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Green powders: why do we need them?


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By Amie Skilton Naturopath and BHSc in Complementary Medicine.

Why do we need green powders in our diet?
In an ideal world we’d eat three to five servings of greens a day, but sadly most of us manage one or two at best. Green powders, while not intended to replace green vegetables, add that little bit extra to our daily nutrient intake to buffer where we might be missing out.

What’s the difference between green powders?
There are a tonne of green powders now available to choose from. And I think this is great as it indicates the growing awareness of just how important greens are to our health, and we have lots of great options to choose from. Having said that, some choices are better than others. Things to look for when you’re checking out powdered greens:

a. organically sourced ingredients. It’s important that you're not consuming harmful chemicals along with your greens. Just be sure that the organic status is verified by a legitimate governing body like Australian Certified Organic or Bio-Dynamic Research Institute;

b. a diverse selection of ingredients. We operate best when our bodies are exposed to a wide variety of phytonutrients. This means the more ingredients in your greens powder, the more comprehensive the range of these beneficial compounds you’ll get;

c. anything that boosts your digestion and absorption is a nice bonus! Be it the addition of digestive enzymes, probiotics or if the ingredients have been fermented;

d. make sure it doesn’t contain any artificial flavours, colours or sweeteners.

What should I look for in a green powder to get the most amount of fibre?
The best way to get a significant amount of fibre (the consumption of fruit and vegetables aside) is to take a specifically formulated fibre powder or capsule. A greens powder is really not intended to be a source of fibre – having said that, some may contain extra nutritional ingredients that offer small amounts of fibre. Things to look for are:

a. powdered vegetables like mushroom, broccoli sprout, yellow pea and artichoke (a natural source of inulin fibre);

b. powdered herbs like maca and nettle

c. fruits – especially apples (their pectin content is so good for you!)

d. legumes and grains such as quinoa, amaranth and lentils

e. probiotics – while not actually fibre, they are excellent for intestinal health.

Why is it important to purchase an organic powder?
Ideally the perfect scenario for everybody is to eat everything organic. But there are loads of reasons this may not be possible, at least for the majority of the time. So we must prioritise. I consider all animal products and greens to be not-negotiable organic. In regards to greens, if they’re not organic, their beautiful leaves may be sprayed dozens of times with pesticides and fungicides which not only coat the outside of the leaf, but are absorbed into the plant. In addition, choosing organic means you avoid GMOs, antibiotics and many other undesirable chemicals. Choosing organic also means a higher concentration of nutrients, and I believe, better taste.

It doesn’t make sense to be taking something for the benefit of our health that also contains something that is harmful to our health at the same time. So yes, choosing a greens powder that is organic is not just important, it’s crucial.

What are the benefits of antioxidants found in green powders?
Green powders are a source of all sorts of phytochemicals; that is, compounds that are beneficial to our health that are only found in plants. Antioxidants are one such phytochemical and they provide a buffer against free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that we have to neutralise daily. The sun, alcohol, cigarette smoke, chemicals, exercise, stress and even normal body processes are all sources of free radicals.

Additionally, if you choose a high quality greens powder, you should also be getting other phytochemicals such as vitamins, minerals, and plant proteins. The nature of green powders mean they have an alkalising and mildly detoxifying effect on the body.

Do I need to include other greens in my diet as well as the powder?
Yes! Green powders are a wonderful, concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants but they are not a replacement for eating greens. Include at least two servings of greens a day in your diet (aim for at least three if you can), and be adventurous!

There are over a dozen different types of commonly found lettuce so don’t just play with iceberg and oak leaf – you can also make a salad from arugula, radicchio, endive, water cress and even dandelion greens. Wilted spinach and kale are also popular but don’t forget about good old silver beet and try things like collard and mustard greens.

Always speak to your healthcare practitioner when considering supplementation. When taking supplements, make sure to always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare practitioner. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

Amie Skilton is a Naturopath who has been in clinical practice for more than 11 years, and concurrently works for BioCeuticals as a presenter, educator and writer. Amie is also involved in corporate health programs, lecturing at numerous companies as part of their occupational health programs and specialises in several areas including women's health and weight loss. For more health articles from BioCeuticals, click here.

To see Green Lifestyle's pick of their favourite green powders for taste, click here.