UPDATED November 27, 2010
by Christopher Van Buren
The number of green superfood powders that have sprouted up lately is astonishing. Now there are more than 150 brands on the market and they all have different formulas and offer different health benefits. But not only are there numerous products…but the number of herbs, veggie powders, grasses and grains used in these mixtures is nearly endless. So this article is your first stop for making some sense of this chaos. Here, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the green drink market and what you should look for in a product. See the list of related articles at the end to take your investigation to the next level.
I’ll make an effort to include as many of the green drinks reviewed on this site in this roundup article, so you can place them into the basic categories I have identified: Simple Formulas, Well Rounded Formulas, and Super Robust Formulas. I’ve also added a new category, called Specialized Formulas for those products that are attempting to accomplish something outside the normal range of green drink nutrition. I will add new products to this comparison as I become aware of them and if they are as good or better than those listed here.
Let’s begin with how these products overlap. That is, what are the basic ingredients that all, or most, green drinks include? Most green superfood drinks all contain some amount of the following ingredients:
- Land Vegetables (such as beets, spinach, grasses, dandelion, etc.)
- Sea Vegetables (kelp, purple dulse)
- Algaes (mainly spirulina and chlorella)
- Probiotics and Enzymes (the type and source differs)
- Fibrous Meal (flaxseed meal, brown rice solids, apple pectin, lecithin, and others)
The amounts of each of these ingredients may vary substantially from product to product. Some are heavy in the algaes while others favor land veggies. I look for at least 2 grams per serving being comprised of land vegetables, sea vegetables, and/or algaes, with a under 2 grams of fibrous meal, which is used like a natural filler to bulk up the product in most cases (not that lecithin or flax meal is not healthy, but I give more points for the better, more expensive, ingredients). Beyond this basic list, products may feature certain ingredients that add flavor or special qualities, such as energy enhancement or intestinal cleansing.
There’s nothing that says a green drink formula must have healthy herbs and extracts in addition to the key ingredients listed above. A green drink that has excellent quality, but offers only basic ingredients may be highly recommended, even though it falls into the Simple Formulas list. Those formulas that include some well-chosen botanicals will fall into the Well Rounded Formulas list, even though they may not be better quality than some of the Basic Formulations. It all depends on the way they are formulated and their cost-benefit ratio.
When it comes to added herbs, here are some of the ones I look for:
- Nettle, Milk Thistle and Dandilion Leaf
- Green Tea Powder
- Mushroom Powders
- Olive Leaf Extract
- Pine Bark Extract
- Echinacea, Ginko Biloba, and Astragalus
Obviously, the more of these expensive ingredients in a green drink, the higher the price will be. So a great alternative to getting these in your green drink formula is to get a basic formula that’s strong in the key ingredients and then add your own herbs that you purchase separately.
Basic formulas are those with a focus on the key ingredients and not too many additions. They are the least robust of the green drinks and are often less expensive as a result. In some cases, however, a simple formula might have high concentrations of the basic ingredients and be higher priced (and better quality) as a result. These are great for those on a budget or for those who like adding their own herbs to a basic mixture…or those wanting just the basics.
There are a few products that just offer the basics in high concentrations, including Field of Greens, which is a high quality mixture with a simple ingredients list…and it’s a bit more expensive than most products as a result. It has absolutely no filler. Other quality Basic Formulas include Green Magma, which offers a high concentration of grasses, and Mighty Greens, which has a few extra additions, but still falls into the Basic Formulas batch for me. Finally, check out Amazing Grass as a lower-cost formula with very few ingredients and a focus on grasses and greens.
Formulas that fit into the Basic Formulas category that offer a bit more variety of ingredients (and lower price tags) include Dr. Shulze’s Super Food. This product is a simple mixture of the most basic ingredients with nothing noteworthy to stand out from the crowd. The land vegetables are minimal and the product focuses on spirulina and chlorella as its key ingredients — giving it an especially horrible taste. The good news is that it has one of the lowest price points on the market at only $2.43 per ounce. Dr. Shulze has a deluxe formula, called Super Food Plus, which has a much more competitive list of ingredients, including grasses, seaweed, beet and spinach leaf, orange peel and lemon peels. The product is still among the least expensive at $2.57 per ounce and this makes it a great value and a good addition to the Basic Formulas list.
Well Rounded Formulas
By far, the majority of green drinks fall into the Well Rounded Formulas group. These are formulations that contains all of the basics ingredients, plus some extras. The extras might include a fruit blend (usually for antioxidants) a veggie blend (for minerals and extra nutritional variety), special herbs (for any number of added effects), and protein.
