Are Greens Powders Worth It? A Comprehensive Look at the Drawbacks and Benefits of Greens Powders

Fact Checked By Dr B Lee M.D.

In recent years, greens powders have gained significant popularity as a convenient way to supplement our daily intake of fruits and vegetables. These powdered supplements claim to provide a wide range of nutrients and health benefits, making them an attractive option for those looking to improve their well-being.

But are greens powders really worth the hype? In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the benefits and drawbacks of greens powders, examining the scientific evidence behind their claims and helping you make an informed decision about incorporating them into your diet.

What Are Greens Powders?

Greens powders are dietary supplements that typically consist of a blend of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, [1] along with other ingredients like digestive enzymes, [2] probiotics, [3] fiber, and herbal extracts. The fruits and vegetables used in greens powders are dehydrated and ground into a fine powder, making it easy to mix them into water, smoothies, or other beverages. These powders often come in various flavors to improve taste and may be fortified with additional nutrients. The most well known example of greens powders currently is Athletic Greens or AG1, there are better options on the market when it comes to nutritional content and the quality of greens powders themselves does vary quite wildly based on the manufacturer. [4]

The Cost of Greens Powders

The cost of greens powders can vary depending on the brand and the quantity purchased. Non subscription prices for a 30-serving bundle typically range from around $32.99 to $99.99 for a months supply. It's important to consider the cost-effectiveness of greens powders compared to purchasing fresh produce. While greens powders may be pricier than whole foods (although this isn't always the case), they can offer a convenient and long-lasting solution for individuals who struggle to consistently incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet. [5]

The Nutritional Content of Greens Powders

The nutritional content of greens powders can vary depending on the brand and specific ingredients used. However, they are generally low in calories, carbohydrates, sodium, and fat. Greens powders are formulated to provide a wide array of vitamins and minerals, similar to other dietary supplements. They are often touted as a convenient way to meet our daily nutrient requirements, especially for those who struggle to consume enough fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately as we mentioned earlier not all green powder supplements are even remotely close to being uniform in terms of quality. [4] For most people we suggest Super Green Tonik as the best on the market right now, or Enso as a budget option, but there are countless others out there, some are good and some are really nothing more than powdered broccoli with a premium price tag.

What the Experts Say About Green Powders?

Doctors and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) have differing opinions on the use of greens powders. Although at this point it should be noted that most come down favorably. The majority believe that greens powders can be a beneficial addition to a healthy diet. They argue that these powders can provide important nutrients like phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are found in greens. These nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, have been linked to various health benefits including inflammation reduction and cholesterol management. [6] The general consensus is a practical one, that most people don’t get enough greens and whilst in theory whole foods would be better, that simply isn’t how the real world functions.

However, other RDNs caution against relying solely on greens powders as a substitute for whole foods. They emphasize the importance of obtaining nutrients from a diverse range of fresh vegetables and fruits. While greens powders may offer a convenient way to boost nutrient intake, they may not provide all the essential nutrients found in whole foods. Additionally, taking excessive amounts of certain fat-soluble vitamins through supplements can lead to imbalances and potential health risks. [7]

Also there have now been several studies that back up the use of greens powders and that they do effectively deliver the nutrients contained within, and are generally more bioavailable than a multivitamin. Meaning that those in the pro greens powder camp seem to have the science on their side. [8,9,10]

There is some debate on how effective the probiotics in greens powder supplements are, with only certain probiotics being effective when consumed outside of a capsule. Although in general greens po

Do I Need A Greens Powder?

There are a couple of good reasons to look at a greens powder, and that’s quite simply that most Americans don’t even come close to getting enough fruit and veg in their diets. The CDC estimates that only 1 in 10 [11] of us actually eats enough greens and other veg.

So, Are Greens Powders Worth The Price?

Ultimately, this question needs to be answered in 3 parts and it will vary from person to person:

Do you get enough greens already?

