How To Pick The Best Greens Powder - So You’re Not Wasting Money On Fillers.
Greens powder is one of my ‘must have’ easy all round health boosters, I recommend it to almost everyone (& have done for 20+ years since I learnt about them & first experienced their benefits while studying naturopathy)! Hard to imagine now, but back then (1998) there was no such thing as a green smoothie - green powders were it! I really struggled at first to drink greens, I literally used to gag & waste half the glass (even after psyching myself up & holding my nose). You can read a post on how I finally managed to get them down easily HERE. And thankfully, most greens powders today are much smoother / better textured than they once were! But what do you look for in the best greens powder in Australia?
Greens are 100% worth getting used to taking - they remain front & centre of my personal / family supps cupboard. Try sticking to a decent powder for a few months & just notice the changes in your energy, gut & skin (what most people feel / see first).
The strongest greens powders used for the basis (or maybe just for the marketing) of almost any greens formula you’ll buy today are:
Spirulina, Chlorella, & young cereal grasses (ie wheat, barley, spelt, alfalfa). Kale, spinach & broccoli are also really common, though I wouldn’t class them as ‘super’ greens like the above, just top dried green veggie options.
So - there are greens powders… & there are super greens powders! Some are great, some are pretty crappy & overpriced, therefore choosing a decent one can be tricky if you don’t have any background health & manufacturing knowledge! Here’s my tips on how to pick one that’s right for you, with more detail below if you want it.
- simple / short ingredient lists are best (say 3-7 ingredients, not 30-75).
- spirulina, chlorella, cereal grasses are the ‘hero’ greens you want to look for, they should be the top few ingredients. You’ll know when you have a strong greens powder, because it will look intensely dark green when mixed with water, not a pale green / brownish khaki colour.
- get to know the common cheap sneaky fillers, & processing aids / (ie inulin, pea protein, fibres, lecithin, vegetable powders).
- realise that fruit & veg powders are often used as natural sweeteners (commonly used ones are apple, pineapple, beetroot, carrot, berry).
- a label can say ‘no artificial preservatives’, but still include things like citric acid, which is a preservative / not a health supplement.
- if there are any extras besides the greens, ensure they are also things you want to take, & included at reasonable doses. Most times, you’re much better off with a seperate multi / minerals / probiotic / protein powder / herbal liver formula etc.
So that’s the basics - if you want more details, read on.
More Detail on Greens Powder Formulas:
Here I’ll mention some common, unnecessary fillers used by manufacturers to bulk out greens powders (because they are much cheaper as ingredients than actual greens). Smarter to buy these separately (at a low price) if you want them, & then buy a stronger greens with your $. Yes, some of these are beneficial / great to include in your diet / supplement regime, but they are not providing the benefits of greens, & cost way less, so you shouldn’t be paying greens powder prices for them!
- protein powder (ie pea protein isolate is used as a cheap greens filler, & you won’t get a meaningful serve of protein anyway). Buy good greens, & add to a full serve of protein powder.
- prebiotic fibre (ie inulin - it’s super cheap, & also a sneaky sweetener!) Better off buying it separately if you want it, & buying a stronger greens powder. Inulin can upset sensitive tummies (it’s high FODMAP, so often sets off those with IBS / bloating).
- fruit & veggie powders. Once again - better off eating them fresh. Pineapple, apple, berry, even carrot & beetroot powders are super sweet - a great sneaky way for companies to heavily sweeten their greens powders with cheaper ingredients, whilst being able to declare that it’s ‘free from sweeteners’. Lol! Just add a splash of juice to your greens if you want it sweeter / yummier! You can start with lots to make it yum, then wean yourself off the sweetness as you get more used to the green taste.
Take note of the order of ingredients - look for all the strong greens first on the list. Often the list goes more like this in a ‘mainly marketing hype’ type of greens:
Eg (random / made-up but plausible list): Spirulina, inulin, apple powder, spinach, pea protein, wheatgrass, pineapple powder, beetroot powder, chlorella, barley grass, ashwaganda, turmeric, ginger, reishi, shiitake, burdock, globe artichoke.