A perfect example of a well rounded mixture is Green Vibrance. It has a very nice and well rounded formulation, plus it contains a decent amount of green tea powder, which I personally like in a green drink because it adds anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory qualities (among other things). I don’t mind the little bit of caffeine that comes with the tea. Green Vibrance has some other very nice ingredients for additional antioxidant power and it’s got an extremely fair price tag at only $3.70 per ounce.
Another well rounded mixture is Macro Greens, which was among the first on the market and is still among the best. Its land veggies include beets, cactus, barley grass, and carrot. It has large doses of herbs, including ginger, horsetail, suma, astragalus, Echinacea, milk thistle and others. It includes a few fruits (berries, cintrus, acerola cherries) and offers green tea, watercress, royal jelly, and aloe vera as special ingredients. It has the usual algaes and contains a lot of fibrous meal, which is a mixture of lecithin, apple pectin and flax seed meal, but overall, it’s among my favorites and costs $4.00 per ounce.
Another great “well rounded” formula is Blender Culture, which is a nice mixture of greens, fruits, veggies, and special herbs like Milk Thistle, Astragalus, and green tea powder.
More products in this category include New Greens, a formula that includes a little of everything, with a focus on algaes and alfalfa. Land veggies include carrot, spinach, tomato, kale, broccoli and others. Some special herbal additions worth highlighting include royal jelly, pollen, green tea, milk thistle, tumeric, and ginko biloba. It has a small amount of fibrous meal in the form of flaxseed meal, apple pectin, and brown rice solids. Also look at Delicious Greens 8000, Go Greens, Greens First, EnerFood, Greens Pak, Boku Super Food, NanoGreens 10, and ProGreens.
Super Robust Formulas
The products in the super robust category are those that go the extra mile and offer more than the basics…more than extra veggies and herbs, but unexpected quality or variety of ingredients. They also tend to have few or no fillers and, of course, they tend to be the most expensive of the bunch, but you get what you pay for.
My favorite super robust formula is Vitamineral Green, which has a lot of grasses, and some kelp and sea veggies. To compliment the grasses and kelp is a healthy dose of Nettle and juices of alfalfa, dendelion, broccoli, kale and other veggies. It is high in spirulina too, so you can bet you’re getting a quality blend here. There are no fruits, but honestly, most green products don’t have enough fruits to make them a substitute for the “Red” products (see RedDrinkReviews.com), so the lack of a fruit blend is not a huge negative on my list. Vitamineral Green clocks in at $3.06 per ounce, which makes it one of the best values among the super robust formulas.
Ben Kim’s Greens, Billy’s Greens, and Sun Is Shining are all formulated at the Vitamineral Green laboratory — by expert formulator Jameth Sheridan. All these products are top quality in terms of the source and freshness of ingredients and excellent formulations.
Berry Green and Vital Greens are also on the high-end of the spectrum. They both have excellent formulations and approximately the same cost per ounce (above $5). They are heavy in spirulina and grasses, while also offering substantial amounts of fruit powders. In the case of Berry Green, this comes in the form of red berries. In the case of Vital Greens, it comes in the form of apple powder, Billberry and acerola. If you want your berries and fruits along with the green superfoods, then these are worth looking at.
Other super robust products include Udo’s Green Blend, Pure Synergy, which offers an array of mushroom powders and other high-potency herbs, Perfectly Healthy Mega Greens, which has very few ingredients, but all are super-high quality, LifeForce, All Day Energy Greens, which offers a unique mixture of quality ingredients, and Emerald Balance.
Specialized formulas are those that try to offer something special through the mixture. For example, a mixture that is high in protein might fall into this category. Or a mixture that is targeted toward increasing your pH balance (making your more alkaline) would fit into this category.
The formulas Antioxidant Natural Greens and ORAC Energy Greens are examples of a specialized formulas. These two offer extra ingredients to provide a high level of antioxidants, through fruits and herbs. The formula called Ferm Plus Gluten Free is formulated to provide nutrition and minerals without any gluten. The formula called Greens Today offers a selection of ingredients that help you cleanse and detox while you get your superfood nutrition. And offering a high amount of protein in their mixture are the products Juvo, Shakeology, and Vega Health Optimizer.
Finally, the mixture Prime Directive is created to offer extra amino acids through a variety of grains. This is good for protein processing in your body, and for digestion and healthy elimination.
So, there you have it, some of the top contenders in the main green superfood drink categories. Which one you choose depends on your reason for taking the stuff in the first place — and your budget. If you’re looking for the most nutrition per spoonful, then look at the Super Robust formulas. If you want a good, well-rounded formula that doesn’t cost too much, or you like getting some special herbs together with your green drink, then look at the products in the Well Rounded Formulas category. If you just want the basics of green superfood nutrition (perehaps you want to add to it yourself), then check out the Basic Formulas category.
I hope this helps you decide on how you’re going to “go green” and increase your nutrition and overall health.