Green powder supplements have been growing in popularity.
Touted as a way to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, whilst also improving your immunity and gut health, why wouldn’t people be drinking the stuff?!
But do their claims stack up? Is a green powder the same as eating fruit and vegetables? Do the probiotics in these powders improve gut health? And what exactly are digestive enzymes?
In this post I unpack some of the common health claims made by green powder manufacturers to see whether spending $30 – $150 on these products is worth it.
If you would prefer a video, I cover all these topics in my review of Bloom Greens and Superfood Powder. Does the science support their claims around gut health, digestive enzymes and fruit and vegetables content? Keep scrolling if reading is your thing.
Many green powders contain probiotics. Some companies use the probiotic content of their product to claim it will improve gut health, particularly bloating. But what are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that when consumed in adequate amounts can provide a health benefit. For probiotics to be beneficial they need to be alive and able to survive the journey from the mouth all the way to the large intestine where out gut microbiome lives. We also need to be taking a particular dose (often in the millions) to see these health benefits.
There is some evidence that certain probiotic strains can provide slight improvements to bloating. However, these probiotics must be consumed daily and for at least 4-8 weeks before improvements are seen. An example of this is the probiotic VSL#3® which showed improvements to bloating when 1 sachet was consumed daily for 8 weeks. You can check that study out here.
Basically, probiotics are a popular buzzword for gut health at the moment. There is definitely evidence that they are beneficial however, it is important to note that this evidence remains limited. There is a lot of research left to do to fully understand how probiotics can be used for health benefits. If you want to take a probiotic for your gut health it is best to speak with a dietitian or gastroenterologist who can advise whether a probiotic is right for you and which product is best.
Another common ingredient in green powder supplements is digestive enzymes such as amylase, protease or lipase. Digestive enzymes are important as they break apart large compounds like carbohydrates, proteins and fats into small molecules that can be absorbed across our intestine and into our blood stream. Our body makes digestive enzymes in our pancreas. When we eat or drink our pancreas receives a signal to send these digestive enzymes into the small intestine to get to work.
Most people make enough digestive enzymes in their pancreas. Some people do not have enough enzymes due to disease or surgery. This can result in stomach discomfort, uncomfortable bowel motions and nutrient deficiencies. To prevent this, people take digestive enzymes in the form of a capsule. These capsules are carefully designed to protect the enzymes, as stomach acid will destroy them, making them useless by the time they reach the small intestine.
Taking digestive enzymes in a supplement powder does not protect the enzymes from stomach acid. This means they are most likely being destroyed in the stomach and providing no help with digestion. This ingredient sounds like marketing to make the product appear better.
If you suspect you are having trouble digesting food it is best to speak with a dietitian and your doctor to determine if you require digestive enzymes and how to take them.
These products often sell themselves as a way to consume fruits and vegetables. As we know a diet rich in whole fruit and vegetables is an essential component of a healthy diet. Green powders often claim they contain over 30 whole fruits and vegetables! Is it too good to be true?
If we could simply have one glass a day of green juice and get our 5 vegetables and 2 serves of fruit that would make my job as a dietitian so much easier. But powdered fruit and vegetables is not the same as the actual thing in the fresh, frozen or canned form. When food becomes powder it loses most of its fibre content. We need 30g of fibre per day and whole fruits and vegetables are a fantastic source of this fibre. Ironically, fibre is also great for our gut so relying on low fibre green powders instead of whole fruits and veg can have a negative impact on our gut microbiome.
It is not all bad news. The freeze drying process often retains the vitamin and mineral content of the fruit and vegetables so you will get some micronutrients out of the product. But is it worth spending over $30 for something that you can easily get in your usual diet? That is up to you to decide.
As you can see most of the claims made by green powder manufacturers do not stack up to the science. The probiotics are likely not improving your gut microbiome, the digestive enzymes are unnecessary, and you still need to eat fruits and vegetables even if you drink this daily.
If you enjoy the product and are happy to spend your money on it then it will do you no harm. But it is not a product I would be quick to recommend.
I hope this article has helped you look more closely at some of the claims made by supplement brands.