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Super greens are a popular wellness elixir, claiming to boost antioxidant intake, reduce gut inflammation and bloating, slash food cravings, and improve overall health. For people who struggle to eat enough vegetables, they can also be a helpful source of vitamins and minerals.

With their extensive and often overwhelming ingredient lists, however, knowing exactly what you’re getting in a super greens supplement can be tricky. Knowing whether they contain ingredients that are actually effective can be even more confusing.

So, what are super greens? As a registered dietitian, I’ll explain everything you need to know about these products! Afterward, you’ll have a better understanding of the ingredients, effectiveness, and side effects of super greens. You’ll also understand which types of people will benefit the most from the best greens powder.

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider.

What Are Super Greens?

“Super greens” is a common term used to describe powdered fruit and vegetable supplements that are particularly rich in green vegetables. They’re marketed as a convenient way to boost your intake of antioxidants and other valuable nutrients.

Person Holding Shaker Bottle With Nested Naturals Super Greens

The ingredients in these dietary supplements can vary significantly based on the brand, so let’s discuss them in more detail below.

What Are Super Greens Made Of?

No two super greens products are exactly alike, but they share many common ingredients. As you may have guessed from the name, one of the primary components of Super Greens is a “greens” blend of edible grasses, algae, and leafy green vegetables that have been dried into a powder. Matcha, a popular variety of powdered green tea, and moringa, a leafy green plant, are also common.

Super greens aren’t just limited to green veggies, however. Most of these products aim to pack their powders with an array of other nutrients from high-antioxidant fruits, vegetables, and spices. Collectively, many of these ingredients are known as “superfoods” thanks to their high nutrient density.

Since these supplements are often marketed for their purported gut health benefits, they often include prebiotic fibers, probiotics, and digestive enzymes. 

RELATED: Transparent Labs Prebiotic Greens Review

Adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms are popular additions to help reduce the effects of chronic stress and inflammation to support overall health and wellness.

Looking down into a bag of Organifi Greens Juice powder.

To improve the taste while avoiding added sugars and unnecessary calories, many brands add natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit. Calorie-free sugar alcohols like erythritol may also be used.

The ingredient lists on Super Greens products are extensive. While they differ by brand, they tend to share these types of ingredients:

  • Edible grasses: Alfalfa, wheatgrass, barley grass, oat grass
  • Leafy green vegetables: Kale, spinach, parsley, moringa
  • Green algae: Chlorella, spirulina
  • Tea: Matcha, green tea extract
  • Fruit: Blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate, acai berries, citrus bioflavonoids
  • Antioxidant-rich vegetables: Beet root, carrot, maca root
  • Herbs and spices: Turmeric root extract, rosemary leaf extract
  • Probiotic bacteria: L. acidophilus, B. bifidum
  • Prebiotics: Fructooligosaccharides, tapioca starch, chicory root, inulin
  • Adaptogens: Ashwagandha, astragalus, chaga mushroom, reishi mushroom
  • Digestive enzymes: Amylase, bromelain, cellulase, lactase, lipase, protease
  • Natural non-caloric sweeteners: stevia extract, stevia leaf, monk fruit (Luo Han Guo) extract

What Are Greens Powders?

“Greens powders” is another term used to describe super greens. These are dietary supplements made from a variety of powdered green vegetables and grasses. Some ingredients are fermented to improve the bioavailability of certain nutrients. 

Enso Superfoods greens premixed

Like super greens powders, greens powders also contain other ingredients like fruit, non-green vegetables, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and more. As plant-based products, they’re rich in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.

Greens powders are meant to be mixed with water or juice, but can be added to a variety of cold foods and beverages to help make greens powder taste better. Many people drink it in the morning to start their day with a boost of nutrients and hydration. 

To fit a variety of dietary preferences, almost all greens powders are gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan-friendly.

How Do Super Greens Work?

We’re all pretty familiar with the fact that leafy green vegetables are good for us, so the idea of a supplement that makes getting your daily greens easier sounds like a no-brainer. But how exactly do super greens powders affect our health?

With so many ingredients in these supplements, the answer to this question can get a bit complicated. 

The main way that greens powders work is through their substantial levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are natural compounds found in plant-based foods that fight and prevent the damaging effects of oxidative stress within our bodies. 

