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Greens Powders for PCOS: Nutritionist Answers (2024)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be a complex condition to manage. Navigating the multitude of dietary recommendations might be overwhelming. Amidst various suggestions, you may have come across the buzz about greens powders for PCOS.

Greens powders are dietary supplements designed to help you reach your daily nutrient quotas. They often include a blend of powdered plants like kale, spinach, and seaweed. As you seek out ways to support your health, especially if coping with PCOS, it’s critical to dissect the facts from online hype about these products.

Understanding the specific nutritional needs associated with PCOS is important in evaluating the potential benefits of incorporating a greens powder supplement into your diet. These powders often come packed with key vitamins and minerals, but the exact composition can vary significantly between brands and formulations. With claims of weight management assistance and hormonal balance, it’s essential to approach these powders with a discerning eye.

Safety and efficacy are paramount, so let’s explore the credibility of greens powders for PCOS.

Key Takeaways

  • Greens powders are marketed as nutrient-rich supplements.
  • There are many claims related to greens powders including such as reducing inflammation, improving energy levels, improving hormonal balance, reducing blood pressure, improving bloating and gut health.
  • Greens powders are processed which may reduce the amount of fibre and other nutrients present.
  • There is limited evidence for the benefits of greens powder and no evidence for greens powders for PCOS.
  • Safety and proper usage should be considered alongside the claims made on social media.

What are green powders?

Greens or green powders are powders that you add to drinks. They contain a mixture of leafy greens, algae, fruits and more. These fresh ingredients are dried and then ground into a powder. Some greens powders also contain probiotics.

Common greens powders you may have heard of include Free Soul Greens and Mango Greens, PCOS Diva Power Greens, Athletic Greens, Huel Daily Greens, Super Greens and Bloom.

Common Ingredients in Greens Powders

Greens powders are a condensed form of various nutritional elements, designed to complement your diet. The ingredients typically include a blend of:

  • Leafy Greens: Such as kale, spinach, and broccoli — all rich in vital vitamins and minerals.
  • Fruits: Often added for flavour and their antioxidant properties, like blueberries and acai.
  • Enzymes & Probiotics: These are included to support digestive health, which may be helpful for people with PCOS.
  • Additional Antioxidants: Ingredients like green tea extract can be common, contributing to the powder’s professed health benefits.

These powders aim to offer a wide variety of nutrients that might be less accessible in your daily diet.

Greens Powders vs. Whole Vegetables

When considering greens powders versus whole vegetables, it’s crucial to understand the differences:

  • Nutrient Density: While greens powders provide a concentrated dose of nutrients, they may lack the full fibre content of whole vegetables.
  • Absorption: Nutrients from whole foods are typically more easily absorbed by your body.
  • Satiety: Vegetables provide bulk and help you feel fuller for longer, whereas greens powders aren’t likely to be very satiating.

​The food and supplement industry lacks research into the macronutrients and micronutrient content of greens powders. Plus, some key nutrients such as polyphenols are unlikely to keep their benefits from being processed into powders.

Potential Benefits for Those with PCOS

Greens powders have been associated with various health benefits, which might pique your interest, particularly if you’re managing PCOS. These powders are often marketed as a convenient way to boost your nutrient intake, and a way to balance hormones or reduce inflammation. But let’s sort fact from fiction and see if greens powders really are a great way to supplement your diet, or a waste of money.

Influence on Inflammation

The anti-inflammatory properties of certain ingredients in greens powders may assist in reducing the chronic inflammation often seen in people with PCOS. The antioxidants present, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, may help to neutralise free radicals, potentially alleviating inflammatory responses. A small study with ten participants found that taking 6 teaspoons of Green+ powder daily for four week reduced oxidative stress. As this study was so small, we do require most robust research to understand the influence of green powders on inflammation, and specific research on PCOS participants.

Impact on Energy Levels

Maintaining optimal energy levels can be a struggle when dealing with PCOS. People with PCOS often struggle with fatigue and insomnia. But as the greens powders only contain 20-50 calories per scoop, it is unlikely that these powders will actually help you maintain your energy levels. So where do these energy claims come from?

Well, greens powders do often contain green tea extract which contains caffeine and may have an energy-boosting effect. Another small study of 63 people looked at the effect of green tea extract on energy levels and found that those given daily greens powders for 12 weeks had significantly higher energy levels than the placebo group. Again, promising results but we need higher quality studies to conclusively determine these potential health benefits.

Support for Hormonal Balance

Hormonal imbalance is a cornerstone challenge in PCOS. Some ingredients in greens powders might support hormonal balance by providing necessary nutrients that aid endocrine function. These could include minerals like magnesium which is essential for numerous hormonal pathways. However, there are no studies to our knowledge on greens powders for hormonal balance.

