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Do You Actually Need a Greens Powder? Dietitians Tell Us the Real Deal

By Anna Leigh Bagiackas
May 10, 2024

The supplements aisle is an overflowing cacophony of options, hawking everything from collagen to colostrum, creatine, and more, each one claiming to confer myriad health benefits. One supplement that’s always all over our social feeds: greens powder.

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What is a greens powder?

Greens powders are dietary supplements that focus on the nutrients and vitamins found in leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables, processed into powdered form. Convenient and (debatably) tasty, they purport to be a quick solution for anyone who feels they don’t get enough greens. Brands claim that their products pack tons of vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, and adaptogens, which may aid immunity, energy levels, recovery, and digestion. Created to dissolve in water or mix into smoothies, greens powders are meant to make it easy to incorporate a whole host of nutrients in one quick beverage. Some powders also include probiotics and enzymes.

What a greens powder isn’t

Greens powders are not a magical cure-all, and they aren’t a replacement for a balanced diet. “Greens powders, as with any supplement, shouldn’t be considered a replacement for a healthy diet,” explains Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, author of Live to Eat Well. “The nutrients in some powders do not match greens in their whole form per serving,” meaning that eating greens like spinach, kale, arugula, chard, and other vegetables in their whole form should still be a regular part of your diet.

“Vegetables and fruits in their whole form are a complete package of nutrients, water, and fiber,” says Pflugradt, noting that these key benefits of fruits and vegetables are what make them so important.

Related: 5 Anti-Inflammatory Supplements That Actually Work

Dietitian Mary Claire Legg emphasizes the synergistic nature of the foods we eat, meaning we can get even more benefits from foods when we pair them with certain other foods. For instance, you’ve probably heard that black pepper increases the bioavailability of turmeric by a whopping 2000%. In this same way, greens powders are not as effective as eating a variety of whole foods.

Do you need this supplement?

As with so many aspects of nutrition, the answer is: It depends.

“Supplements have a place,” explains Legg, “but everyone is unique with what’s going on in their body and in what they need.” Legg recommends consulting with your doctor, getting lab work done, or connecting with a dietitian to find out what your body’s specific needs are.

Also, though a greens powder seems innocuous, there can be downsides. “Many greens powders have herb blends that may interfere with certain medications, so it’s a good idea to get a double-check from your doctor if you’re on medications,” Pflugradt warns. 

But there can be benefits to incorporating a greens powder, if it’s right for you. “Greens powders could be helpful for those with a balanced diet,” Legg says. They can come in handy in times when you won’t have as much control as usual over what you eat, such as when you’re traveling, or when you’re a guest in someone else’s home. Along with getting a shot of nutrients, a greens powder may be able to help you stay regular.

Related: 5 Best Supplements for Bloating, Says Science

What to look for (and avoid) in a greens powder

As with any supplement, it’s crucial to do your research when picking a product to avoid things like heavy metal contamination  or ingredients that will conflict with medications you’re taking. 

Here are some things to consider:

  • Organic certification. Look for a powder that has some or all organic ingredients.
  • Third-party testing. “Don’t consider buying a greens powder that’s not tested,” says Pflugradt. The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements like green powders, so reputable third parties are a way to help you select a product that contains what it says it does. You can do a quick search to find whether a company and products are third-party tested through NSF International Certification or via ConsumerLab, which tests for gluten, heavy metals, and more.
  • Your nutritional needs. Need more protein? A good fit might be a collagen-based greens powder. Or if you’re looking to boost ingredients related to gut health, look for a powder that incorporates safe prebiotics and probiotics.
  • Added sugar. Check labels carefully to avoid these.

It’s always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before starting any supplement.

Greens powders to try

Here are some well-reviewed greens powders to consider if you’re interested in incorporating one into your routine.

This green juice is USDA organic, vegan, gluten free, and third-party tested. It contains ashwagandha as well as spirulina, moringa, chlorella, matcha, and wheatgrass.

This blend from Garden of Life checks a lot of the boxes: certified organic, NSF-certified, vegan, dairy- and gluten-free. Note that Garden of Life carries a number of other green superfood products, but not all of them are certified organic or third-party tested.

This powder contains 75 different ingredients, although not all are certified organic. Third-party tested, it claims to promote immunity, gut health, boosted energy levels, digestion, and cognitive health. Note that it’s one of the more expensive powders on the market.

This certified organic brand is gluten-free, dairy-free, and primarily plant-based. Focused on whole food nutrition, the powder is made by dehydrating grasses, fruits, and vegetables. They offer a variety of flavors and forms (i.e., powders and tablets).

This collagen-based powder offers more protein and support for skin, hair, and nails, with organic greens and amino acids. This product is not NSF certified, but other products by Vital Proteins are. Note that this product is not vegetarian or vegan.

Read next: 7 Supplements to Reduce Cortisol Levels, Say Experts

Disclaimer: We only recommend products we seriously love and want to share. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which includes affiliate links.

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