More than ever, we’re looking to boost our health. We want to strengthen our immune system and recover from illness faster. One way of doing this is through your diet, but most of us aren’t eating the recommended five servings of vegetables daily. Supplementing our diet with a greens powder seems like an easy option.
It’s no wonder the global industry is expected to experience a compounded annual growth rate of 7.2% between 2022 and 2030. But is a superfood powder capable of delivering the health benefits we're all looking for?
What are Superfood Powders?
Superfood powders are dehydrated whole foods that are grounded into a powder. A superfood powder can be a blend of several dehydrated whole foods or one individual food.
People can make homemade powders or buy commercially made ones, and the powder can be easily consumed as a drink by adding it to liquids or can be added to meals to improve their nutritional value.
Why are Superfood Powders Good for You?
Superfood powders are nutrient-dense; packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes. The powders are often green in colour because they contain plants rich in chlorophyll. Super green powders are often a blend of spinach, broccoli, wheatgrass, alfalfa sprouts, green cabbage, kelp, basil, asparagus, barley grass, and spirulina.
Commercial blended powders are made from mixing vegetables, fruits, seaweed, herbs, fibre, and added vitamins and minerals. Individual powders are also available as matcha, beets, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, berries, hemp seeds, maca, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
Difference Between Superfoods and Superfood Powders
Superfoods are whole foods high in nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are nutrient-dense and low in calories. Superfoods may help with weight loss, give you increased energy, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
The list of superfoods includes more than just plant-based foods. Superfoods can be berries, beans, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, algae, wheatgrass, cinnamon, salmon, flaxseeds, green tea, turmeric, bone broth, free-range eggs, raw milk, and dark chocolate often appear on superfood lists.
Superfood powders can be the same plant-based superfoods dehydrated and ground up.
Pros of Superfood Powder
Quick and Convenient
It only takes a minute or two to whip up a drink containing superfood powder and head out the door in the morning. To consume the same number of nutrients would take far more preparation and eating time.
No Wasted Food
Fresh fruit and vegetables are best eaten within a few days before their nutritional value starts declining. Some people buy fresh food but don’t consume it before it ripens or spoils. Superfood powders have much longer shelf life than fresh foods, meaning there’s not as much cleaning out the fridge and throwing away uneaten fruit or vegetables each week.
Save Fridge Space
To consume the same number of nutrients as superfood powder, you often need to eat larger quantities of whole foods. Not everyone has the fridge and preparation space to get a variety of vegetables and fruits each week. A tub of powder only needs a small space on the kitchen counter.
Easy Way to Hide Nutrients in Food
For children or adults who aren’t vegetable or fruit fans it can be hard to eat enough nutrients. While parents should keep introducing fresh foods to young children again and again, occasionally turning to supplements can be highly beneficial.
A superfood powder can provide a nutrient boost without kids knowing that they’re eating a healthy meal. Blend or mix superfood powders into a bolognese sauce, smoothie, yoghurt, soup, baked goods or ice cream. Sprinkle on porridge or add to a granola mix.
Can Give Your Immune System a Boost
At a time when we’re trying to give ourselves the best chance of warding off viruses and recovering quickly, superfood powders may provide you with a health boost. Foods that are high in vitamin C are beneficial for our immune health. Powders that contain broccoli or turmeric could offer immune health benefits.
Can Aid Weight Loss
There is little supporting research but some superfood powders are thought to contain compounds that can help with weight loss. Matcha powder has a high catechin polyphenol content that supports weight loss and boosts metabolism. The maca root is said to regulate glucose levels and balance hormones.
Can Reduce Oxidative Damage
High levels of stress, eating fried foods, smoking, and drinking alcohol can cause free radicals to develop in the body. These can cause oxidative tissue damage. Oxidative stress has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory disease, and some cancers. Some manufacturers claim that green powder can increase the markers of antioxidant activity.
Cons of Superfood Powder
It’s easy to be swept up in the hype but there are a few potential downsides to consider when it comes to superfood powders.
Over Reliance on Supplements
No powder or supplement will ever beat a healthy balanced diet. Ideally, most people would want to get all the nutritional value they need from minimally processed, whole-foods. Some people think they can eat all the junk food they like because their supplements make up for their poor diet. But, your food intake needs to provide a baseline of macronutrients. Taking supplements alone, won’t give you the health benefits that a healthy food diet will. By choosing the right foods, you may not even need the powders and vitamin pills. As a standard rule to follow, eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables will provide you with sufficient nutrients.
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Superfood powders aren’t cheap because it takes a large quantity of fresh ingredients to make a small amount of dehydrated powder. While you can save money making your own, the ingredients alone can be expensive.
You May Not Get What You Paid For
Not all superfood powders are created equal. Some commercially available powders are made from high-quality, whole foods. However, some powders are bulked out with chemicals and flavourings as fillers. There is less risk of a poor quality product with fillers by buying from a reputable, well-known industry company.
Lost Enjoyment in Eating
For most people, drinking a superfood powdered drink isn’t nearly as enjoyable as tucking into your favourite whole-food superfood. A bowl of fresh berries or smashed avocado is often much tastier and socially enriching than having a drink on the run. You can choose to mix a powdered superfood into a meal and eat with family or friends rather than sticking to a supplement shake on your own.
Some Nutrients are Lost During Manufacture
Eating raw, whole foods means the vitamins and minerals are less likely to be lost during heating or cooking processes. It’s hard to know if the nutrient profile in a food is reduced when it has been processed. Some manufacturers claim to use a low heat method such as vacuum drying to retain as many nutrients as possible.
Not Everyone Likes the Taste of Superfood Powders
While mango or berry superfood powder tastes similar to the whole food, vegetable powders and blends may not be appealing to everyone’s palette. Some people take time to get used to the taste while others aren’t willing to try it a second time. It is recommended to avoid buying powders in bulk, at least for your first time.
Superfood Powders Aren’t Regulated
In Australia, dietary supplements and herbal preparations aren’t regulated like medications. The Therapeutic Goods Administration warns consumers not to purchase any medicines or dietary supplements over the internet unless you know what is in the preparation. If the manufacturer isn’t reputable, it may be hard to know exactly what the product contains.
So Should You Start Taking Superfood Powder?
As mentioned, a balanced diet is your best bet for good health. Whole foods provide you with a mix of essential vitamins and minerals. Superfood powders are still processed foods, so before spending a small fortune on powders, think about which superfoods you can enjoy as part of your weekly food intake. These will probably have a far better taste and texture too.
A big takeaway from this article is to treat superfood powders as a supplement rather than as a replacement for a healthy diet. Remember, if you’re buying a powder, the industry is unregulated so choose a trustable brand.
Consult a Dietician
If you're unsure about whether incorporating superfood powders into your diet is the right option for you, it always helps to speak with a dietician. Certain extras policies will cover your visit to a dietician through HIF, though you may also like to speak with your GP before locking it in.