Dietitian Susie Burrell dives into the science behind greens powders and if they’re worth the hefty buck they’re priced at.
If there is one nutrition message that had stood the test of time, it is to eat your greens. Yet, despite this being the catch cry of dietitians and nutritionists everywhere, fewer than 1 in 10 Aussies eat anywhere near the recommended number of veggie serves each day, let alone their super nutrient rich greens.
So, if you could skip the drama of eating and preparing mountains of kale, broccoli and spinach each day and simply replace it with a super nutritious greens powder, should you?
We take a closer look at the science of greens powder to determine if they are really worth the money.
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There is no doubting that greens, especially our leafy greens from the brassica group of vegetables are some of the most nutrient dense foods we can include in our diet.
Not only are they packed full of essential nutrients including extremely high levels of dietary fibre, folate, vitamins C and E, but specifically it is their powerful anti-cancer molecules that links these vegetables to such significant health outcomes including a lower risk of developing several types of cancer.
Now while there is no specific recommendation on the ideal intake of greens, aiming for at least one serve of green veggies each day will go a long way toward reaching your daily intake of folate and Vitamin C, while a couple of serves will significantly boost your overall nutrient intake.
For most people, the more greens we consume, the better, unless you need to watch your Vitamin K intake and need to discuss with your medical doctor how much of the leafy green veggies you can safely consume each day.
In the same way that juicing is seen as the holy grail when it comes to concentrating our vegetable intake, fruit and vegetables powders, in which fresh foods are processed and have their key nutrients such as vitamins and minerals extracted and blended into a unique nutrient rich blend and sold at relatively high prices are incredibly popular.
Retailing between $30-$100 a month, greens powders are marketed as elixirs of health, and often promoted by attractive, healthy celebrities who flaunt them as an explanation for their good looks and genetic blessings. Indeed, if you know that your greens intake could do with some work it seems a reasonable way to increase your intake of some of these essential nutrients.
The issue is that while greens powders may sound amazing, the science around their efficacy is somewhat lacking. Of the few research studies available, the only evidence in their favour relates to a benefit for blood pressure, or for gut health reported benefits when the powders contain other additions such as prebiotic fibres. As such at best it would appear you can tick the box on some extra folate or vitamin C courtesy of your expensive greens powder.
When it comes to nutrition, it is not only the nutrients that we get from food, but the synergistic way the different nutrients work together in whole foods that translate into nutritional benefits, some of which we still do not fully understand.
You cannot get this from a powder, no matter how much money you pay for it. This means that if your goal is to ultimately improve your health by eating more greens, the only way to do it is by eating them.
The number one thing you can do for your health and well-being long term is to eat more veggies. It does not matter how you enjoy them – in soup, juice, baked, roasted or even dripping in butter you cannot go wrong.
So, make your kale or spinach taste better and add at least two serves to your diet daily.
And before you spend plenty of money on an expensive powder, keep in mind that you will get a truckload of fresh or even frozen veggies for the $60 you would have spent on a powder, that may or may not be really doing anything.