With promises like one scoop delivering the antioxidants of a dozen serves of vegetables, the greens powder industry seems intent on replacing the multivitamin. Made from the freeze-dried or light-dried remains of fruits, vegetables and herbs, the powders can provide a very concentrated dose of vitamins and minerals, but their benefits are prone to exaggeration.
I tried the top-selling greens powder on Bodybuilding.com and one of the bestsellers from Amazon, Greens Freak, to see how it stacked up. Check out my review below.
Greens Freak Ingredients
The branding strongly emphasizes the presence of spirulina and chlorella, two types of algae, and each serve also contains a combined 1.5 grams of alfalfa, barley, and wheatgrass.
Because the amount of the product is so small and concentrated, there’s minimal fiber, but while that aspect won’t improve your digestion there are five strains of probiotic bacteria, which are linked to digestive health.
(We tried 47 brands: check out our best green superfood powder picks!)
There are some three dozen other ingredients that receive less emphasis from the company, including apple pectin, sprouted brown rice bran, bee pollen and royal jelly, parsley, beetroot juice (labeled as a “red super food”), green tea extract, and bromelain. I tried their green apple flavor, which is flavored with “natural green apple flavor,” stevia, and peppermint leaf extract.
Greens Freak Carbs
The packaging doesn’t actually come with a breakdown of macronutrients or micronutrients, just the ingredients it contains and the RDI of each. Of course, the USDA has not set a recommended daily intake of apple pectin, milk thistle, and every single other ingredient in the product besides Vitamin E, so the RDI has an asterisk under each one.
According to MyFitnessPal, one serving contains thirty-five calories, two grams of protein, five grams of carbs, two grams of fiber, and no fat.
Is Greens Freak Gluten-Free?
No. The packaging is misleading in this regard. You can see on the front of the tub “Greens Freak gf.” The “gf” just stands for “Greens Freak,” not “gluten-free.” Nowhere on the packaging does it suggest that it’s free from gluten, and barley (one of the ingredients) is a known source of the stuff.
Greens Freak Benefits
The benefits of the star ingredients, spirulina and chlorella, do tend to be exaggerated in some circles but they’re great sources of iron, zinc, and antioxidants, and they appear to help improve immunity as well.
The alfalfa, barley, and wheatgrass, contain vitamins C, E, K, and B-vitamins, plus they contain a lot of chlorophyll, which can be beneficial for blood health. (Think clotting and wound healing.)
The five strains of probiotics are perhaps the strongest addition. They’re useful for a host of reasons: this beneficial bacteria can improve digestion, fat loss, inflammation levels, and possibly even our susceptibility to depression and anxiety.
I tried the green apple flavor, though vanilla chai is also available. I’ve tried a lot of greens powders (my mom stockpiles them like there’s an imminent apocalypse), and this has the best taste I’ve ever tried. Greens powders have a well-earned reputation for tasting like dirt (they’re mostly ground up vegetables and seaweed, after all) and while I’d never call this product delicious, it’s far more palatable than most and it’s probably the best taste you can expect.
When there’s no macronutrient or micronutrient breakdown on the packaging, it gets a little hard to maintain credibility as a vitamin and mineral supplement. Sure, many of the ingredients are known to contain Vitamin C and iron, but how much vitamin C is in a serving? How much iron? There’s no way to know. MyFitnessPal says one serve delivers 36% of the RDI of Vitamin C and 17% of your iron. That’s a decent amount, but far less than a dedicated supplement and perhaps less than a multivitamin. But of course, it’s hard to know where MyFitnessPal gets their data from.
The huge number of times the meaningless words “superfood,” “super grain,” and “detox” appear on the package also harm the product’s credibility.
PharmaFreak’s main selling point isn’t so much the vitamin content as the ingredients themselves and the probiotics and antioxidants they deliver. These are important components of any diet, they’re found in plants (or can result from eating them), and this product contains them in spades.
At thirty dollars for thirty servings, it’s moderately-priced. Compare that with $127 for thirty servings of Athletic Greens ($4.23/serve), $35 for fifteen servings of Onnit’s Earth Grown Nutrients ($2.30/serve), $50 for 90 serves of Sun Warrior’s Supergreens ($0.55/serve) and $52 for a hundred serves Amazing Grass’s Green Superfood ($0.52/serve).
For a product that many see as a multivitamin supplement, it’s hard to look past the fact that there’s no breakdown of the vitamins and minerals in the product.
But the fact is that some people focus a little too much on vitamins (which aren’t very hard to get from food) and not enough on probiotics and antioxidant density, which can be harder to consume in high quantities. If you’re eating a well-balanced diet, this product can certainly help fill in your nutritional gaps. But don’t take it as a replacement for eating plants.