The first one is do you currently get enough greens and other vegetables in your diet, if the answer is yes, then the value of a greens powder is going to be substantially reduced. Unless you’re simply buying one bag to take occasionally when you know you’re not going to be able to get enough greens through the day. But, often you wouldn’t need to take a greens supplement every day. And in this case you’d probably want to look at a simpler greens supplement, not one that focuses on specific herbal extracts for added health benefits that need to be taken regularly. Enso would be a good choice for this, as a lot of other less expensive brands simply contain cheaper green ingredients offering less nutritional value overall.

Are you looking for a specific benefit from greens powders?

The second part is, are you looking to optimizes for photogenes (the active ingredients in plants that can have effects on things like inflammation, cognitive function etc) if so, then which ones, etc. If you’re looking for something that boosts mood and your digestion, you may want something different to something that helps with inflammation and bloating. This type of greens powder does tend to be more expensive, but considering other supplements containing these ingredients also tend to be a similar price (if they’re properly dosed to be effective), then greens can be great if you don’t like swallowing pills.

Do both of these apply?

If you’re looking to get powdered greens because you don’t get enough, and get some specific benefits, for example, if you need greens, vitamins and you’d like something that boosts your mood, the you could look at a powder like Super Green Tonik, as we mentioned earlier, which contains Ashwagandha, L Theanine, Ginkgo, Rhodolia and Bacopa in the doses that have been clinically trialled to improve mood [12,13,14.15,16], boost cognitive functions etc. In this case you’d be covering off most of your vitamin needs, getting a supplement for mood and focus, and getting the antioxidant qualities of the greens blend itself. In this case greens are definitely a good value option.

But you always need to look for transparency in the labelling. Most greens powders that include phytogenic plants like ashwagandha don’t put enough of the ingredients in for them to be effective to save costs. This is typically true of most companies that use proprietary blends and claim to have an unreasonable amount of ingredients. And yes that includes Athletic Greens that mathematically can’t achieve this with most of their greens blends.

So, does that mean green powders are good value or not?

Well, ultimately, it depends on the product, some are good value some are not. As a rule of thumb you do get what you pay for and the very cheap ones don’t tend to be great. But, if you stick to the ones with transparent labelling and not a load of proprietary blends then usually. We have a round up here of the greens powders that we recommend.

Potential Health Benefits of Greens Powders

Nutrient Boost: Greens powders can provide a concentrated dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, helping to bridge the gap between our dietary intake and recommended daily values. Remember to check the label, most reputable greens powders will let you know how much of each micronutrient you're getting.

Immune Support: Many greens powders contain ingredients like vitamin C, which plays a crucial role in supporting a healthy immune system. Adequate intake of vitamin C is essential for immune function and may help reduce the risk of certain illnesses. [17] They also tend to be good sources of iron [18] and iodine (particularly those containing spirulina), which vegans have a hard time getting in their regular diet [19] as aside from seaweed and algae it's only really found in eggs, meat and dairy.

Digestive Health: Some greens powders include probiotics and digestive enzymes that can promote a healthy gut microbiome and improve digestion. These ingredients may help alleviate symptoms of bloating, gas, and indigestion.

Energy and Vitality: The combination of nutrients in greens powders, such as B vitamins and iron, can support energy production and combat fatigue. These powders may help enhance overall vitality and well-being.

Access To Ingredients We Wouldn’t Normally Consume: Some greens powders contain very healthy foods, that we wouldn’t normally eat. Algae like spirulina for example has a host of health benefits. And some contain plants with photogenes that don’t taste very good as a standalone. Such as ashwagandha, [12] these ingredients when dosed correctly have clinically proven benefits ranging from improving sleep and hormone production, through to reducing inflammation depending on what’s included.

Drawbacks and Considerations

Lack of Fiber: One significant drawback of greens powders is that they lack the dietary fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables. Fiber is essential for promoting healthy digestion, regulating blood sugar levels, and maintaining a healthy weight. [20] Although there are other ways to get fiber and whilst it does help with hunger control, this isn't a direct negative of greens powders, more of simply not including whole food greens in a diet. There are work arounds for satiety of course like low glycemic index diets and protein heavy diets etc.

Can Interfere With Certain Medications: Everything from a large dose of a specific vitamin, through to probiotics can interact with different medications, so it’s important to check with your doctor if you’re taking anything before supplementing with a greens powder. 

