Are They Actually Worth It?
Suddenly, supplements made from ground plants, vegetables, and algae are taking over store shelves and giving protein powder some competition.
Potentially, they're the newest weapon in your health arsenal—the trick is to figure out which powders actually work. While some of them have proven benefits, a number are ineffective or loaded with sugar or sodium, says Mark Moyad, M.D., the Jenkins director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
Greens powders are supplements made from greens, vegetables, seaweed, probiotics, digestive enzymes and more. They may boost immunity and reduce chronic disease risk, but results may vary based on ingredients. ... You should still eat plenty of fresh greens, other vegetables and a variety of healthy foods.
Powdered supplements, don't have a barrier. The only barrier is your mouth. So just add water, drink it down, and your body begins absorbing it right away – which leads to quicker benefits.
You know it as an ingredient in skin-care products, but nutritional collagen powder has plenty of perks too. A form of this protein known as collagen hydrolysate or hydrolyzed collagen may also repair the cartilage in your joints, protecting them from stress and strain, says Kris Clark, Ph.D., R.D.N., the director of sports nutrition at Penn State University. Athletes who had joint pain from exercise or past injuries experienced significantly fewer aches after taking collagen hydrolysate for 24 weeks, according to a study in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion.
An amino acid in collagen called glycine also helps digestion by improving stomach acid production and rebuilds the stomach lining, both of which prevent heart- burn, constipation, and other GI issues, says Nicole Holovach, R.D.N., a dietitian in Frederick, Maryland. Another perk of collagen powder, she adds: It has a calming effect on the brain, reducing stress and improving sleep. To get collagen powder's benefits, stir it into smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, or coffee.
Made from the radish-like root of a plant that's native to Peru, maca powder is packed with iron, calcium, and protein. What's most remarkable about it, however, is a set of compounds it contains called macamides that improve circulation, Dr. Moyad says. That increased blood flow delivers more nutrients and oxygen to your muscles, which can fight fatigue and help you go harder for longer in the gym, he says. Macamides can even boost your sex drive.
A study in the journal CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics found that women taking anti-depressants, a leading cause of low libido, who added maca to their diet had more frequent and enjoyable sex than women taking a placebo. Maca may have the same effect for all women, according to Dr. Moyad. The powder has a chalky taste, so blend it into a fruit and vegetable smoothie to mask the flavor.
Unlike many powders, which are made from a single pulverized ingredient, the green kind can contain any number of dried and ground vegetables like kale, broccoli, and spinach, as well as grasses, tea leaves, and even fruits. Although they're sometimes referred to as green-juice powders, they're better for you than the drink. (Here's more on the difference between green juice and green powder.)
The powders are made from whole veggies and retain some of their fiber content as well as disease-fighting nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, says Ann Meyer, R.D.N., a dietitian in New York City. They also have less sugar than juice. While anyone can benefit from the extra dose of vitamins and minerals in green powders, Meyer says they're especially beneficial whenever you fall short of the recommended five to nine servings of produce a day. They come in different flavors so just stir them into water.