We’ve long been told to eat our fruits and vegetables. But for many people, that’s easier said than done.
According to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just 9 percent of American adults get their daily recommended servings of vegetables, while only 12 percent get the recommended amount of fruit. For the salad-adverse, green superfood powder supplements, such as TikTok-favorite AG1 and Vital Proteins’ Collagen Beauty Greens, aim to fill that gap. The promise? Instead of loading up on celery and apples, you can simply sprinkle the powder into any liquid to get the vitamin equivalent of a plant-rich diet.
But is it legit?
“Although most green powders do use plant powders as their main ingredients, it’s not the same as eating whole food fruits and vegetables,” Rizzo tells Yahoo Life. “To turn a fruit or vegetable into a powder requires some processing that will likely lead to a breakdown of nutrients and stripping out most of the fiber."
Rizzo explains that green powder supplements tend to add those nutrients back in, "but research shows that eating single nutrients is not as beneficial to overall health as eating the food," she says. For example, a review found that the antioxidant lycopene from tomatoes was more effective at improving “cardiovascular health than lycopene from supplements,” points out Rizzo.
Nicole Avena, a neuroscientist who specializes in nutritional counseling and is the author of Why Diets Fail, adds that should you rely entirely on these supplements, it’s possible that “nutritional deficiencies” could arise, as it’s simply not possible for powders to feature all the same nutrients that whole foods can.
“Some micronutrients like pantothenic acid and biotin are lost through the process of dehydration,” Avena tells Yahoo Life. “Green powders are not a substitute for a well-balanced diet and cannot replace the benefits seen from consuming fruits and vegetables.”
In addition to lacking certain micronutrients, swapping out a vegetable or fruit for, say, a scoop of powder, likely means you aren’t getting necessary macronutrients — protein, carbs, and fiber — that would have come from the whole food.
“Carbs from fruits and vegetables provide energy to the brain, as well as fuel everyday activities and exercises,” Rizzo explains. “Fiber is not only beneficial for digestive health, it’s also an important nutrient for the heart.”
Green powders can help fill in nutritional gaps
That said, Rizzo and Avena agree that supplementing your diet with green powders can be beneficial to fill in nutritional gaps, but again, relying too much on them — or replacing whole foods entirely with them — can backfire.
“If an individual is lacking vitamins and minerals and cannot seem to get those nutrients from the foods they consume, supplementation could be a great idea," Avena says. "This being said, it is always best to consult your doctor before taking any supplements.”
One other word of warning: Because green powders are considered supplements, they are not regulated by the FDA, which Rizzo points out means “you might not be getting what is on the label.”
She adds: “If you do choose to supplement with green powders, choose one that has been third party tested to ensure that it’s safe and you’re getting what you think. Look for third party labels, such as NSF or USP.”
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