Uncertain Efficacy: While greens powders are formulated to provide a wide range of nutrients, the efficacy of these nutrients in powdered form is not always well-established. Most of the studies undertaken so far have shown positive results, but it cannot be marked as certain for every ingredient. {8,9,10}

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Many greens powders come with a warning due to specific supplements inside them not being recommended for new mothers and pregnant women. 

Potential for Contamination: Some greens powders may be contaminated with heavy metals or harmful bacteria, especially if they are not sourced from reputable manufacturers. It's essential to choose high-quality brands that undergo rigorous testing for purity and safety. [21] And of course to check that they test regularly for heavy metals. We have a list that have all been tested here.

Individual Variations: The effects and benefits of greens powders can vary from person to person. Factors such as individual nutrient needs, underlying health conditions, and overall diet quality can influence the perceived benefits of these supplements.

Potential Side Effects Of Greens Powders: Some people experience nausea and gastric distress. Generally, there aren’t any serious side effects, but it’s still something to consider. [22]

Who Can Benefit from Greens Powders?

While greens powders can be a convenient way to supplement your diet, they are not necessary for everyone. Here are a few groups of individuals who may benefit from incorporating greens powders into their routine:

Busy Individuals: People with hectic lifestyles who struggle to consume an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables may find greens powders helpful in meeting their nutritional needs.

Athletes and Fitness Enthusiasts: Greens powders can provide an added nutritional boost for individuals with high caloric demands due to intense physical activity. These supplements may support energy levels, muscle recovery, and overall performance. [23]

Those with Limited Access to Fresh Produce: Individuals living in areas with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables may find greens powders a convenient way to obtain essential nutrients.

Individuals with Dietary Restrictions: Greens powders can be a useful option for individuals following specific dietary restrictions, such as vegans or those with food allergies, as they provide a plant-based source of nutrients. [24]

People who Simply Don’t Eat Enough Greens: It’s relatively obvious that we side with the rest of the pro greens powder Doctors and RDN’s in that the ideal isn’t always realistic. Greens Powder Supplements are a practical and simple way to add nutrition into many people’s diets Not everybody likes greens, and we cannot expect 90% of Americans to radically alter their diets.

Incorporating Greens Powders into Your Diet

If you decide to try greens powders, here are a few tips to incorporate them into your diet effectively:

Start with a Small Serving: Begin with a smaller serving size to assess how your body responds to the greens powder. Gradually increase the dosage if you tolerate it well. This should help avoid any nausea of gastric issues.

Mix with Other Foods or Beverages: Experiment with different ways to incorporate greens powders into your meals. Add them to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, or even homemade energy bars for a nutrient boost. If you really don't like the taste of powdered greens then we have a handy guide here.

Choose High-Quality Brands: Look for greens powders from reputable brands that prioritize quality and safety. Read product reviews and check for third-party testing to ensure the purity and efficacy of the supplement.

Consider Whole Foods First: While greens powders can be a convenient supplement, it's essential to prioritize whole foods as the primary source of nutrients where possible. Aim to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet for optimal health benefits, although the difference in health benefits isn't overly pronounced. [25]

Are Greens Powders Worth It? Conclusion

Greens powders offer a convenient way to supplement your diet with essential nutrients, especially for individuals with busy lifestyles or limited access to fresh produce. In general we'd go as far to say that most Americans could benefit from adding a greens powder to their daily routine, and that it would be slightly better than a multivitamin if you purchase one of the better greens powders. However, this doesn't mean that just any option will do and you can read our breakdown of the best brands we've tested and analyzed in our greens powder buyers guide.

While they can provide a concentrated dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it's important to remember that they are not a substitute for a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods. Greens powders should be viewed as a supplement, not a replacement for a varied and nutritious diet. But, they’re certainly an improvement over not getting any leafy greens at all.

About Fact Checker

Dr B Lee Dr Lee is a member of Center TRT's research team, he has more than 200 scientific publications, and has been a member of the global obesity center. With more than 20 years experience in health, focusing on wholistic treatment, lifestyle and dietary changes to improve health outcomes on a regional and nationwide level. View Profile


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