Bowl of greens for a salad that includes vegetables like red cabbage, spinach, lettuce, and kale

Greens Powders VS. Leafy Greens: A Dietitian Weighs In


If You're Tempted to Turn to Greens Powders, Read This First.

If you’re here on our blog, chances are you have suffered with bloating, gas, upset stomach and general digestive distress at one point or another. When we are prone to these painful, disruptive and embarrassing issues, it is natural to cut ties with anything we feel is contributing to our problem. In many cases, unfortunately, that means our garden-fresh standbys…veggies.

If you have spun your wheels trying to calm your angry GI tract and found relief in eliminating vegetables, does this mean your days of big, crunchy salads and comforting stir-fries full of health-boosting micronutrients are over for good? Are you destined for greens powders for life? Not so fast. Understanding what is in our veggies, and having an expert in your corner can make all the difference in navigating your diet.


Background: A lot of the compounds in greens are isolated from food and tested in vitro. These studies provide no information regarding whether or not consuming the food would yield the same result. That is because (this list is non-exhaustive): ⁣
(1) Digestion: active compounds in food are exposed to acidic conditions that can promote a chemical transformation. This transformed compound might not have the activity of the original compound. Alternatively, the transformed compound (this has been demonstrated) can sometimes have greater activity than the original.⁣
(2) The compound is then exposed to basic conditions, from gallbladder secretions, in the small intestine. This can also trigger a chemical transformation.⁣
(3) Gut bacteria can transform the compound in many ways. ⁣
(4) It is unlikely that enterocytes have a dedicated transporter for the compound. Thus, it is unclear how much of it will be absorbed.⁣
(5) IF the compound is absorbed, it is likely to be present in low concentrations in the bloodstream.⁣
(6) The compound then has to be absorbed by the cells, which has the same problem as the enterocytes. It is unlikely that the compound will make it inside the cell at sufficiently high concentrations to provide the purported activity.⁣

Fiber: The Good, The Soluble and The Insoluble

When veggies upset your digestion, it is helpful to understand how the components in them can affect your GI tract.

Veggies are full of soluble and insoluble fiber. Essentially, fiber is the part of the plant that our bodies are unable to break down and digest. But that doesn’t mean we don’t benefit; it is actually an essential part of a healthy diet. Fiber has been shown to lower heart disease risk. Increased fiber content in foods also makes it more difficult for the body to convert carbohydrates to glucose, which eases blood sugar spikes and helps insulin work more effectively.

Soluble fiber simply means it can be dissolved in water. In our bodies, this means it forms a gel-like substance in your GI tract that helps slow down the movement of food, which can be beneficial in preventing loose stools. In most cases, soluble fiber foods can be soothing to the gut.

In contrast, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps to bulk stools and move food along, contributing to regularity and preventing constipation. Insoluble fiber, though beneficial, can be harsh on an inflamed GI tract, and tends to be the kind to avoid if you are experiencing gut issues.

It is important to note here that we are focusing on fiber in veggies since this blog post is focused on gut issues related to vegetables. There are many other great fiber sources outside of veggies, and CorePerform dietitians and coaches can help find the foods that work best for you.

Micronutrients: Whole Foods vs. Greens Powders

We hear it often at CorePerform: “Can’t I just take a greens powder to replace the veggies that upset my digestion?” The answer is…eh, maybe. How’s that for helpful advice? Let us elaborate.

What we mean by this is simple: greens powders do contain a great variety of vitamins and minerals and some contain added fiber benefits and even digestive enzymes and probiotics. The bottom line though, is that they are supplements and therefore meant to “supplement” your diet, not replace it. In the case that you have removed some or all of the veggies from your diet to help settle your gut issues, it could be beneficial to use a greens powder to temporarily bridge the nutrition gap. The key is that it is temporary and not meant to be a long-term solution.

The fact of the matter is that greens powders are having their moment in the sun right now. They are all over social media with smiling celebrities and glowing fitness models. But the bottom line is that they will likely have a bigger impact on your bank account than they will on your health.

So what, the, is the long-term solution? That is where CorePerform comes in.

It’s Not Goodbye, It’s See You Later

 When many clients seek help from CorePerform, they have resigned themselves to limiting or completely eliminating lots of veggies. They often feel like it is the only solution that has worked to ease their GI distress. But at CorePerform we are fluent in finding ways to expand your food freedom and diet choices, while keeping your tummy healthy and happy.

It is true that some foods may need to be limited or eliminated for a period of time, allowing your gut to sooth and heal. CorePerform coaches can help determine what is best on an individual basis, and when it’s time, help you reintroduce more variety back into your diet.

Here are a few tips that help make it possible to reintroduce some vegetables you may have previously thought were (literally) off the table.

  1. Don’t Eat Insoluble Fiber On Its Own. Try combining insoluble and soluble fiber items. This tends to be easier on digestion.
  2. Remove the stems and peels. Removing some of the difficult to breakdown components of some veggies and fruits can make them less harsh on your system.
  3. Prep veggies for easier digestion. Chop, dice, mash and blend vegetables to help make them easier for your body to process.
  4. Cook well. Steaming and boiling help make hard to digest veggies easier to digest.
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