We’re regularly exposed to oxidative stress from poor diets, environmental pollutants, and the natural production of free radicals during normal metabolic processes in the body, so getting enough antioxidants from a healthy diet is incredibly important.

Naked Greens in a glass

Powdered greens, fruits, and other vegetables also contain a boost of vitamins and minerals. Some, like vitamin A, C, and E, act as antioxidants. Others like B-vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc are needed for daily biochemical reactions in the body and to promote overall health and energy levels.

RELATED: Greens Powder vs Multivitamins

You may also have noticed that prebiotic fibers are often added to greens powders. These specific dietary fibers serve as fermentable fuel for our gut bacteria, helping beneficial strains of bacteria thrive while suppressing the growth of pathogenic, pro-inflammatory bacteria in the intestines. 

Probiotic bacteria are also common, as well-studied strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum are known to survive the acidic conditions of the stomach and can potentially help populate the gut with beneficial bacteria. By improving the balance of our gut microbiome, prebiotics and probiotics may also help support a strong immune system. 

Digestive enzymes are another group of ingredients in many greens powders. They’re added to help people who suffer from indigestion, excess flatulence, and abdominal bloating. 

Lastly, super greens powders claim to help manage chronic stress through the work of adaptogens. Adaptogens1 are foods, often unique types of mushrooms or herbs, that have been studied for their abilities to help us “adapt” to stressful conditions by reducing the production of stress hormones, alleviating chronic inflammation, and slowing processes related to aging.

Benefits of Super Greens

So are super greens powder benefits just hype, or do they have research backing them up? Let’s review the potential benefits of these supplements here.

May Improve Heart Health

Published studies on the benefits of super greens powders are scarce, but some research suggests that powdered greens may help support heart health. 

An image of the best greens powder

For example, a small pilot study2 found that after 90 days, participants taking NanoGreens powder had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels compared to the control group. However, participants were not blinded and no placebo was used, leaving opportunities for bias.

According to a 2018 meta-analysis3 published in Clinical Nutrition, chlorella supplementation may lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and fasting blood sugar levels. That said, it isn’t clear whether most greens powders contain enough chlorella to provide these benefits.

Higher Energy Levels

Anecdotally, many super greens consumers report feeling more energized and less weighed down throughout the day since starting their supplement. This is probably most common in people who don’t get enough antioxidants in their normal diet or who struggle to drink enough water.  

Evidence supporting these claims are scarce, however. One 2004 randomized controlled trial4 found that participants taking Greens+ scored significantly higher on energy levels than the placebo group, although the study authors themselves didn’t consider these findings conclusive.

If a supplement contains enough polyphenols, prebiotics, and probiotics to improve the balance of healthy-to-unhealthy gut bacteria, you could feel better overall due to reduced inflammation. 

Consumers may also feel like they have more energy if their greens powder contains caffeine from matcha or green tea extract. There isn’t usually a ton of caffeine in these products (one popular brand contains 35 milligrams, about a third of a cup of coffee), but it may be enough for some people to feel more alert.

Fight Oxidative Stress

As we discussed earlier, the antioxidants in greens powders help fight oxidative stress in the body. The reason this is so important is that oxidative stress contributes to some of the world’s most prevalent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Revive Daily Greens Mixed With Water

If you aren’t getting enough antioxidants from whole fruits and vegetables, greens powders can help. Taking Greens+, for example, has been found to increase the amount of kaempferol5, an antioxidant found in teas, broccoli, and citrus fruits, in the blood. 

May Boost Exercise Performance

Super greens that contain spirulina may help improve exercise performance in endurance athletes. Specifically, a 2022 systematic review showed6 that spirulina helps improve exercise tolerance and the ability to deliver oxygen to working tissues.

Of note, spirulina doesn’t seem to improve performance during power movements like sprinting, box jumps, or kettlebell swings. 

Research is still inconsistent, however, and experts suggest spirulina supplementation may be most beneficial in athletes who aren’t getting enough antioxidants from their daily diet. For athletes already eating an array of whole plant foods, supplemental spirulina from greens powders may not do much.

RELATED: Athletic Greens Review

May Support Gut Health

Many greens powders contain two types of prebiotics to fuel our gut bacteria: polyphenols and dietary fiber. 

Polyphenols are natural compounds found in nutrient-dense plant foods like berries, flaxseed, dark chocolate, and vegetables. They act as antioxidants and help beneficial bacteria colonizing the gut to thrive.

