When it comes time to decide what to eat or drink, certain criteria, such as taste, nutritional content, convenience, etc., tend to run through your mind on autopilot. That said, if you want to up your vitamin and mineral intake but are short on time or have no appetite for a voluminous bowl of leafy greens or a hearty vegetable soup (I get it, not everyone likes a mountain of kale or carrots stewed as much as I do), super green powders and tablets may seem like a promising and effortless way to get more nutrients into your diet.
All Well, but before you pile these (often expensive) concentrated dietary supplements into your cart, know that there’s one key nutrient they’re missing compared to their whole-food counterparts. Hint: It’s one of the best for digestion, but also for heart health, longevity, skin, inflammation and more. In fact, it can only be… fiber.
The Health Benefits of Super Green Powders
Again, not everyone has time to go to the market, walk the produce aisle, chop and clean kilos of produce, and prepare it to eat raw or to cook, blend, or juice. For that reason, super green powders are a very convenient and ready solution to get more greens as fast as you can say. take out, stir and swallow.
Plus, these concentrated solutions offer a sure-fire way to consistently increase your intake of some very important micronutrients, especially if you wouldn’t be getting them otherwise. “These powders can provide many of the vitamins and minerals that are typically obtained from vegetables,” begins Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN, a nutrition expert at tests.com. “For people who struggle to get enough vegetables every day, a product tested for purity can allow them to consume enough micronutrients.”
And while certain supergreen powders contain up to dozens of these vitamins and minerals, they’re typically low in fiber, if any.
Why super green powders are not a good source of fiber
There are countless reasons why dieticians and other health experts always suggest getting the majority of your nutrient intake from fresh, whole foods. And when it comes to supergreens (as well as other fruits and vegetables) in particular, fiber-specific considerations are high on the list.
“Supergreen powders tend to be low in fiber, as they [process of] nutrient extraction breaks down or removes the fiber element that you would normally receive from natural plant sources,” says Hotz. Although the vitamins and minerals are retained in the extraction process and eventually live a second life in powder or tablet form, the same cannot be said for fiber. (Unfortunately, the same fate for the fiber applies to your favorite cold and centrifugal press.) green juicesalthough smoothies may offer higher amounts if the final blend contains the stringy pulp and/or skin of a given fruit or vegetable).
“For this reason, while supergreen powders have their merits, I wouldn’t say they’re the best choice if a person is looking for help with digestion or gut health,” says Hotz.
The health benefits of fiber intake
While fiber may not have a reputation for being among the “sexiest” nutrients in the wellness world (blame it in part on the thick, less-than-tasty fiber supplements of yesteryear and a now-outdated reluctance to get poetic on the the beauty of healthy bowel movements), its benefits cannot be underestimated.
For starters, fiber is a proven hero when it comes to supporting digestion and improving gut health. “Fiber feeds our healthy gut bacteria, bulks up stool to minimize diarrhea, and helps slow down digestion enough to aid greater absorption,” says Hotz. “It also helps bind ‘bad cholesterol’ and remove it from our systems, and lower amounts of LDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Additionally, higher fiber intake is linked to a variety of additional health benefits that go far beyond gut and heart health. In fact, a study published in gerontology journals in October 2016 found that among 1,600 healthy adults over the age of 49, those who ate high-fiber diets over the course of a decade were more likely to successfully age compared with groups who ate less fiber. Markers of successful aging included “the absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases,” including cancer. In other words, you definitely want to make sure you’re getting enough fiber in your diet if you want to increase your chances of good health for years to come.
How much fiber do you need (and where to find it)
according to a 2021 report from the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), which collected data from nearly 15,000 participants over the course of five years, only seven percent of adults in the United States meet their recommended daily intake of fiber… Exactly what do you check where?
“Women should get 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should get 30 to 38 grams per day,” says Hotz. However, the recommended intake varies somewhat from different sources; for example, the ASN cites 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed as another general guideline to keep in mind. In any case, it’s clear that most of us would be wise to take special care to augment our diets and faeces with this under-consumed, high-yielding nutrient. (Just keep in mind that you’ll want slowly increase your intake to avoid causing or exacerbating gastrointestinal upset, and drink plenty of water in the process to *get things moving.* Also, if you currently suffer from chronic digestive issues, please consult a trusted healthcare professional to find the best specific dietary plan for your concerns.)
In short, super green powders may benefit your diet and lifestyle in some way, but they lack the necessary fiber to help you reap a broader range of benefits, digestive and otherwise. For this reason, be careful to add more fibrous plant-based foods to your rotation along with taking these supplements. “Some of the best sources of fiber include fruits and vegetables [in their whole forms], whole grains, nuts and seeds,” shares Hotz. Do you need more inspiration? She goes on to say that you can get creative about upping your fiber intake by “baking a bowl of overnight oats, making your own grain bowls, or adding seeds (eg. chia or flax) in a smoothie.”