This list looks great to the untrained eye - all healthy ingredients, right? But to a health label savvy eye, this is a heavily sweetened greens powder with loads of fillers, some token small dose herbs & mushrooms, & not a lot of greens! It would be a light green colour when you open it / mix with water.
Another sneaky trick is to make a product that is a ‘combo of 2 or 3 super-duper blends’ put together in the one tub. You just read the first few ingredients of each blend, & with some simple maths you can figure out that the 30+ ‘super trendy must have’ ingredients below the top 2 or 3 in each blend are really just for show.
They’re not actually included at a meaningful therapeutic dose. Compare the levels of say vitamin B12 or magnesium they’ve listed on the label to an actual B12 or magnesium supplement - there’s no comparison. And the herbs & mushroom / superfood powders - these are hilarious! The quantities are so small in many powders, they’re not even worth mentioning. Just look at the mg in an actual ashwaganda or turmeric or reishi supplement (check you’re not comparing micrograms with milligrams also!)
As naturopaths, we were taught that to select a useful supplement, or put together an effective herbal formula, we must ensure all ingredients are included in amounts that fall within the ‘therapeutic dose window’ for that particular ingredient. Otherwise, you may as well leave it out / it’s not going to have much impact / will just take away from the main ingredients. We normally use between 1 & 7 herbs in a formula (never anywhere close to the 30 to 50 herbs & superfoods that are often added into greens powders at these minuscule doses).
Green Powder Benefits
Why do you want to take greens?And what green powder benefits are you looking for?
I wanted to fix my crappy liver / gut / get better skin & energy & immunity & hormonal balance back in the day.
Here’s some of the most common reasons I hear from customers (see if these match yours).
- I don’t eat enough green veggies & know this is an easy way to boost ‘green nutrients’ ✅ great reason
- I want liver & detox support, I know I’m pretty toxic ✅ yes
- I want better skin ✅ yep
- I want more energy / better performance ✅ yep
- I want a healthier gut ✅ 100%
- I want to lose weight ✅ yes, can help
- I want to alkalise my body (kind of - requires explanation)
- I want extra nutrients but not from pills ✅ perfect
Your main reason for using greens will influence your choice in powders. Ie if you don’t eat a lot of fruit & veggies, maybe a greens with powdered fruit & veg would be a decent option for you. But if you already eat tonnes of spinach / pineapple / apple / beetroot etc, it makes no sense to buy the expensive dried powdered versions with your supergreens! Just continue to eat those fresh & put your supplement dollars towards greens you can’t pick up fresh from the markets (ie Spirulina, Chlorella, young cereal grasses).
If you’re taking greens to support detox efforts, you don’t want one with flavours, sweeteners etc, that’s unhelpful & just more work for your poor gut & liver! I’d go for one that is super clean & simple (no added anything) & has plenty of Chlorella (it should be one of the top 4-6 ingredients, not say number 10 - 75 if you a want a therapeutic / useful detox dose. And buy a seperate liver herbal & probiotic if you want meaningful doses.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous health supplement manufacturers know that most consumers have no idea of what a ‘therapeutic dose’ of any ingredient is. So they just cram as many trendy superfoods into their products as will fit onto the label, then tell you to take a 10 or 12 gram dose. This is great for sales / profitability as the consumer believes they are getting ‘75 different beneficial ingredients’ for their $. The reality is - you can probably look at the first 7 listed ingredients & ask yourself ‘would I pay this amount of money for a tub of lecithin, pea protein, inulin & apple powder? Because they are making up a big proportion of that 12 gram dose.
I got sick of seeing these kind of greens powders long ago, so I made one: Greens+Aloe - just 5 of the strongest organic greens, no fillers & a therapeutic dose of Aloe Vera inner leaf gel (which is an amazing complement to greens for gut / liver support, plus has great blood sugar / metabolism benefits).