Steel Greens Drinking 1

Prebiotic fibers from apple, inulin, or chicory are also commonly used. However, most super greens are much lower in fiber than you’d get from the daily recommended amount of vegetables, so they aren’t more beneficial for your digestive health than a balanced diet rich in whole plant foods.

Lastly, most super greens contain digestive enzymes. It seems that digestive enzymes are added primarily to help people manage mild digestive issues like bloating and to assist in digesting other meals. In reality, however, there’s little reason to believe that healthy people would get much benefit from them. 

Unless you’re dealing with a specific health condition like chronic pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis, our bodies generally don’t need additional digestive enzymes.

Lipase and protease, for example, are produced naturally by the liver to help digest fat and protein. Cellulase, an enzyme in some super greens that breaks down dietary fiber, is largely unnecessary since our gut bacteria already do a great job at fermenting fiber. 

The enzyme lactase is helpful for people with lactose intolerance, so drinking super greens along with dairy-containing foods can help with digestion. Super greens supplements themselves don’t contain lactose, however, so lactase won’t be useful unless you’re drinking the greens along with a dairy-containing meal or snack.

Potential Side Effects of Super Greens

Compared to eating a salad, greens powders can have different effects on the body. It’s important to be aware of potential super greens powder side effects before starting these supplements so you can tell if they’re right for you.

Bloating

Some super greens are high in FODMAPs, which can cause bloating in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

An image of a woman drinking Onnit Shroom Tech Greens

If you aren’t used to prebiotic fiber or probiotics, you may experience temporary bloating and gas until your gut has a chance to adjust.

Diarrhea

If you’ve got the runs, you may be wondering if it’s the greens making you poop. While not the case for everyone, some people do find themselves with diarrhea once they start taking super greens. 

Fortunately, this is usually temporary. Like bloating, diarrhea can be a side effect of probiotics. The gut can take a while to adjust to high levels of polyphenols if you aren’t used to getting them from whole foods.

Interactions With Medications and Lab Tests

One side effect most people are unaware of is the potential for interactions between super greens and common medications.

With leafy greens as the star ingredient, greens powders can be high in vitamin K. This micronutrient plays a key role in blood clotting. People taking warfarin or other blood thinners must be very consistent with their vitamin K intake, as it can interfere with these medications.

In addition, very high levels of supplemental biotin can interfere with the results of some diagnostic tests7. One popular greens powder contains over 13,000% of the recommended daily value of biotin—if taken more than once a day, this could lead to inaccurate test results for thyroid function, congestive heart failure, and heart attacks. 

A woman drinking Athletic Greens out of a shaker cup

If you’re on any medications, speak with a physician before starting a greens supplement.

Heavy Metal Buildup

This last side effect probably isn’t a significant concern, but it does bear mentioning. 

Since super greens supplements are such a concentrated source of fruits and vegetables, you may end up consuming more heavy metals than you normally would. 

In 2019, Consumer Lab8 found small amounts of lead in four brands of greens powders. You can only view the exact results by paying to review their report. These levels may not be enough to cause concern, but it’s worth being aware of—especially if you like having more than one serving of super greens per day.

Symptoms of heavy metal poisoning (which, again, is probably unlikely) include abdominal pain, diarrhea, chills, and weakness, among others. 

RELATED:  Best Greens Powder for Bloating

Who Should Take Super Greens?

All things considered, the following types of people will benefit most from super greens powders.

People Wanting an Extra Boost of Antioxidants

If your diet is already rich in whole fruits and veggies but you’d like to boost your antioxidant intake even more, super greens are an effective way to do this. 

Vitamineral Greens 6

They’re more expensive than other alternatives, such as using more herbs and spices in meals or adding spinach to smoothies, but many people enjoy having a specific product to add to their wellness routine.

People Who Struggle to Drink Plain Water

Let’s face it—not everyone likes drinking water. If you’ve tried time and time again to drink more plain, sparkling, or fruit-infused water and still struggle to hydrate properly, super greens may be a good option.

Many people enjoy the taste of these supplements and find them much easier to drink than plain water. If you have the money to spend, it might be worth paying extra for the additional hydration.

