Super Greens: Are Greens Powders Healthy?
Greens powders are dietary supplements designed to help you reach your daily recommended vegetable intake.
Product labels claim that greens powders can support your body's immunity, energy levels, detoxification and more — but you may wonder if science supports these purported benefits.
This article tells you whether greens powders are healthy.
Greens powders are dietary supplements that you can mix into water and other liquids.
They typically have a green hue and can taste a bit grassy. Natural sugar substitutes are often added to improve flavor.
Greens powders are dietary supplements that you can mix into water and other liquids.
They typically have a green hue and can taste a bit grassy. Natural sugar substitutes are often added to improve flavor.
- Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, collards, parsley
- Seaweed: Spirulina, chlorella, dulse, kelp
- Other vegetables: Broccoli, beets, carrots, tomatoes, green cabbage
- Grasses: Barley grass, wheatgrass, oat grass, alfalfa grass
- High-antioxidant fruits: Blueberries, raspberries, goji and acai berries
- Nutritional extracts: Green tea extract, grape seed extract, ginkgo biloba extract
- Probiotics: Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus, L. acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis
- Plant-based digestive enzymes: Amylase, cellulase, lipase, papain, protease
- Herbs: Holy basil, astragalus, echinacea, milk thistle
- Mushrooms: Maitake mushroom extract, shiitake mushroom extract
- Natural sugar substitutes: Stevia leaf extract, monk fruit extract
- Extra fiber: Rice bran, inulin, apple fiber
The produce used in these supplements is generally dried and then ground into powder. Alternatively, some ingredients may be juiced, then dehydrated, or certain components of the whole food may be extracted.
The formulations are often vegan, as well as non-genetically-modified and organic—but check the product label for these details.
Prices of greens powders range from 22 to 99 cents or more per scoop (about 10 grams or two tablespoons), depending on the specific ingredients.
Though formulations of greens powders vary by brand, they're generally made from dried leafy greens and other vegetables, seaweed, grasses, high-antioxidant fruits and herbs. Probiotics and digestive enzymes are often added as well.
Nutrition Varies Based on Ingredients
Because ingredients of greens powders vary by brand, the nutritional value often differs between products.
On average, one scoop (10 grams or two tablespoons) of greens powder contains (6):
- Calories: 40
- Fat: 0.5 grams
- Total carbs: 7 grams
- Dietary fiber: 2 grams
- Sugars: 1 gram
- Protein: 2 grams
- Sodium: 2% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin A (as beta-carotene): 80% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 80% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 60% of the RDI
- Calcium: 5% of the RDI
- Iron: 20% of the RDI
- Iodine: 100% of the RDI
- Selenium: 70% of the RDI
- Chromium: 60% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
The powders are generally low-calorie, but mixing them with something other than water may add calories.
Greens powders don't always list the content of all vitamins and minerals. They generally aren't as complete as a standard multivitamin and mineral supplement.
In some cases, greens powders are formulated as meal replacements, which makes the product more nutritionally complete and higher in calories.
Though not quantified on the label, greens powders are generally high in polyphenols and other plant compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions (1).
Greens powders are generally low in calories but high in certain minerals and vitamins, including selenium, iodine, chromium and vitamins A, C and K, as well as plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions.
A Supplement Worth Considering
The nutrients and plant compounds in greens powders may support overall wellness when used in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Greens powders have been tested in a few small studies, but results can vary by brand and supplement formulation.
Additionally, product manufacturers typically fund these studies, which increases the risk of bias. Therefore, it's best to keep a healthy degree of skepticism.
May Help Prevent Chronic Disease
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions of plant compounds in greens powder may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
In one four-week study in 10 healthy people, two tablespoons (10 grams) of greens powder taken daily lowered blood levels of oxidatively damaged proteins by 30% (1).
In another 90-day study in 40 people with high blood pressure, two tablespoons (10 grams) of greens powder taken daily decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by about 8%. The control group observed no improvement (13).
Still, more studies are needed to confirm these possible benefits.
May Improve Your Energy
Some greens powders claim to boost your energy. Yet, they're generally low in calories and, therefore, don't necessarily supply much energy.
However, some of these powders contain compounds that may help you feel more alert and energetic, including green tea extract, which contains caffeine and plant compounds that support the burning of calories (14).
In a three-month study in 63 healthy women, those taking one tablespoon (10 grams) of greens powder containing green tea extract daily reported significant increases in energy, while the placebo group reported no change (15).
Still, this is only one study that needs to be replicated. It's also uncertain whether a greens powder without green tea extract would provide the same benefits.
Some greens powders claim to help with detoxification and make your body more alkaline — meaning higher on the pH scale of zero to 14.
However, consuming greens powder won't affect your blood pH, which your body tightly controls within a narrow range of 7.35–7.45 (16).
Some researchers speculate that small increases in urine alkalinity may help your body get rid of toxins, such as pesticides and pollutants. However, this hasn't been well studied in humans (16, 18, 19, 20).
Eating greens powders may still support detoxification in other ways. For example, when your liver detoxifies certain compounds, damaging free radicals are generated. Greens powders are rich in antioxidants, which can help combat these free radicals (21, 22, 23).
Greens powders may enhance overall wellness, support immune function and help reduce chronic disease risk. More research is needed to confirm other potential benefits, such as increased energy and detoxification.
Not a Substitute for Whole Vegetables
In their whole form, vegetables give you the satisfaction of chewing and are high in water. Both of these aspects promote fullness and may help prevent overeating. In this regard, greens powders are less satisfying (25, 26).
Note that greens powders are generally high in vitamin K. This vitamin interacts with certain medications, including blood thinners. Therefore, they may interfere with treatment (28).
They can also contain harmful contaminants, such as lead and other heavy metals. One lab analysis found contaminants in four of 13 products tested. Before selecting a product, check the company's website to find out if they verify purity.
Finally, some greens powders warn that children, pregnant or breastfeeding women and people taking medications shouldn't use the product. They often contain herbs and concentrated extracts that may pose potential risks or interactions.
It's best practice to speak to your doctor before taking any new supplement—greens powders are no exception.
Whole versions of greens and other produce are best for satisfying hunger, getting a balance of nutrients and minimizing your exposure to potentially harmful contaminants.
How to Use Greens Powder
For best results, follow the instructions on the canister of the greens powder you purchase.
It's most common to stir the the powder into water, juice, milk or milk substitutes and smoothies.
For food safety, refrigerate all rehydrated greens powders if you don't consume them right away.
If you'd rather not drink your greens powder, you can:
- Add them to scrambled eggs or an omelet
- Sprinkle them over roasted vegetables
- Mix them into homemade salad dressing
- Stir them into a vegetable dip
- Add them to soup
However, when you heat greens powder, you may decrease or get rid of some of the nutrients, including vitamin C and probiotics.
If your vegetable intake tends to drop when you travel, consider taking greens powder with you to help maintain your nutrition.
The most common way to use greens powders is to stir them into water, juice or other beverages. You can also add them to recipes.
The Bottom Line
Greens powders are supplements made from greens, vegetables, seaweed, probiotics, digestive enzymes and more.
They may boost immunity and reduce chronic disease risk, but results may vary based on ingredients. Studies on these products are limited and, though nutritious, they should not replace whole foods.
You should still eat plenty of fresh greens, other vegetables and a variety of healthy foods.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
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Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.