It's really a new day for supplements out there. Brands are constantly introducing new formulations that provide increased bioavailability. That's why it's not surprising that clients constantly seek out recommendations regarding the best supplements in my day job as a female nutritionist, certified personal trainer, and women's health advocate. One of the big questions I've been getting recently has to do with green powders versus multivitamins. People want to know which option is better. Is there a clear-cut answer? Let's dive into the debate. My hope is that you'll walk away with a clearer idea of which type of supplement you should be taking in your quest for wellness.
Overview of Multivitamins
Most of us have been hearing that multivitamins are good for us since we were kids. While we may not have been excited to take our daily vitamins as kids, we view them today as critical gateways to energy and vitality. A multivitamin is a dietary supplement containing vitamins, minerals, and other key nutritional elements. While multivitamins can have differing formulations, they generally fulfill all of the recommended daily intakes for core nutrients.
What to Look for in a Multivitamin
Our vitamin daily needs are split between essential vitamins and minerals. The vitamins we need include vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. The list of macro and trace minerals we need includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulfur, iron, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium.
I have some quick tips for what to look for in a good multivitamin. Start by focusing on the daily value (DV) for each vitamin and mineral. You want to see close to 100% of DV for every ingredient. However, it's important to keep expectations realistic for magnesium, calcium, and potassium because it's very hard to capture high amounts of these essentials in a single daily tablet.
Next, look for something called the USP seal. Short for United States Pharmacopeia, the USP signals that a multivitamin has the recommended daily allowance of nutrients based on national standards. This seal also indicates that all listed ingredients and amounts are both safe and accurate. You can also rest easy knowing that your vitamin is free from harmful pesticides and heavy metals.
Finally, I'm a fan of multivitamins that are labeled for age and gender, like multivitamins for women over 40. This isn't just a marketing ploy. Multivitamins intended for specific groups have different compositions.
Do Multivitamins Work?
The answer depends on your expectations. Multivitamins aren't substitutes for healthy eating! They are designed to supplement your existing diet to help fill in gaps. Taking a daily multivitamin can be an important tool for avoiding nutritional deficiencies. I consider supplementation with some type of vitamin essential for women of childbearing age, lactating women, vegetarians, people who exercise vigorously, and anyone with a history of vitamin deficiencies.
What I Like
I love the completeness of a multivitamin. In my work as a nutritionist, I've seen the way that overcomplicating matters by taking too many different supplements at once can cause people to give up. A multivitamin provides a good balance of everything using just a single serving a day. Multivitamins are also generally very affordable. Lastly, there's very little risk associated with toxicity or "overdosing" with a multivitamin due to the ultra-safe levels of vitamins and minerals included.
What I Don't Like
While I like the generality of a multivitamin, the truth is that any supplement that tries to do too much of anything runs the risk of not doing enough. What I mean by this is that a multivitamin may not be enough to prevent you from falling into a deficiency if you're at risk for one due to everything from lifestyle to health history. For example, someone who is risk for an iron deficiency may not get all that they need from a multivitamin. Multivitamins can also lure us into having a false sense of security about our diets. We may assume that we can skip our daily Greek yogurt because our vitamin has us covered with calcium for the day. In reality, we need to eat as though we aren't taking any vitamins at all if we want to get the biggest benefit from our multivitamin.
Overview of Greens Powders
Green powders basically came out of nowhere a few years ago to absolutely dominate the supplement industry. How do I feel about them as a nutritionist? I've personally used several different green powders that have left me very impressed. Like all supplements, green powders have their pros and cons. Let's get into my opinion of green powders.
Greens powders are supplements made from greens, vegetables, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and other nutrient-dense ingredients. Many green powders on the market today also contain seaweed. While formulations vary, most green powders are designed to provide the right combination of vitamins and minerals for supporting your body's immune system, boosting energy levels, and making your skin glow.
What to Look for in a Greens Powder Supplement
A green powder is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. Generally, I recommend looking for green powders that align with your health goals. However, I have some personal must-have ingredients that I often recommend to my clients. The list includes vitamin A for anti-inflammatory properties, vitamin K for supporting health blood vessels, selenium for supporting the immune system, and vitamin C for overall wellness. If you're hoping to make a green powder part of your morning ritual, I suggest looking for a formula with green tea to get the benefit of some natural energy!
Are Greens Powders Actually Beneficial?
They certainly can be! However, the benefit you get from a green powder comes down to its formulation. You want a green powder that's packed with actual vitamins and minerals instead of filler. I want to make it very clear that green powders are not meal replacements. People get into trouble when they try to make a meal out of what should simply be a supplement.
