You can’t out-supplement a poor diet (or sleep and stress levels). But even with a perfect diet, it is still possible to experience nutrient deficiencies because modern foods can be deficient in certain essential nutrients. To ensure that we get enough of these, I personally use and recommend a whole food source multivitamin like in a greens superfood powder.
What is a Greens Superfood Powder?
In short, a green superfood powder is many servings of vegetables and superfoods in a scoop of water-soluble powder. In addition to veggies and superfoods, the powder may also contain other health-supporting ingredients like probiotics and immune-supporting herbs.
Why Greens Supplement?
An ancestral and whole-foods diet may be a significant step up from the Standard American Diet that has a lot of grains, vegetable oil, and processed ingredients. However, there are many reasons even the seemingly healthy diet alone might still not provide enough micronutrients and antioxidants.
Our Soil is Depleted from Minerals and Good Bacteria
Over the last 100 years, industrial farming has depleted the most nutritious topsoil from important minerals and beneficial soil bacteria that would grow the healthiest foods. As a result, the vegetables in our food supplies also have less mineral density. The reduction of minerals in our foods, as well as the fertilizers and pesticides, may be a contributor to diseases of civilization.
Reduced Food Diversity and Wild Varieties
On Chris Kresser’s podcast, Dr. Thomas Cowan, MD said that healthy hunter-gatherer humans ate a much wider variety of vegetables than we do today, up to 20 species per day and 100 species throughout the year. The supermarket vegetables we normally eat have been bred to have more uniform shapes and sizes, with higher sugar content and less bitterness, which also means less micronutrients and phytonutrients than the wild vegetables.
Reduced Nutrient Density in Vegetables
These vegetables may have been harvested weeks and traveled thousands of miles before they reach your table.
Modern Lifestyle Depletes Vitamins and Minerals
The modern lifestyle, with chronic stressors and pollutions all around us, increases our needs for micronutrients. We need more B vitamins and magnesium to deal with stress. We also need more B vitamins, selenium, and antioxidants to remove the chemicals that we are exposed to.
In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the world leading nutrition researcher Dr. Bruce Ames wrote that low micronutrient status can lead to metabolic disruption, mitochondrial decay, cellular aging, and increased DNA mutation (source).
These can lead to fatigue, hormone imbalances, poor immune function, weight gain, and increased risks of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, supplementation with a multivitamin and mineral is a recommended as a cost-effective way to prevent nutrient deficiencies.
Greens Powder vs Vitamins
As a general rule, it is better to get your micronutrients from whole foods than from synthetic or isolated vitamins. First, nutrients that are present together in whole food sources often work in synergy, like vitamin C and bioflavonoids in fruits or vitamins A and D in egg yolks, cod liver oil and butter. Second, micronutrients in whole foods are generally more bioavailable than the synthetic forms. Third, there are still important nutrients and phytochemicals in plants that we have yet to discover.
Because a greens supplement provides vitamins from nutrient-dense whole food sources, it is a great way to ensure that you get sufficient amounts of micronutrients and antioxidants. The soil may be depleted from minerals, but the sea is not. Therefore, you want to get a greens supplement that includes some marine sources of nutrients.
Most vitamins, especially B vitamins, are stimulants. Many people find B vitamins so stimulating that it causes heart palpitations and anxiety. Whereas, vitamins from whole food sources, with the natural nutrient forms and synergies, are less likely to cause this problem. You may have eaten foods high in B vitamins like vegetables or liver without the heart palpitations. Since it’s also a whole food, greens powder can help with fatigue and hormone balance without the excess stimulation.
Problems with (Most) Green Powder Products on the Market
There are a LOT of greens powders out there, but not all are created equal.
Most Greens Powders Taste Terrible
Vegetables, especially the more nutrient-dense ones, are good for you. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make vegetables taste good, especially when you try to condense as many as 12 servings of vegetable into a single scoop.
In order to make the green powders taste palatable, many manufacturers use potentially harmful ingredients, such as:
- artificial sweeteners
- emulsifiers or thickeners to maintain texture for mouthfeel
- artificial colors
- non-organic or GMO ingredients
The Processing May Destroy Beneficial Nutrients and Antioxidants
Creating a greens superfood powder is technologically difficult because many vitamins and phytochemicals are very sensitive to heat, light, and certain forms of chemical?processing. The vegetables in the greens powder have to be gently freeze-dried into water-soluble powders in order to preserve the nutrients. Whereas, in order to make use of single-celled algae, the manufacturer may need to harshly crack the cell walls of these algae to make nutrients inside the cells available.
Therefore, you want to make sure that you purchase the greens powder from a reputable company that understands the biology of the superfoods they include in their products and confirm the presence of intact nutrients in the final products.
The Greens Powder that I Use
I’ve tried many greens powders over the years, but my current favorite one that my family is taking regularly is Spring of Life Daily energy. I like it because it is easy to mix, tastes great, and doesn’t have any of the harmful ingredients I mentioned above. Just a single scoop of it provides the antioxidant equivalent of 12 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables from 75 different species of plants. I love that it is gluten-free, made without GMOs, and free of allergens and other harmful ingredients.
- Well-researched ingredients for nutrient synergy and diversity
- Contains both land and marine sources of nutrients, which ensures the presence of microminerals that are lacking from the soil
- Contains active forms of B vitamins and methyl donors, such as methyl folate and methylcobalamin, which means that it is a good supplement for people with methylation problems
- Includes non-dairy probiotics and prebiotics
- Contains digestive and systemic enzymes which can support digestive health and help reduce inflammation
- Contains herbs that support the immune system, detoxification and the adrenals
While I’m a big fan of this greens powder, people with specific health concerns may react to certain ingredients, including:
- Allergies and food sensitivities to the ingredients may warrant some bad reactions
- Those with small intestine bacterial overgrowth may react badly to the probiotics and inulin in the green powder.
- Several herbs in the greens powder stimulate the Th1 immune system (astragalus, shitake and reishi mushrooms), while others stimulate the Th2 immune system (green tea, grapeseed extract, gotu kola). Therefore, this product may be contraindicated for people with autoimmune diseases, especially during a flare.
There are many green superfood powders on the market (and lots more popping up everyday!), so make sure to do your research before choosing one for you family.
What’s your experience with green superfood powder supplements? Please?share in the comments!