What Are Drinkable Greens and Are They Healthy?
You may have seen one of the many targeted ads on Instagram or Facebook for drinkable green powders, such as Athletic Greens, Alkamind or Super Green. I know I get served one almost every time I open the apps. They usually have a professional athlete or influencer raving about how much they love the product (it is an ad, after all). But are these trendy drinkable green powders even healthy? We dove into the science around green powder drinks to see if they are worth the money that they cost.
What are drinkable greens?
Similar to protein powder, drinkable greens come in powder form and can be mixed with water to form a liquid supplement. They are made with numerous ingredients, including freeze-dried fruit and vegetable powders, extracts, digestive enzymes, probiotics and undisclosed "natural flavors." They are marketed as a product that can help you meet a variety of your nutritional needs in just one scoop. However, most supplements and diet products are unregulated, so it can be hard to know what is actually in a product unless it has undergone third-party testing and certification.
Are drinkable greens healthy?
Unlike most protein powders or meal-replacement powders, most drinkable greens powders are relatively low in calories and macronutrients. Here are the nutrition facts for three popular brands:
One scoop (12g) of Athletic Greens:
- 50 calories
- n/a g fat (not displayed on label)
- 2 g protein
- 6 g carbs
- 2 g fiber
- 45 mg sodium
Two teaspoons (10g) of Super Green Mix:
- 30 calories
- 0 g fat
- 2 g protein
- 4 g carbs
- 4 g fiber
- 0 mg sodium
One scoop (4g) of Alkamind Acid-Kicking Greens Mix:
- 10 calories
- 0 g fat
- 1 g protein
- 2 g carbs
- 1 g fiber
- 20 mg sodium
These powders are formulated to contain several vitamins and nutrients, similar to a supplement. While they might be helpful if you are worried about meeting your nutrient needs, there are some notable differences between drinkable greens powders and the real deal.
When you eat greens like kale, collards, chard or spinach, you are getting a naturally occurring dose of water, fiber and several nutrients. Actual greens are higher in fiber and certain nutrients (like potassium) than the powders. And their water and fiber content helps slow down their digestion and allows your body to absorb the nutrients as needed rather than all at once. Plus, greens can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways.
Drinkable greens might be convenient for someone on the go, but they can contain over 75 ingredients—one of which might be added sugar or sugar substitutes. Since most of their ingredients are freeze-dried or extracts, they have a longer shelf life than fresh whole foods, which is one positive. But on the other hand, clocking in at around $99 per container, they are significantly more expensive than a bunch of greens.
It's also important to remember that drinking a serving of a greens powder isn't a free pass to forgo a healthy, balanced eating pattern. Drinkable greens powders can tout health claims that might not be fully scientifically backed. And while they might help you up your intake of some specific nutrients, going for the real thing is the healthiest option.
When it comes to drinkable greens powders and mixes, flavors can be all over the charts. Certain products can be fruit forward while others are more vegetal, and some might not taste recognizable at all. We tried a few different popular greens powders, here are our tasting notes.
Athletic Greens has taken the drinkable greens market by storm and was by far the most popular drink mix we tested. It had a creaminess that reminded us of cream or milk, even though it's dairy free. It's fruity flavor had notes of bubble gum, pineapple and vanilla. Though it was slightly chalky in texture, it was the best tasting power we tried. It could benefit from some added acid, like a slice of lemon.
We also tried two flavors of Ancient Nutrition's Super Greens powders. The first was their Mint flavor. As expected, it smelled and tasted strongly of mint. Don't let the dark color of this mix deter you, the flavor was reminiscent of vegetable juice, like beet or spinach. This flavor would complement a vegetable-forward smoothie (just be mindful about the glass you choose, it stains).
Lastly, we tried the Ancient Nutrition Super Greens powder in Watermelon flavor. This was the sweetest tasting greens powder than we tried, and it smelled and tasted strongly of cherries. On its own, the flavor was our least favorite of the group we tried. However, it could be a nice addition to a fruit-forward smoothie. Just be sure to mix it well so sediment doesn't settle in the bottom of your glass.
The bottom line
So, do you need to buy drinkable green powders to be healthy? No. Eating whole foods and actual greens allows you to meet your needs in a more satisfying, healthier and more affordable way. And in some cases, the real thing might taste better, too. That doesn't mean that drinkable greens are bad for you if you can afford them and enjoy them. But, as with any supplement, be sure to choose products that have third-party certification so that you know the label claims and ingredients list are accurate. Always talk to your doctor or dietitian before taking a new supplement or product to make sure it's safe for you.