People Who Struggle to Eat Whole Fruits and Vegetables

As a dietitian, I get it—not everyone likes fruits and vegetables. For people with sensory issues and certain medical conditions, eating these foods can be a significant challenge. For others who want to eat more fruits and veggies but dislike the flavor, it can take a while to overcome these taste preferences.

Super greens can help fill in some nutritional gaps when, despite your best efforts and intentions, you’re unable to consistently meet the daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables.

Endurance Athletes With Inadequate Antioxidant Intakes

As we discussed earlier, super greens may help improve athletic performance during endurance activities. 

The first course of action for athletes should be to include a variety of whole plant foods in their diet, but for those who struggle to be consistent and still want an extra performance edge, super greens may help.

Note that super greens are NOT recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Common ingredients like adaptogens and licorice root haven’t been studied for safety in these populations, so it isn’t clear how they may affect a developing fetus or whether they enter into breastmilk. 

RELATED: Best Greens Powder for Pregnancy

An image of a pregnant woman drinking greens for best greens powder for pregnancy

Discuss all dietary supplements with your physician or registered dietitian before incorporating them into your wellness routine.

What Are Super Greens? Final Thoughts

While super greens powders are great sources of antioxidants, they’re best used as a supplement to a balanced diet. 

Whole fruits and vegetables provide a synergistic balance of nutrients. In contrast, greens powders can be excessively high in certain micronutrients while being low in dietary fiber.

Another benefit of eating more whole fruits and vegetables? They provide many of the same potential health benefits of greens powders, such as improved heart health and reduced oxidative stress—all at a fraction of the cost.

That said, if you already eat a well-balanced diet and are looking for an additional boost of antioxidants or struggle to eat enough produce, greens powders may be helpful.

For in-depth reviews on popular super greens brands, check out some of our full product reviews below:

What Are Super Greens? FAQs

What is considered super greens?

“Super greens” is a common term used to describe dietary supplements made from dried, powdered green vegetables, edible grasses, and algae. Often, they also include powdered fruits, herbs, prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes. Super greens are marketed as an easy way to boost your intake of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and improve overall health.

What do super greens do to your body?

Depending on the ingredients used, super greens may help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, help you feel more energized, and improve gut health.

Is it OK to drink super greens every day?

Drinking one serving of super greens every day is likely safe for healthy people. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, be sure to check the caffeine content first. It’s also a good idea to check with your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.

Are super greens good for weight loss?

There isn’t much research on super greens for weight loss, though spirulina, a common ingredient in greens powders, may help with weight loss by reducing oxidative stress and reducing hunger, according to a 2020 review paper9.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

References

  1. Wróbel-Biedrawa D, Podolak I. Anti-Neuroinflammatory Effects of Adaptogens: A Mini-Review. Molecules. 2024;29(4):866. Published 2024 Feb 15. doi:10.3390/molecules29040866
  2. Zhang J, Oxinos G, Maher JH. The effect of fruit and vegetable powder mix on hypertensive subjects: a pilot study. J Chiropr Med. 2009;8(3):101-106. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2008.09.004
  3. Bito T, Okumura E, Fujishima M, Watanabe F. Potential of Chlorella as a Dietary Supplement to Promote Human Health. Nutrients. 2020;12(9):2524. Published 2020 Aug 20. doi:10.3390/nu12092524
  4. Boon H, Clitheroe J, Forte T. Effects of greens+: a randomized, controlled trial. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2004;65(2):66-71. doi:10.3148/65.2.2004.66
  5. Rao V, Balachandran B, Shen H, Logan A, Rao L. In vitro and in vivo antioxidant properties of the plant-based supplement greens+™. Int J Mol Sci. 2011;12(8):4896-4908. doi:10.3390/ijms12084896
  6. Calella P, Cerullo G, Di Dio M, et al. Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of spirulina in exercise and sport: A systematic review. Front Nutr. 2022;9:1048258. Published 2022 Dec 14. doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.1048258
  7. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Biotin – Health Professional Fact Sheet. NIH website. Accessed 5/3/24. 
  8. ConsumerLab.com. (2023, December 7). Fruits, veggies, and other Greens Supplements Review (including Spirulina and Chlorella). https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/greens-whole-foods-powders-supplements/greens/ 
  9. DiNicolantonio JJ, Bhat AG, OKeefe J. Effects of spirulina on weight loss and blood lipids: a review. Open Heart. 2020;7(1):e001003. Published 2020 Mar 8. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2018-001003

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