One of the best (and easiest!) ways to improve your nutrient intake, vitality and general health without having to overhaul your diet or learn how to cook a new food or add a bunch of new pills to your supplements regime is with green superfoods powdered blends.
These items come in a canister or a pre-measured envelope, and all you have to do is add them to a beverage and stir. They range from simple single ingredient products like wheatgrass juice powder to more complex and complete formulations that can include mixed green phyto-nutrients, antioxidants, fiber content, probiotics, digestive enzymes and more.
It’s best to figure out what kind of nutrients you’re looking for first before you commit to getting a 30 day supply. Are you looking to find nutrient sources that are hard to come by in commonly available foods? Are you looking for energy? Are you the type of person who just doesn’t seem to ever fit in enough fruit and veggie food sources in your regular diet? Are you looking to do a detox? Or are you just looking for a better way to get your needed nutrients in a more absorbable format (liquid) than pills and capsules, and in a more convenient manner than having to always do meal prep in the middle of a busy schedule?
Once you’ve figured out what you’re looking for, keep in mind that there are other factors involved which may also be contributing to, or detracting from, the condition or deficiency you are trying to alleviate. Caffeine, stress, processed foods and inadequate rest can be interfering with your energy levels. The simple act of chewing your food longer before swallowing, which results in increased production from the saliva glands, or taking digestive enzymes with meals can improve your uptake of nutrients from the food that you’re already eating. The nutrients from your vitamin and mineral pills might not be absorbing and getting utilized as well as you think they are. A medication you’re taking for one condition may be affecting some other aspect of your health. So just be aware that there are factors beyond just your targeted consumption that play a role in your health and the efficiency of the nutrients you’re taking.
Most all of the ‘green’ ingredients in the superfoods blends (usually the first paragraph in the ingredients list; -things like wheatgrass, spirulina, chlorella, veggies, etc.) are fine for everyone, but in some of the more complex blends there may be additional herbal extracts for immune or other system support. In those cases it’s always best to check with your physician, naturopath or nutritionist first. Just take one of the single serving envelopes along or email them a label pdf so they can help you check for allergens, contra-indications with any of your prescription meds, etc. And despite the presence of words like barley grass, wheatgrass and other gluten-sounding terms, all of the green superfood blends that I’ve seen are gluten-free.
Although the most commonly found versions of green superfood blends are in powdered form, many of these products also come in tablets, capsules and nutrition snack bars. Besides the convenience of not having to mix up a drink to take them, I don’t see a lot of benefit to the pill format. For many of these formulas, you have to take six to twelve capsules to equal what you would get from a scoopful of the powdered mix, and many times a tablet or capsule is not going to digest or absorb as well as the liquid. They’re also not going to be as cost effective as the canisters are. That said, there are people for whom the tablets are going to be a better fit who either don’t have a lot of pills to take in the first place or for whom trying to store or mix the powdered blend is not convenient.
One neat thing about the single-serving sized envelope packets is that they don’t have to be refrigerated. This comes in handy for a variety of settings: school, work, vacation trips, camping, just having one or two handy in your purse, etc.
Once you find a green superfoods blend you like, it’s time to move into the big leagues and get yourself a canister. These usually supply 15- or 30-servings and require refrigeration after opening. I recommend keeping them in the freezer, which also helps them to avoid condensation buildup which can result from inefficient cooling and defrost cycles in some fridges or in case of power outages. The powders do not harden when frozen, so it’s not like trying to hack away at that brick of dried-out brown sugar or freezer-burned ice cream when scooping.
People always ask what kind of liquids should you mix your green drink in. That’s just something that you’re going to have to work out for yourself depending on your diet, likes and surroundings (home, work, on-the-go, etc). The most popular medium that customers have told me they use tends to be apple juice. But you can use rice or dairy milk (perhaps more appropriate if you’ve chosen a chocolate-flavored blend), grape juice, orange juice (high glycemic), smoothies, water and more. None of the many green blends I’ve tried really taste bad in the way we would think certain foods or medicines taste bad. At worst, there is chlorophylish grassy hint when just mixed with water, but I’ve never come across one (even unflavored) whose taste needed to be severely masked. And although smoothies are awesome, bear in mind that frozen foods slow down your digestion considerably. (Which is probably why companies don’t put their supplements and medicines in sherbets, sundaes and ice cream sandwiches. -I know, right? It’s everyone’s loss.)
So what’s out there on the shelves? Quite a lot actually, and the number continues to grow. My favorite two companies for these type of products are, interestingly enough, one of the oldest, and one of the newest. Vibrant Health‘s Green Vibrance is, and has been, my overall favorite superfood blend for quite some time; it’s the standard-bearer of green superfood blends and what all the others have been trying to measure up to and duplicate for over twenty years. My second favorite company in the powdered green drink mix category is Amazing Grass; a relatively new company which I became aware of just over four years ago, whose main diversification from the norm has been to come up with flavored blends for kids and also to offer just plain organic wheatgrass powder.
There are of course a number of companies manufacturing and marketing green superfood products today, and the products available in your local grocery or health food stores will vary from region to region. I would recommend the companies that seem to have a grasp on, or history of being knowledgable in, the greens’ and herbal medicine fields over the newbies who seem to come from less natural and non-food-based vitamin, pharmaceutical and pyramid marketing ‘wellness’ companies. Look for well-written ingredients lists that spell out where the nutrients are food-sourced from, what percentage of the ingredients are really organic and whether they have easy-to-find labels that specify that their products contain no GMO’s (genetically modified organisms).
Just because something is on a grocery store shelf or has a nice authoritative look on an internet page with testimonials, a doctor’s recommendation and the words “natural” and “organic” prominently displayed does not mean anything. Stick with products and companies that either have a well-documented history or have real herbalists, naturopaths, growers, etc. on their staffs. The ‘natural’ supplements industry, especially online, is rife with both imitation products that use substandard plant materials on the one hand, and a number of Big Pharma corporatist naysayers on the other who try to tear down the integrity of the true organic holistic health fields’ products. A number of formerly independent natural companies have been usurped and bought up by many of the industry behemoths, and it remains to be seen if the original companies’ quality standards and integrity continue unabated.
Most of the health food stores in America have brands that have proven themselves over time to be products and brands of integrity. In the area of green superfood blends, I would trust the products I found there over the ones that appear in sports nutrition stores, pharmacies, televised infomercials or products found online that don’t appear in stores.
Some of the companies that make some of the better green superfood blends are: Vibrant Health, Amazing Grass, New Chapter, Nature’s Plus, Country Life, Barleans and Garden of Life, among others. If that’s too many choices, then I would recommend just trying Green Vibrance first if you’re looking for a great blend, or Amazing Grass’ wheatgrass powder if you’re looking for a single ingredient supplement. In future columns we’ll take a closer look at some of these products and do some comparisons of their ingredients’ lists. Green superfood powders are really one of the most simple and effective ways to supplement your diet and improve your health outside of meals and exercise. Be well.