Should I be drinking swamp water?

Written by
Jonathan Steedman

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked about greens powders, I would almost have enough money to afford to buy a tub of greens powder.

But I won’t. Here’s why.



Do they help you detox?

No. If you have a functioning liver, lungs, kidneys and skin, your body is going to be undergoing its standard detoxification processes at peak capacity. If it’s not, you don’t need a greens powder, you need to go to hospital.



Do they help alkalise your body?

Also no (thankfully). If you want more background on why diet doesn’t really have an effect on your body’s acid/alkaline balance, and why that’s actually a good thing, I have a podcast episode that covers this very thing, and it’s only 11 minutes.


No fibre, no satiety

We all know fruits and vegetables are good for us, so I can see why a product that claims to be a concentrated form of regular fruits and vegetables has gained some popularity. The thing is, vitamins and mineral aren’t the only benefits you’ll gain from a healthy fruit and vegetable intake. Greens powders are severely lacking in fibre, which is a shame because fibre is amazingly beneficial for cultivating and supporting healthy gut bacteria. You know what’s not lacking in fibre? That unsexy apple and that boring cucumber. 

Fibre also plays an extra role in helping us feel full and satisfied. A full and satisfied person is less likely to a.) kill their co-workers and b.) mindlessly overeat between meals. Win win.


Questionable quality

Consumer Lab, a very legitimate, very independent lab tested thirteen greens powders in 2016 and found four of them contained higher than acceptable limits for heavy metal contamination. Not the cool, Meshuggah kind of heavy metal, but the build-up-in-your-body-and-potentially-cause-bad-things-to-happen kind of heavy metal. Four out of thirteen is a pretty terrifying ratio in my opinion.


Extra vitamins don’t equal extra health

As I was writing this section, I decided I needed to do a crash course on vitamins (probably next week), but in summary, your body needs an optimum level of all vitamins to perform at its peak. Exceeding this level gets you absolutely nowhere and, in some cases, can actually cause harm. Vitamin and mineral supplementation is only going to be of benefit if you are deficient in something, and supplementing fixes that deficiency. Yes, if you’re low in magnesium and your greens powder contains magnesium, it might help. So would a magnesium supplement, or including more green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes or seafood. Cheaper too.


So would I recommend them?

Obviously not. Read the room, geez.

But if you’re going to ignore me, please at least follow these steps

Make sure you’re getting one that provides information around how much of each vitamin and mineral you’re getting is in each serve, rather than one that just randomly lists ingredients with no mention of how much of each is in there

Find a brand that has been approved by Consumer Lab, Labdoor, HASTA or Informed Sport. As I mentioned above, the quality and risk of contamination is quite high in these products, so at least if you get something certified by these companies you can be sure that your product contains exactly what it says it contains. No more, no less

Alternatively, please consider just eating more fruits and vegetables…


How to increase your fruit & vegetable intake/plant diversity (without boring salads)

Australian guidelines recommend adults consume 5-6 serves of vegetables per day and 2 serves of fruit per day. A serve of fruit is approximately 150g of fruit, and a serve of vegetables is ½ a cup of cooked or 1 cup of uncooked vegetables. Recent research around gut health has also suggested that we should be aiming to consume at least 30 different types of plants (ie. fruits, vegetables and whole grains) per week.


Those numbers can be overwhelming, but they don’t have to be! Firstly, vegetables in any form are good. Stir fried, sautéed, roasted, grilled, BBQed, steamed, grated and hidden, it all counts! One of my favourites is to make a quick pasta sauce with tinned tomatoes, dried herbs, onion, garlic, and a bunch of whatever else I’ve got lying around. Simmer for an hour or so and you have a very tasty, very easy way to sneak more vegetables in. 

Speaking of dried herbs, these also count towards your plant diversity tally! This means making sure you’re using plenty of herbs and spices in your cooking means a.) your cooking won’t suck and b.) your gut bacteria will be happy.

Fruit’s easy. Eat some damn fruit. It’s not that hard. Put some on your breakfast or have a piece after a meal. You’re an adult.

 And there you have it! Did you learn something? Did you laugh at something? If you did, I’d love for you to take a screenshot, put it in your Instagram story and tag me so we can learn and laugh together.

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