Best Greens Supplements – Do Superfoods Powders Work?

EVERYTHING, IT SEEMS, is coming up green.

Or at least in the supplement world, where Internet ads for the products seem to be everywhere. Many of these supplements market themselves as “superfood” boosters that can turbocharge your health, reinforce your immune system, and even help you detoxify (whatever that means).

Those things all sound awesome, but will taking a greens powder, really mean you no longer have to chew your way through another stem of kale? Do these powders actually offer the same heart-helping, disease-fighting, diabetes-busting benefits of dark green leafy vegetables? Can these supplements help with that oh-so-tricky-to-consume-enough-of nutrient, fiber?

Well, not exactly. There’s a lot more to powdered greens supplements than what you read on their labels.

“Greens are hands-down one of the most powerful foods on the planet. The rich nutrient profile and antioxidants in greens help support immune function, and provide energy,” says Kylene Bogden, M.S., R.D.N., co-founder FWDfuel.

Bogden says that “the abundance of B vitamins [in greens] in particular helps to support methylation and a load of antioxidants helps to reverse unavoidable oxidative damage,” she says.

Nick Sopczak, R.D., of Zuma Nutrition further emphasizes that greens are nutrient-dense foods that are an important part of a healthy diet. “They contain many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, B9, C and K, as well as magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium,” he says.

But actual greens (as in food) aren’t the same thing as greens powders.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a place in your diet for greens supplements, you just have to consider your overall diet—and look for a few key factors in the product you purchase.

What are greens supplements?

These “superfood” boosters, derived from real produce, do it all.

Their advertised benefits include (but are not limited to!): reinforcing your immune system, improving your gut health, detoxifying your body, alleviating inflammation, enhancing athletic performance, supporting a healthy blood-sugar level, helping your heart, turbocharging your overall health, and even making your hair, skin, and nails look fantastic.

Or so the supplement makers say.

What’s true about greens supplements.

Greens powders are made from nutrient-dense foods, such as kelp, barley grass, and dandelion leaves (delicious!). Athletic Greens, one of the leading Instagram-friendly purveyors of greens powder, lists spirulina, a blue-green algae, as its main ingredient.

So, like the non-powderized versions of those foods, greens supplements can be a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. And research has shown that those nutrients ward off deficiencies and diseases.

What’s iffy about greens supplements.

The whole “research-backed” ingredients sell is tricky, says Abby Langer, R.D., author of Good Food, Bad Diet and a Men’s Health nutrition advisor.

For example, a greens powder can say it contains alpha lipoic acid, which research has linked to healthy blood-sugar regulation. But those studies looked at alpha lipoic acid in isolation, controlled within a test group—not in a mixture of tons of other ingredients, as is the case in greens powders.

To date, little research has been conducted on the effectiveness of greens supplementation as a whole, for any of its marketed benefits, and most has been sponsored by the manufacturers. That doesn’t mean powders can’t help; there’s just no scientific evidence . . . yet.

Now, there’s plenty of research on leafy greens as whole foods.

Studies have concluded that eating at least a serving of leafy green vegetables daily reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and age-related cognitive decline, says Bruce Ovbiagele, M.D., chief of staff for the San Francisco VA Health Care System and a leafy-greens researcher.

“We’ve known for a long time about the benefits of fruits and vegetables; we’ve had people extract those nutrients and vitamins and have people take them in supplementation form,” Dr. Ovbiagele says. “But still, several studies have shown that, for whatever reason, when you extricate them for supplement form, they’re not as beneficial as when you take them in their natural state.”

What’s iffy about greens supplements.

Greens supplements are processed foods, says Langer, and in that processing, manufacturers cut two things essential for everyday good health: water and fiber.

One cup of chopped raw broccoli is 89 percent water. That same amount of broccoli powderized: 0 percent. Food contributes roughly 20 percent of your daily hydration, which isn’t nothing, and water volume helps you feel full, too.

That’s also where fiber comes in. Greens powders provide only two or three grams of fiber per serving. These supplements like to tout high-fiber ingredients like Swiss chard and Brussels sprouts, but real versions of those foods each have four grams of fiber a cup. A diet rich in fiber from real foods has been shown to decrease the risk of high blood pressure and intestinal cancer and to help maintain a healthy weight. A diet rich in greens powders?


What’s bogus about greens supplements.

No one supplement is ever going to dramatically improve your health, immunity, or fitness. Gains in those areas depend on your overall diet, sleep quality, daily exercise, and stress.

Also: Nothing except your digestive tract, kidneys, and liver detoxifies your body.

Should you try a greens supplement?

Not as a shortcut.

“I like a good greens product as a supplement for individuals who cannot consume enough veggies or during travel,” says Abbie Smith-Ryan, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., a professor of exercise physiology at UNC Chapel Hill.

If you’re eating a healthy diet that includes the recommended amount of vegetables (two to three cups daily, according to the CDC), save your cash, says Langer.

And greens powders aren’t cheap, while produce typically is.

A high-end greens powder can cost anywhere from $40 to $99 for 30 servings. At one scoop a day, that’ll last about 30 days. Collard greens and kale, in their whole-food forms, run about $20 for 30 servings.

What to look for in a greens supplement.

If you’re in need of greens, just make sure you pick a brand that delivers the ingredients it advertises.

“I suggest looking for products that have been third-party tested, to ensure what is listed on the label is actually in the product,” says Smith-Ryan. So scan for “NSF,” “USP,” or “Informed Sport” on the packaging.

Those certifications also confirm that the supplements do not contain any banned substances—another concern that real greens don’t carry.

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Perri is a New York City-born and -based writer; she holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily,, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She’s probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she’ll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at

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