Some powders also include ingredients like Ashwagandha and Maca, but these traditional herbal remedies have a low-quality evidence base for improving hormonal balance.

Impact on Blood Pressure

PCOS is linked to hypertension (high blood pressure), regardless of BMI. Certain greens powders are rich in potassium, which helps to balance sodium levels and maintain healthy blood pressure. One 2006 study of 40 people saw that taking a greens supplements for three months reduced blood pressure compared to the control group. Again, this study is small so we need more evidence to understand the impact of greens powders on blood pressure.

Effect on Digestion, Gut Health and Bloating

Lastly, greens powders claim to enhance digestion and gut health. This is because they claim to be packed with “fibre-filled ingredients” to support the healthy bacteria in your gut, and therefore potentially easing bloating. But as the fruit and vegetables are processed to become powders, nearly all of the fibre content is likely removed during this. Plus, those living with PCOS and IBS may struggle to take greens powders because of their high FODMAP ingredients like asparagus powder, chicory root extract and inulin, for example.

Some greens powders also contain digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics. The digestive enzyme used in many green powders called bromelain, which naturally occurs in pineapples, doesn’t have sufficient evidence to claim that it effectively treats digestive issues, according to the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health.

The probiotics which are included in some greens powders may not be as helpful as they may appear. Probiotics require particular storage requirements to make sure the “good bacteria” stays alive by the time it gets to your gut. It’s unknown whether these powders are suitable for keeping probiotics alive.

Safety and Efficacy Considerations

When you’re considering greens powders as a potential supplement for managing PCOS, it’s essential to evaluate their safety and efficacy thoroughly. Claims on social media may not always be supported by robust research, so a critical approach is essential. If you are choosing to take a greens powder, make sure you are choosing one that has been involved in third-party testing.

Possible Side Effects

While greens powders are generally considered safe for most people, you should be aware of potential side effects. Some individuals may experience gas or bloating, especially when first introducing these supplements to their diet. These side effects are typically due to the high FODMAP ingredients in the powders, which can affect your digestive system especially if you have IBS or other GI issues. It’s essential to monitor your body’s response and adjust your intake accordingly.

Consulting Healthcare Providers

Safety should always be a priority, and consulting a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement, including greens powders, is crucial. They can provide guidance based on the latest research and help you understand how these supplements might interact with your PCOS management plan.

Remember, individual needs can vary greatly, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another. Therefore, your healthcare provider’s knowledge can ensure that any addition to your regimen is both safe and effective for your specific situation.

Contraindications

People who are breastfeeding or pregnant should avoid taking greens powders as there is no evidence of their impact on these populations. People on certain medications such as blood thinners should avoid taking greens powders without talking to their doctor first.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you’ll find answers to the most common queries regarding the use of greens powders for managing PCOS.

Can greens powders improve hormonal balance in individuals with PCOS?

There is no evidence to suggest that greens powders can improve hormonal balance in people with PCOS. They contain some ingredients which contain B vitamins which could be beneficial for hormonal wellbeing but we require more evidence to understand the impact of greens powders on hormonal balance in people living with PCOS.

Is it safe to consume greens powders daily if you have PCOS?

Daily consumption of greens powders is generally safe for people with PCOS, provided you are not breastfeeding, pregnant or taking certain medications. But taking too many supplements can lead to nutrient imbalances and other health problems so work with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to ensure you don’t overconsume supplements.

What are the potential side effects of taking greens powders for someone with PCOS?

While greens powders are often well-tolerated, some individuals with PCOS might experience bloating or digestive discomfort. It’s important to listen to your body and consult a healthcare practitioner if you notice any adverse effects.

Key Takeaways: A Nutritionist’s Opinion on Greens Powders and PCOS

Ultimately, greens powders cannot replace a varied diet and a range of fruits and vegetables. Plus, the claims made by companies selling greens powders often appear to be inflated. If you are considering a greens powder, choose one that has been third-party tested and is transparent about not only the ingredients, but the amount of each ingredient present in the powder. You should also consult with your doctor or healthcare team before taking new supplements.

Alex Okell ANutr Founder and Editor

Founder and Editor | Registered Associate Nutritionist

 

Founder of Be The Collective LTD [The PCOS Collective & The Endo Collective] Alex Okell ANutr is a London-based reproductive health nutritionist with experience in research, private practice and digital media. She holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition from King’s College London and has co-authored papers with the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, The Food Foundation and the Food Standards Agency. Alex offers 1:1 PCOS support in our virtual PCOS clinic.

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