The biggest thing that green powder can do for you is to help support healthy digestion by providing essential enzymes and probiotics that you may not be getting from diet alone. Many green powders on the market work beautifully for helping the stomach to break down food properly. In addition to supporting comfortable digestion, this benefit can also help you to lose weight. I also think that green powders can be amazing for boosting the immune system. A good powder containing vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K may help you to prevent illness. I also think that the high concentrations of antioxidants found in many high-quality green powders can boost cognitive performance.
What I Like
I love the infusion of probiotics, digestive enzymes, vitamins, and minerals found in many green powders out there. Green powder is one of my top picks for someone looking for a natural, gentle way to improve sluggish digestion. I also like the detoxification aspect of green powders. While most supplements simply add clutter to the body, green powders with antioxidants actually help to rid the body of free radicals that lead to cell death and aging.
What I Don't Like
My only real complaint with green powders is that the drying process used to create formulations can actually strip vitamins and minerals of core nutritional content. For example, high amounts of fiber are lost during processing. This can be a big deal because many people assume that green powders are bursting with fiber. In reality, you can't count on your daily green drink to keep things regular. I also want to warn you that low-quality green powders sometimes contain high levels of heavy metals.
Similarities Between Multivitamins and Greens Powders
Both multivitamins and green powders introduce supplement vitamins and minerals into your life. In addition, both can help to support healthy tissue, organs, and bones. My experience as a nutritionist has shown me that both multivitamins and green powders can help people to enjoy more energy.
Comparing How to Take Each Supplement
Green powder definitely requires a little more work than a multivitamin. Generally, a multivitamin is something you take once a day with a little bit of water. For people who don't like the idea of swallowing a pill, gummies and chewable vitamins can be easy to tolerate.
Like multivitamins, green powders should generally be taken once a day to avoid "overdosing" on any particular ingredient. You will typically be instructed to mix a scoop of powder into up to 12 ounces of water to create a drinkable juice. Many green powders can also be mixed into juices and smoothies.
Comparing General Pricing and Cost
Green powders are generally more expensive than multivitamins. There's a simple reason for this. Green powder is made from real food. That means that brands that produce green powders have to source, prepare, process, and package ingredients that start out as whole leafy greens.
Comparing Nutrients Inside Formulas
A multivitamin generally has a formulation that's much more complete compared to green powder. The average multivitamin offers up to 30 different vitamins and minerals. A green powder might contain between five and eight core nutrients.
It's not exactly fair to do an apples-to-apples comparison because a green powder was never intended to serve the function of a multivitamin. While multivitamins are designed to offer comprehensive support, green powders are focused on providing intensive servings of specific vitamins, minerals, or nutrients. What's more, green powders are formulated using actual food ingredients. This might include wheat grass, spirulina, rose hips, beet root, barley grass, alfalfa grass, maca root, cherry extract, acai berry, flax seed, and prebiotic strains. Most multivitamins are made using synthetic fine powders.
Main Differences Between Greens Powder and Multivitamins
You might say that a multivitamin provides a more comprehensive form of supplementation using "inferior" nutrients. While you're not getting nutrients directly from greens and fruits, you are getting something that's structurally identical to naturally occurring vitamins. Green powders bring you closer to what nature intended by providing vitamins and minerals through the use of actual food products. However, these powders generally only contain a fraction of the vitamins and minerals offered by multivitamins.
Which Supplement Is Better For You: Greens Powders or Multivitamins?
I have good things to say about both powders and multivitamins. As a nutritionist specializing in women's wellness, I believe that every woman should be taking a daily multivitamin. However, I also believe that many women can benefit from also adding a green powder into the daily routines. I would suggest exploring green powders if you have an especially grueling or stressful lifestyle. Green powder may help to provide the fortification you need if you work long hours, maintain a high-stress work-home balance, or exercise vigorously. Green powder is also worth looking into if you tend to get sick often.
My only advice when making the decision to join a daily multivitamin with a green powder is to read labels carefully. Make sure the green powder you choose doesn't contain levels of certain vitamins or minerals that can put you in a danger zone once you factor in the intake provided by your daily multivitamin. Phosphorus, calcium, zinc, vitamin A, iron, and copper all have the potential for "overdoing it" when you're taking more than one supplement.
The Bottom Line on Choosing Between a Multivitamin and Green Powder
I'm in the camp that doesn't believe that green powder's popularity is "just a fad." It can be a great secret weapon for keeping your energy levels up. I also love the glow it creates for your skin! However, I'm not in favor of giving up your multivitamin in favor of green powder. My tip is to simply find a balance between these two supplements that allows you to get more supplementation without overdoing it with any one vitamin or mineral.
Sometimes, It's your diet, and supplements won't help.
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