You have to be a fully fledged unsalvageable freak to enjoy green powders like spirulina or chlorella.
I was reminded of this recently when I attempted to convert my poor,… unsuspecting colleagues to the green sludge that I swear by.
After insisting they too try the nutrient-dense blue-green algae, and watching them gag involuntarily, I crawled back under my freak rock.
But a new wave of green powders are saturating the supplements market and they don’t taste like sewage.
These new batches, which are a combination of greens and ”super” foods sweetened with pineapple, apple pectin or stevia, are rather tasty. They can also be rather pricey.
Elle Macpherson has just launched a fancy pants jar of the stuff at $100-plus a pop while Michelle Bridges’ new no-frills supermarket version is $20.
The abundance of other greens powders on the market fill the price and marketing gaps in between.
So why such a discrepancy in cost and do they live up to the marketing hype – ultimate lifestyle supplements that can “energise, revitalise and restore your body”?
What’s good about them?
Obesity is a significant problem in Australia with over 60 per cent of adults overweight and obese.
“Diet is a problem,” says Dr Saxon Smith, president of the Australian Medical Association NSW. “It’s not high in fruit and vegetables, particularly in green leafy vegetables.
“Greens powders are a source for those that can afford them.”
As well as a fast-track way to increase your intake of greens, the blends are often more natural than your average multi-vitamin, tastier than isolated nutrient greens powders (like spirulina) and blended for bioavailability.
“A little of everything together has a synergistic effect,” says Cassie Mendoza-Jones, naturopath, nutritionist and owner of Elevate Vitality.
“Nutrients don’t work in isolation, they work in synergy,” says Kathleen Alleaume, nutritionist, exercise physiologist and author of The Right Balance. “If you’re going to take spirulina why not get a combination.”
Plus, they taste better than spirulina on its own.
“I like greens powders as they’re sweetened with stevia or pineapple so they’re a lot easier to take,” Mendoza-Jones says.
“They’re also nicer than an intense green juice and easier.
“They’re a nice, entry level to becoming a little healthier and a little more conscious of nutrients.”
What’s not so good about them
Some research has been done on the pros and cons of isolated greens like spirulina, but no meaningful research has been done on the various combinations of ingredients in greens supplements.
“Is it going to be synergistically absorbed,” asks Dr Smith. “There’s no real evidence one way or another. We don’t know.
“As soon as you start making claims you have to start substantiating that claim. It comes down to clinical evidence.”
Surely it’s just common sense that extra greens are a good thing?
“They’re condensed nutrients so they must be pretty powerful, right?” Alleaume says. “People struggle to get their five serves a day of greens a day and this is a way to achieve that … I’m sure there’s some absorption, but I question the bioavailability.
“What I wonder is, are they just expensive urine?”
The answer to that is unclear.
“It may or may not assist you,” Dr Smith says.
What’s with the price discrepancy?
The theme seems to be the more ingredients the more expensive the powder.
Some at the pricier end of the market also contain organic ingredients, like Amazonia Raw Greens ($75 for 300g), Good Green Stuff (which contains 75 ingredients and is $79.95 for 300g), Bare Greens ($65 for 250g) and Elle Macpherson’s Super Elixir ($85 for 300g or, in the ”collectible” ceramic caddy, $145).
Flavours vary (Super Elixir and Nuzest’s are personal flavour favourites, while I struggled to swallow Michelle Bridges’ version) but as far as ingredients go “some are quite similar”, Mendoza-Jones says.
Of the cheaper brands, she says, they are “obviously cheap for a reason”.
But marketing and branding play a part too. “I don’t see why it’s so expensive,” says Alleaume of the Super Elixir after examining the ingredients. “I think her price is high because she’s Elle,” Mendoza-Jones adds.
“Plus the packaging looks gorgeous … It also says it uses cold-pressed whole foods which would definitely maintain quality/nutrient density. On the flip side, I doubt the actual ingredients are that expensive.”
Should we all take a greens supplement?
“If people are interested in their health, to supplement is a way to do it,” Dr Smith says. “For an athlete it’s an adjunct and the various forms of chlorofyll may assist.
“But the average person should start with the humble brussels sprout – which increases their fibre intake – not a supplement. Never underestimate the humble brussels sprout.”
Alleaume says: “The green powders can be beneficial whether you have a healthy diet or not, however, they’re best used to supplement a healthy diet, never to replace whole foods.
“There is a place for them: particularly for those who need to gain weight, the elderly need more nutrient dense food, vegetarians and athletes or if you’ve got a deficiency.”
Mendoza-Jones agrees. “They’re an insurance policy for when we’re not eating as well as we should,” she says, before adding that for specific ailments, like fatigue, she would be more likely to treat with targeted herbs and perhaps a greens powder like spirulina on the side.
What to watch out for:
Artificial sweeteners and ingredients that cause tummy upsets, like inulin or too much stevia.
“You also want to watch out for your allergies if it contains a protein,” Mendoza-Jones says. “The protein may be whey, soy or pea.
“Also be careful if you’re pregnant. There are herbs in there that you can’t take if you’re pregnant. Double check with the company.”
The bottom line:
“You get the best bioavailability in whole food form. After all, it’s not just about what you eat, it’s about what you absorb,” Alleaume says.
“If you’re already eating a healthy diet, it’s an assistance,” Dr Smith says. “For the average Australian, it’s not the place to start. You can’t supplement the basics.”
Mendoza-Jones agrees. “It’s not a get out of jail free card.
“It’s one piece of the whole puzzle of your health – it’s not going to undo a weekend of binge drinking. They’re ‘super foods’ but so are eggs and himalayan salt and avocados.”
As I’m hauling my mixed bag of greens supplements home after our chat, Alleaume asks: “Can they replace cooking up some kale and avocado?
“In a word ‘no’.”
View original article at: Green powders: the ‘ultimate’ lifestyle supplement?