Best green powders, tried and tested by Cosmopolitan

Best green powders, tried and tested by Cosmopolitanprotein powder craze. Then came the collagen powder era. Next one? Green powders.

Yeah, like wellness gurus will know: green powders are *everywhere* right now – and for good reason. From your FYP to your gym café, there’s no escaping these luminous drinks, packed with fruits, vegetables and so-called superfoods.

But what are the benefits of drinking green powders? Which ingredients should you pay attention to? And is it worth choosing the powders instead of the vitamin supplements you already have in your kitchen cupboard?

We spoke to an expert to find all the answers you need before sipping your next green smoothie… and we rounded up the best powders (including the concoctions you’ll find in the kitchens of Cosmopolitan team members).

Intrigued? Whether you’re a green powder stan looking for your next favorite drink or a powder newbie thinking about where best to start, here’s everything you need to know.

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What are greens powders?

Super greens. Greens powders. Greens smoothies. Whatever you want to call them, the chances are you’ve spotted greens drinks before. There are too many popular varieties to name but AG1 and Bloom offer some of the most well-known options.

As Kate Hilton RD BSc, a clinical dietician with Feel Gut explains, “Greens powders vary in their content.” But – big breath, please – they typically contain “fruit and vegetable powders, ‘superfood’ powders (such as spirulina, barley grass, wheatgrass and chlorella), additional fibres from various sources, and may also include other extras such as adaptogens (compounds which help you deal with stress better), pre- and probiotics (good bacteria which can colonise the gut, and the compounds which feed them) and digestive enzymes.”

And that’s not all. “Greens powders may also be fortified with different vitamins and minerals too, the most common additions being potassium, magnesium and various B vitamins, including B12.”

Sounds like a lot of healthy ingredients right? Well, yes. But it’s worth noting, you can sometimes have too much of a good thing. Let us explain…

Are greens powders good for you?

“There is no doubt that these greens pack a powerful nutrition punch. For many people, particularly those who struggle to get their nutrition in using fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, green powders can be a great addition to their diet to ensure they are getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals,” answers Hilton.

There are some important points to consider, she adds.

First up, we need to talk about bioavailability (which refers to “the amount of that nutrient that you can absorb, and therefore utilise, within your body”).

“Whilst the bioavailability of the nutrients in greens powders has not yet been established, we can assume that whilst some nutrients may be very bioavailable due to them being given in powder form, the interaction between certain nutrients may reduce the bioavailability,” she explains. “For example, iron and zinc may compete with each other within the powder and prevent us absorbing as much as the packet says we will.”

Similarly, she says there are concerns around the bioavailability of the B12 within powders. “Whilst many are fortified with B12, this tends to be in the less bioavailable form, methylcobalamin. Not only this, but almost all greens powders contain products such as spirulina and chlorella within their mix. The issue with spirulina and chlorella is that they contain what is known as ‘pseudo B12’.”

What is pseudo B12? “This is a compound which can increase blood levels of B12, making it appear we have adequate levels, but cannot be used in the same way as B12. Not only this, but it will compete with the B12 we have consumed for absorption, so you may not be absorbing any actual B12 at all,” says the expert.

How do greens powders compare to whole foods?

“Whole fruits and vegetables don’t just provide us with the vitamins and minerals – they provide an entire matrix of different compounds, all of which may have an impact on how effective that vitamin and mineral is,” according to Hilton.

“Boiling nutrition down to simply the nutrients within a food does not consider the impact of the whole food, and therefore, relying solely on greens powders for nutrition may not be as effective as eating the whole fruit or vegetable,” she warns.

That’s not to say greens powders aren’t beneficial, but it’s important to recognise the bigger picture (more on that below).

Are greens powders worth it?

Hilton says: “Ultimately, it is best to get your nutrition from fruits and vegetables where you can. Aiming for 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day of varying colours can ensure you are covered vitamin and mineral wise, and aiming for 30 different plants per week (which includes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds) can ensure great gut microbiome diversity.

“However, Greens powders may be a convenient way to cover yourself if you cannot consume enough fresh produce.”

Remember, green powders aren’t the only option out there. “It may be argued that a regular vitamin and mineral supplementation would do just as good (if not better!) of a job at a fraction of the price,” Hilton points out. That being said, you might decide a delicious drink is the way to go when it comes to your lifestyle.

P.S. It’s always best to chat with your GP or a qualified expert before introducing a new supplement into your diet.

What should you look out for when choosing greens powders?

“Like all nutritional supplements, [greens powders] are not regulated by governing bodies,” says Hilton. “So there is a possibility that they are completely ineffective or susceptible to contamination with things like heavy metals.”

She adds: ‘Ideally look for one that has been third party tested and can reduce the risk of heavy metal contaminants in the powder. Make sure this powder contains real fruit and vegetable powders, among other additives, as this will give you more nutritional value.

“Finally, make sure you don’t rely on the powder for your B12 consumption; add another B12 supplement to your routine, or consume adequate amounts of B12-containing foods, such as meat, eggs, fish and fortified vegan alternatives .”

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