It's Not Easy Being Green
People ask me all the time:
“Well, what supplements do you take?”
I always preface the answer with:
“Well typically, I like to focus on the wholes foods I’m consuming, and I use very few supplements as a whole, but there are a few I like.”
As I’ve stated here, probably five or six times now, supplements are there to supplement your diet, not replace it.
That being said, “Greens,” are a supplement that I generally consider worthwhile — provided the rest of your nutritional intake is relatively in check.
**Don’t fool yourself into believing that taking Greens a few times a day will make up for your lack of healthy plant or vegetable consumption.**
What the hell are Greens Supplements anyway? [toc]
Greens are essentially veggies, fruits, fibers, algaes and/or grasses that have been compacted and distilled into powdered form.
In their raw form, they generally taste like crap, but I’ve come to believe both anecdotally from personal experience and in my own research, that they can be very worthwhile.
I don’t even take a multi-vitamin any more — though I often recommend it to many, particularly if your existing diet is relatively out of whack — but I will take a tiny spoonful of powdered good stuff most mornings.
Greens, depending on the type you buy, typically contain an variety of very nutrient rich foods like powdered matcha green tea, barley grass, wheat grass, spirulina, chlorella, root spices (ginger, ginsing, etc…), alfalfa, fungi, herbs, vegetables, legumes, and fruits.
Greens supplements can (sort-of…) function as a serving of fruits and vegetables — though I wouldn’t rely on them exclusively, and still recommend at least five or six servings of veggies a day — and can contain loads of vitamins, enzymes, minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients.
As most people that are already deficient in their vegetable consumption, it appears that a serving of greens each day can contribute to an improvement in health.
For clients who tell me how much they hate vegetables, this is one of the few supplements I will almost always recommend to that type of person, as you can use a flavoured one daily, relatively painlessly.
Furthermore, as I typically recommend to most people that they increase their lean protein consumption, green supplements and an increase in vegetable consumption can go a long way in maintaining neutrality of your pH levels.
In that situation, I will often recommend a greens supplement to people until they are in a position to habitually eat enough vegetables more regularly.
**Lean proteins (and grains too generally…) are acidic in nature for the gut and blood, while vegetables balance out the equation as the alkaline neutralizer, if you increase one you should increase the other, which I’ll discuss below…
[block]Greens are essentially an insurance policy for your diet.
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Why Go Green?
Greens supplements can help augment a diet that is low in fruits and vegetables.
Statistically speaking North America has a relatively low consumption rate of fruits and vegetables, especially when we look at developed Europe and Asia.
Roughly less than a quarter (25%) of the entire population even eats five servings per day; Let alone, my recommended six…
Pretty much everyone you know is most likely coming up short in this department, even though we know fruits and vegetable consumption dramatically reduce:
- Almost every kind of Cancer
- Gastrointestinal Disorders
- High LDL/Low HDL Cholesterol
- Cardiovascular Disease CVD
- *Obesity* – wonder why I’m recommending it here?
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Pulmonary Diseases
- Respiratory Disease (like Asthma)
- Eye Disease
Generally speaking North American’s consume more grains and proteins, than fruits and veggies — also less veggies than fruits…
These foods are generally more acidic which can alter our stomach pH levels, which can alter our blood pH levels, lead to inflammation and wreak havoc on our insides.
Greens, like fruits and veggies, contribute more as an alkaline balance to your pH levels, to combat the acids.
As I mentioned above, since one of the first nutritional recommendations I make with many of my weight loss clients, is an increase in lean protein, sometimes I find that Greens can go a long way towards off-setting this initial adjustment, until we can find a better whole food balance.
If people choose to continue using a greens supplement beyond that, by all means.
Not only that, greens are also co-related with improved energy (probably the caffeine from the matcha…), and a speedier recovery from training/sickness; Meaning typically they enable people to train harder or longer.
They can also be very beneficial when you have limited access to whole fruits or veggies, like a long hiking trip or when you’re travelling exhaustively.
If you consistently eat more than the six servings of veggies per day, then greens supplements is probably a supplement you can skip.
Greens+ by Genuine Health, is pretty much ‘the original’ greens supplement brand, and a very trustworthy brand to go with.
A word of caution though, if you buy ‘plain,’ it does not taste good, no matter what the brand.
Typically I’ll use a plain version when I want to blend it in some kind of shake; If you plan to blend shakes with it, then you’ll hardly even notice the flavour.
Greens+ comes in a variety of flavours, some are bad (Vanilla = gross) in my opinion, others are O.K. (Mixed Berry), but you don’t want to use the flavoured ones in shakes, if that is your intent.
I like that Greens+ is sweetened with Stevia too, as opposed to some other artificial sweetener.
I’ll use flavoured types in a shaker cup, with a wire ball like this:
Right now my brand of choice has been PhD Pharma Greens, which is perhaps one of the best tasting brands I’ve come across, particularly their lemon-lime flavour, but their strawberry-kiwi is also good.
I have been cycling that one with another very high quality one called, Cyto Greens.
Cyto Greens flavour isn’t the best I’ve had; They only have one, but it’s tolerable.
I like the really high quality dosages of certain ingredients, and the low amounts of soy — which along with wheat and corn, are in nearly every and any processed food out there.
There is a lack of lecithin (which is the typical soy product found in greens supplements), which basically acts as an emulsifier and according to most other manufacturers, is necessary as the ‘fat’ in the formulation, for the fat-soluble vitamins to be adequately absorbed.
At least the other brands above, use a non-genetically-modified (non-GMO) soy lecithin though.
While the folks at Cyto Greens, seem to think other manufacturers use it as a cheap filler. I’ll let you decide, I’m not sure it’s worth sweating over this detail too much.
Might be a disadvantage, might be an advantage, I’m not positively sure, hence why I often change or cycle brands.
However, to my knowledge of nutrition, appropriate healthy fat consumption, should already contribute to adequate absorption and fat is not necessarily needed to be consumed at every meal for fat soluble vitamins to be absorbed.
Of course you could always use an MCT Oil or Fish Oil with it, or just about any other natural healthy fat (serving of nut butter, or small handful of nuts?) to replace that component if you wanted.
Finally, as far as greens go, I also don’t necessarily recommend that you take them every day.
I typically only take it during the week, and as I said switch/cycle brands.
Actually, something that many people either forget about nutrition, is that you do not need a daily supply of anything to keep your reserve tanks up of any vital minerals or nutrients — unless you are deficient in them, in some way, or have been advised medically…
Eating a food too much, no matter what, can lead to problems eventually (over years most likely, but still…) and so I like to practice maintaining variety in my diet for this reason.
Mix it up.
Lastly, few greens products say anything about refrigeration, you probably don’t have to, but I put mine in the refrigerator after opening just in case.
Greens supplements may be a good addition to your diet in addition to lots of fruits and veggies or for when you don’t have good access to those kinds of whole foods.
They should not replace these whole foods though.
Not all greens supplements are created equal, I encourage you to find a reputable product and check the labels.
In my opinion, you can never go wrong with the original brand (Greens+), but I give a couple of other suggestions above.
Each greens product, has it’s own unique formulation; Especially look for ‘additives‘ and ‘caloric sweeteners‘ like cane sugar.
I encourage you to try out a few to find a taste you can enjoy or mix plain versions into other shakes.
When looking at flavoured kinds, I’d opt for a brand sweetened with Stevia, over some other ‘artificial sweetener*,‘ but that’s just me, you might not like that taste.
Got a favourite brand? List it in the comments and tell me why you like it.