What are greens supplements?
Greens supplements are veggies, fruits, algaes and/or grasses that have been compacted and distilled into powdered form.
They typically contain an assortment of nutrient rich foods like barley grass, wheat grass, spirulina, chlorella, alfalfa, herbs, vegetables, legumes, and fruits.
Greens supplements can function as a serving of fruits and vegetables, and contain vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients.
Why are greens supplements so important?
Greens supplements can help augment a diet that is low in fruits and vegetables.
Do you know how many people are consuming 5 or more servings of fruits/vegetables each day?
- Less than 1% of men & 4% of women ages 18 to 24
- Less than 6% of men & 9% of women ages 25 to 34
- Less than 14% of men & 16% of women ages 35 to 49
- Less than 24% of men & 22% of women ages 50 to 64
Basically, almost everyone is coming up short.
But we know fruits and veggies are good for us. Consuming fruits and vegetables appears to reduce:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Various cancers (colon, prostate, breast, cervical, endometrial, gastric, lung, lymphoma, ovarian, pancreatic, thyroid)
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Eye disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(For more about the benefits of fruits and vegetables, see All About Fruits and Vegetables.)
On average, people tend to consume a lot more protein than fruits and veggies. This can create an acid load in the body and potential low grade acidosis. (See All About Dietary Acids and Bases) Introducing more vegetables and fruits (including a greens supplement) can help counteract this acid load and preserve bone and muscle, as our PN Informal Experiment showed.
How do you use greens supplements? Why, you can Turn Your Protein Shake Into A Super Shake, of course!
What you should know
Supplementation with greens supplements can benefit energy, recovery, antioxidant status, and bone health.
Greens are very alkaline and can help to balance dietary acids. If you consistently consume at least 10 servings of fruits and veggies per day, then supplementing with a greens product will likely be unnecessary.
Regular exercise training can increase acid production in the body due to repeated muscle contractions. You can enhance your recovery with alkalizing foods, along with protein. However, if you consume a lot of protein without fruits and veggies it can compound acid production. Thus alkaline foods, like greens supplements, are essential if your fruit and vegetable intake comes up short.
Greens supplements can also be helpful for traveling and days when whole fruits and vegetables aren’t available.
Greens supplements are not a substitute for actual food. Don’t fool yourself into believing that a few greens drinks a day make up for your lack of other healthy plants!
Summary and recommendations
Use greens supplements in addition to real foods and when you don’t have access to real foods.
Not all greens supplements are created equal. Find a reputable product.
Find a greens supplement with a taste you enjoy, otherwise you won’t use it. If you don’t like the taste, try mixing it in to something like a Super Shake.
Each greens product has a unique makeup. Read the labels to be sure you’re getting what you want, and that there are no additives.
For extra credit
Barley grass contains fibre and oil that may help to lower cholesterol.
Wheat grass is rich in chlorophyll.
In Chinese medicine, alfalfa is used to treat digestive disorders.
Spirulina is full of vitamins and minerals, but it isn’t a reliable source of vitamin B-12. There have been case reports of liver toxicity with high dose spirulina.
The use of bipolar compounds (such as phosphatidylcholine or lecithin) in greens formulas can help increase bioavailability of both water-soluble and non-water-soluble nutrients.
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