Ask the RD: Are Superfood Powders Healthy?

Kelly Hogan, MS, RD
by Kelly Hogan, MS, RD
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Ask the RD: Are Superfood Powders Healthy?

It’s no secret adding more veggies to your day is a foolproof way to improve your diet. That’s why you’ve likely seen “super green powders” or powders made from dehydrated vegetables and other vitamins, mineralsherbs, etc. (depending on the brand), lining grocery store shelves and touted by influencers. These products are often marketed as an easy and palatable way to increase the amount of vegetables you consume in a given day, sometimes with nutrient content even higher than eating regular vegetables.

However, like so many things in the diet and nutrition world, if something sounds too good to be true (looking at you, juice cleanse), it often is. Here’s what you need to know about how green powders compare to the real thing and how they might fit into your diet (or not).

FIBER CONTENT

One of the most significant differences between super green powders and whole vegetables is fiber content. Fiber is one of the most important components of fruits and vegetables and is completely removed in the processing of these green powders. Fiber helps promote a diverse and strong gut microbiotaregulates blood sugar, aids satiety after meals and aids digestion. These are all important for our daily functioning, and one of the reasons not to rely on green powders alone for your vegetable servings. It’s also important to keep in mind the countless research studies on the health benefits of diets high in vegetables are conducted on individuals eating whole vegetables. We don’t know how these results would differ in individuals consuming vegetables in powdered form.

NUTRIENT COMPOSITION AND PRICING

Another difference between the two is that because the vegetables used to make green powders are processed — usually dehydrated and ground into powders — this may affect nutrient composition of the vegetables, such as total vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content. Other ingredients may be added to green powders, such as additional vitamins and minerals to account for these discrepancies, as well as sugar substitutes and herbs.

Price points of green powders and regular vegetables are also drastically different. A one-month supply of green powder (to be used daily) can cost more than $75. Whole vegetables cost a fraction of that and are much more budget-friendly.

SHOULD YOU USE GREEN POWDERS?

Despite these differences, green powders can have a place in a healthy diet, as long as they are not used to replace all vegetables. They are a great way to add nutrients to the diet as a meal supplement, similar to vitamins. Because so many Americans fall short on their daily vegetable intake, using a powder can add nutrition to the diet and act as a gateway toward including more of the real thing.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Ultimately, super green powders shouldn’t be a substitute for eating whole vegetables. Whole vegetables give you more bang for your buck in every nutrient department, from fiber to vitamins and minerals, not to mention your wallet. Powders can, however, be used to supplement a plant-forward, varied diet if you choose to do so and it fits your budget. To increase intake of whole vegetables in your diet, try preparing them in different ways, like roasting, sauteing or in soups, and dressing them with delicious sauces or a simple drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.

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About the Author

Kelly Hogan, MS, RD
Kelly Hogan, MS, RD

Kelly Hogan, MS, RD is an NYC-based registered dietitian specializing in women’s health, sports nutrition and plant-based eating. She is passionate about helping people develop a positive relationship with food and their bodies, and uses a non-diet approach in her practice. When she’s not talking or writing all things nutrition, Kelly can be found running in Central Park – she’s run 11 marathons and counting! – cooking recipes new and old, handstanding at the yoga studio or hanging with friends and/or her rescue dog, Peanut.

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