The vitamins and minerals found in vegetables are an important part of a balanced and healthy diet, but many people have a hard time incorporating enough vegetables into their meals. Whether it’s due to a distaste for vegetables or a lack of time and space to cook at home, there is an increased interest in vegetable alternatives, and super greens powder is one of the most popular.
Super greens powder can be a useful addition to an already healthy diet, but these products should not be used as a total replacement for vegetables in your diet. While Super greens powder and vegetables both have their benefits, most dieticians agree that they are best used in cooperation.
This article will examine super greens powders to better understand what these dietary supplements are and why they have become so popular.
We will also see how they compare to whole food vegetables regarding nutrition to understand just how effective they are as an addition to your existing diet. If you have ever wondered just how healthy these supplements are, read on.
Super Greens Powder Explained
While vegetables are a source of nutrition that everyone is familiar with, super greens powder is a recent addition to the human diet, and as such, a bit of explaining is in order.
A wide variety of products are on the market that falls under the super greens powder umbrella, although they all share some common characteristics.
They are made up of a multitude of different vegetables, blended and dehydrated to a fine powder that can then be added to a drink of your choice.
The ingredients vary from product to product, but the following are some common super greens powder ingredients:
- Leafy vegetables – kale, spinach, collard greens
- Vegetables – tomatoes, beets, carrots, broccoli, cabbage
- Antioxidant fruits – blueberries, acai berries
- Herbs – milk thistle, echinacea
- Grasses – wheatgrass, barley grass, alfalfa
Along with these plants and vegetables, most super greens powder have other ingredients believed to improve everything from immune response and blood pressure to cognitive digestion functions.
These are examples of some of these additional ingredients:
- Nutritional extracts – Ginkgo Biloba extract, green tea extract
- Seaweed – kelp, spirulina, chlorella
- Digestive enzymes – lipase, amylase, cellulase
- Probiotics – L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus
Along with these ingredients, natural sugar substitutes like stevia leaf extract and monk fruit extract are also regularly used to improve taste without the health issues associated with sugar.
Now that we know what’s in these super greens powders, we can examine how they compare to getting nutrients from whole food sources.
Nutrients From Super Greens Powder vs. Whole Foods
Studies have shown that, while getting specific nutrients in isolated forms can be beneficial, this approach cannot replace all the benefits of getting vitamins and nutrients in their whole food plant form.
This is why assuming that you can simply drink all of the nutrients you need in an isolated form, such as super greens powders, may not be a good idea.
The process by which whole foods are transformed into powders may also impact their nutritional content and the body’s ability to absorb these nutrients. While some studies suggest that the micronutrients in leafy greens are not significantly reduced by dehydration, other ingredients in super greens powders may not survive the dehydration process.
Specifically, vitamin C and vitamin A have been shown to be destroyed during several different dehydration processes.
Another important function of whole food vegetables in your diet is the fiber they contribute. The fiber found in vegetables has been shown to aid in proper digestion as well as improve colon health.
While there has been research showing little loss of fiber content in dehydrated and powdered products compared to fresh vegetables, it is unlikely that the super greens powders you drink will provide the daily recommended amounts of dietary fiber, thus you needing more fiber from your diet as well.
Benefits of Super Greens Powder
The benefits of super greens powders as an alternative method of procuring the nutrients that are found in vegetables remains a matter of debate. Eating fresh vegetables is undoubtedly better, but studies show that much of the nutritional content remains unchanged in dehydrated form.
However, the real benefits of super greens powders may lie in some of the more obscure ingredients.
Seaweeds and algae like spirulina and chlorella, contain high levels of other nutrients that may be harder to come by in a standard diet. In particular, iodine and tyrosine are naturally found in seaweeds in levels that are not regularly found in other plants and vegetables.
Iodine deficiency is a major nutritional issue that many people face around the world, and it can lead to serious health complications. Proper thyroid function relies on iodine and tyrosine, and without these compounds, metabolic issues can become serious.
The antioxidants found in many super greens powders have also been shown to have a beneficial effect on various biological functions.
One study used the pH balance of subjects’ urine as an indicator of overall health and found that a significant reduction of oxidation occurred in test subjects consuming plant-based dietary supplements.
One ingredient found in many super greens powders that has a long history in traditional medicine is Ginkgo Biloba.
Research has shown that Ginkgo Biloba can have positive effects on reducing the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases even though scientists are still unclear on the exact mechanisms that lead to this result. Adding super greens powders to your diet is a great way to reap the benefits of this ancient remedy.
Benefits of Whole Food Vegetables
Several studies have shown a measurable loss of nutrition in plants as they become more processed. Dieticians agree that the closer your vegetables are to a natural, raw state, the greater the benefits to your overall health.
Besides nutritional benefits, eating solid food is an essential psychological process that reduces hunger and leads to “food satisfaction.”
According to Dr. Jennifer Lee, “Research reports that liquid foods provide a lower degree of oral-sensory stimulation than solid foods, even when the energy content is the same.”
Eating solid foods is not only biologically important, but it is also a key part of human psychology.
A study conducted by Yale colleagues found that the one consistent factor when studying the effects of a variety of fad diets (paleo, vegan, etc.) was incorporating a high percentage of whole foods.
If a diet was going to have a positive effect on the participant, it didn’t matter what other factors were involved, as long as unprocessed vegetables were a major part of daily food consumption.
To take the benefits of unprocessed food to its logical conclusion—there have been studies examining the benefits of eating raw fruits and vegetables.
One study conducted at the University of Otago in New Zealand demonstrated a measurable difference in positive moods, depressive symptoms, and life satisfaction between people that ate a higher number of raw fruits and vegetables than their counterparts that consumed processed versions.
Beyond the well-understood biological benefits of the higher nutrition content of raw foods, it seems there are added psychological benefits that we are just beginning to be understood.
Looking at super greens powders and vegetables as opposing sides of some sort of diet war is missing the point.
These powdered mixtures cannot replace fresh vegetables in your diet, but they aren’t supposed to. Several vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are common ingredients in super greens powders that may be difficult to obtain from other sources, making them a great addition to your existing diet.
The best strategy is to incorporate super greens powders into a balanced diet that is already high in fresh vegetables and healthy whole foods; this way, you get the best of both worlds.
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- PubMed: Whole Food Versus Supplement: Comparing the Clinical Evidence of Tomato Intake and Lycopene Supplementation on Cardiovascular Risk Factors
- NCBI: Retention of Nutrients in Green Leafy Vegetables on Dehydration
- University of Missouri: Introducing Food Dehydration
- Mayo Clinic: Chart of High-Fiber Foods
- Research Gate: The Effects of Dehydration Techniques on Fiber Content in Dried Fruit and Vegetable From Non-Toxic Agricultural Field
- PubMed: Plant-Based Dietary Supplement Increases Urinary pH
- PubMed: Systematic Investigation of Ginkgo Biloba Leaves for Treating Cardio-cerebrovascular Diseases in an Animal Model
- Fooducate: Food and the Brain: Hunger Satisfaction
- The Atlantic: Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner is Real Food
- Frontiers in Psychology: Intake of Raw Fruits and Vegetables Associated With Better Mental Health Than Intake of Processed Fruits and Vegetables