 32 ingredients, they now craft a range of award-winning health products intended to deliver nutrition you can trust.
That original greens powder, incidentally, was Green Vibrance– and it remains their flagship product today. Having undergone continual evolution since the first formula was created in the early 90s, Green Vibrance now has over 70 thoughtfully-sourced ingredients including wheatgrass, spirulina, broccoli sprouts and organic carrot root.
Due to the sheer number of foods contained in Green Vibrance, the powder provides high percentages of your daily vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin K. It also provides an array of minerals, trace nutrients and probiotic cultures to support cellular health, strengthen digestion and increase energy.
Of course, Green Vibrance isn’t the only alkalising greens formula supplied by Vibrant Health. A few years ago they released Maximum Vibrance, billed not as a superfood but a ‘futurefood’ due to its 100+ ingredients.
Brimming with vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, probiotics, digestive enzymes and nutritional co-factors provided at levels to closely match the high requirements of the Palaeolithic biochemistry residing in us all, Maximum Vibrance also contains a meal’s worth of plant protein. Thus, it can be used as a pre-workout drink, a post-workout drink, a meal replacement or as general day-to-day nutritional support.
Many of the green foods contained in Green Vibrance appear in Maximum Vibrance, although the latter contains many more ‘super fruits’ – everything from organic goji berry and acai to raspberry fruit and cranberry. And while Green Vibrance has a very earthy green taste, Maximum Vibrance is available in two pleasant flavours: Vanilla or Chocolate.
Both Green Vibrance and Maximum Vibrance are gluten-free and non-GMO, and tubs should ideally be stored in the freezer to preserve their probiotic content.
How to Use Your Greens Supplement
Many people adopt the ‘get it over with’ approach when taking their greens: throw a scoop into a shaker with water and swallow as quickly as possible. However, it’s not the only way.
You can make your greens powder more palatable by adding fresh or frozen fruit, or using alongside a frozen smoothie pack. You can also employ your superfood powder in desserts, pestos or yogurts. The options are virtually endless.
Providing you choose a high-quality brand, greens supplements are definitely worth the money. Adherents of such supplements report enhanced energy levels, improved immunity, better regularity and a renewed sense of wellness. Because they’re low in calories and fat, they’ve also been touted as reliable weight-loss and workout aids.
Of course, the only way to know if a greens powder is right for you is to try it for yourself!