You may have seen people on TikTok or Instagram sipping on a glass of green-colored water. These elixirs are spiked with the wildly popular green powders, a supplement of sorts that has become viral on social media thanks to its purported health benefits. Scroll through the hashtag #greenpowder — which has racked up over 2.5 billion views on TikTok — and you’ll see videos of users raving about the product’s ability to reduce bloating, boost immunity, clear skin, and provide you with a hefty dose of vitamins and antioxidants. But... do they really work?
For a quick rundown, green powders are a dietary supplement that you stir or blend into water. They’re usually jam-packed with a long list of potent greens like spirulina, wheat grass, kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, seaweed, chlorella, green tea extract, various fruits, and culinary herbs like parsley (whew). “Some powders also add probiotics, digestive enzymes, and fiber,” says Dolores Woods, RD, a nutritionist with UTHealth Houston School of Public Health. Though the exact ingredients depend on the brand you choose, so read those labels.
According to Brittany Scanniello, RDN, a registered dietician nutritionist and owner of Eat Simply Nutrition, green powders have increased in popularity because they’re an easy way to boost your fruit and veggie intake with almost no effort. It’s so much faster to chug a glass of greens than it is to grab an assortment of ingredients from the grocery store for a smoothie or salad.
Since everyone could use more nutrients in their lives, it makes sense why the green powder category was estimated at $287.90 million in 2021 and is expected to reach $673.10 million by 2028, according to Industry Research. And yet, as it goes with all supplements, it isn’t always clear if everyone needs a green powder or if they’re even worth it. Here, registered dietitians break it all down.
What Do Green Powders Do?
By drinking the heaping dose of nutrients you get from one of these green powders, you’ll supposedly experience a burst of energy, improved digestive health, reduced body odor, better sleep, and so much more. It all sounds amazing, sure, but what’s true and what isn’t?
According to Kieran McSorley, RD, a registered dietician with Brentwood Physiotherapy Calgary, spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, and kale — four of the most common ingredients in green powders — are some of the most nutrient-dense foods around. “Spirulina is especially high in B vitamins, iron, and protein, while chlorella contains an abundance of vitamins A and B12,” he tells Bustle. It all adds up to provide your immune system with extra support.
Green powders might also have the power to reduce inflammation in your body. While Scanniello says the current scientific research is limited, she points to a 2011 study that found that green drinks lowered oxidative stress in the body by fighting free radicals, which is beneficial for inflammation-related issues.
Having a greens-spiked water every day can also reduce the intensity of body odor. “Dietary choices can impact our sweat and, subsequently, how it smells,” McSorley says. “This is because sweat produced from different parts of the human body contains different components that are determined by our diet.” When you swap out processed foods and swap in a green powder, it can start to make a difference.
According to McSorley, folks who ingest green powders are also more likely to make other healthy choices, like prioritizing sleep, drinking enough water, and exercising, all of which help how you feel overall. But beyond that, Woods notes that there’s little to no evidence that green powders will boost your energy or provide the other benefits you hear about on TikTok.
So, Are Powdered Greens Worth It?
When it comes to nutrition, Scannienello says a food-first approach is always best, which means you should eat real vegetables and fruits instead of opting for a powder or other supplement. “Powders are no substitute for the real thing as whole fruits and vegetables are filled with wholesome fiber, which is important for both gut and heart health,” she says. “There is no replacement for whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables in one's diet.”
When you eat a fruit or veggie in its whole form, you also get a variety and a concentrated amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. “While green powders do contain some of these nutrients, it is important to note that fiber and vitamin and mineral concentrations are generally lower when compared to whole fruits and veggies due to losses during processing,” Scannienello explains.
Vanessa Rissetto, RD, a registered dietician and CEO of Culina Health, agrees. “I don't think green powders do any more than if you ate the actual vegetable itself,” she says. “There's no magic to a green powder — it's just easier to consume.”
Powders also tend to be a lot more expensive than, say, a bag of kale, which is why green powders aren’t really worth it nutritionally or financially. That said, these supplements do come in handy as an OK substitute if you regularly struggle to eat enough veggies, especially since you can add them to water, juices, smoothies, and even dips and dressings.
If you do want to try green powders out for yourself, it’s important to note that the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements — so Woods recommends looking for a product that’s third-party tested so you know what it contains and to ensure it’s made with actual vegetables. “Avoid those with added sugar and fillers such as grains or soy,” she says. It’s also a good idea to check in with your doctor before giving greens a try since some supplements can impact medications or health conditions.
While green powders can give you a quick dose of vitamins and may be a convenient way to add more nutrients to your diet, you really shouldn’t count on them for replacing whole foods in your diet.
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