Nutritional supplements have become increasingly popular with ‘greens blends’ or ‘superfood greens’ emerging in the last few years as a popular health product. These often vibrant green concoctions, typically composed of a variety of nutrient-dense vegetables or algae, promise a convenient and efficient way to boost your daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals.
While many enthusiasts rave about their health benefits, the marketing, manufacturing and nutritional science behind these product becomes a little less clear. Given their claims, price and potential downsides, it is worthwhile investigating further.
At the bottom of page we provide a .pdf download that summarises the key ingredients and price of popular greens blends. This is by no means an endorsement of any product therein but rather an overview of products available.
As always, we advise that if you are considering changing your diet, exercise or lifestyle practices, please discuss plans with your primary medical practitioner before making any changes.
Pros, Cons and Just Don't Knows
Greens blends often feature a diverse array of ingredients such as kale, spinach, spirulina, and wheatgrass. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, these supplements provide a concentrated dose of essential nutrients, contributing to overall health when consumed in the right quantities. The effectiveness of greens blends depends significantly on the quality of ingredients and the manufacturing process. Blue-green algae - spirulina or chlorella, while health promoting for most, may also cause adverse reactions in some. Some supplements may contain additives, preservatives or low-quality greens, diluting their benefits. It's crucial to choose reputable brands that prioritise quality sourcing, testing and transparent labelling.
Greens blends provide convenience for people who take multiple supplements. In some cases a once daily serving that can tick a variety of 'supplement boxes'. In other cases a greens blend acts as an additional supplement to say, a general multi-vitamin and mineral pill.
Greens mixes, often with added probiotics (gut healthy bacteria) and prebiotics (fibre that the bacteria consume) may support gut health and aid in digestion. If the dose in the blend is meaningful and if the probiotics are still alive? That requires more research.
Some blends have added adaptogens. This is a broad term meaning herbs, roots, other plant substances or mushrooms that help the body to manage stress though their unique chemical properties. Once again, if the science backs the claims and if the dose is effective needs to be reviewed. Some adaptogens may be contraindicated for certain people, they may interfere with certain medications. For example, ashwagandha is advised not to be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
We know that there are synergistic effects between different herbs, adaptogens and ingredients. Smaller doses can be effective when mixed with other ingredients. We just don’t know much in the way how these work, what is effective, what might be safe or even potentially harmful.
The doses of individual ingredients is sometimes not stated, to protect the manufacturer’s proprietary blend, their intellectual property. Without knowing the ingredient quantities it is hard to tell if there is enough of anything to provide an effective dose. Alternatively, some ingredients may be found in unhealthy quantities – too much of a good thing. This can become a problem if the consumer is taking additional supplements. Some ingredients may simply be fillers, to bulk up the product and offset the quantity of more expensive ingredients.
Some greens blends can be costly, especially on a monthly or annual basis. AG1, recently launched in Singapore, costs over S$100 per month. Could the money be better spent on real food items than provide similar or better effects? Worth considering, especially when the effectiveness of the blend is unknown.
Follow the Money
When it comes to supplements is the consumer affected by placebo or bias, from having invested into the product? When influencers and partners support the product on their social media channels, are they financially incentivised to provide positive reviews that could generate significant incomes, $10s or even $100s of thousands of dollars per year?
Individual personal reviews can be convincing but are they evidence of effectiveness? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Studies have shown that the placebo effect of medications increases in line with the process of the product being bought.
Greens blends have carved a niche in the world of nutritional supplements, offering a convenient and potential effective way to infuse one’s diet with essential nutrients. Certainly some blends can replace or complement a traditional vitamin-mineral pill and provide health benefits in their own right. However, as with any supplement, for some brands more scrutiny is required as to whether they are effective or not. If you are interested in seeing the differences between different popular brands, please download the .pdf below.
Any benefits from supplementation should be seen as part of a holistic approach to health. First and foremost, before supplementation, people should make their best effort to have a nutritionally balanced diet, appropriate for their age, activity levels and lifestyle. Then there can be a discussion regarding appropriate levels of supplementation to address any potential gaps. As a part of the conversation, lifestyle has to be included. Unfortunately, supplements cannot overcome issues stemming from poor exercise, sleep, stress and work-life balance - the pillars of health.
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Greens Blends Product Overview
Related Resources and Studies
Díaz-Lago M, Blanco F, Matute H. Expensive seems better: The price of a non-effective drug modulates its perceived efficacy. Cogn Res Princ Implic. 2023 Jan 26;8(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s41235-023-00463-4. PMID: 36700994; PMCID: PMC9879252.
Wierzejska RE. Dietary Supplements-For Whom? The Current State of Knowledge about the Health Effects of Selected Supplement Use. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Aug 24;18(17):8897. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18178897. PMID: 34501487; PMCID: PMC8431076.
Ronis MJJ, Pedersen KB, Watt J. Adverse Effects of Nutraceuticals and Dietary Supplements. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2018 Jan 6;58:583-601. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010617-052844. Epub 2017 Oct 6. PMID: 28992429; PMCID: PMC6380172.