It’s obvious that if you’re taking a multivitamin or a green powder that you want to be healthy.
But it can get a bit confusing, as the world of nutrition often is, as to which exactly is the healthier option.
Once upon a time, there were just multivitamins. Now many green powders have joined multivitamins in the vitamin and health isles.
To make things more confusing, not all green powders contain the same ingredients. So are all green powders made equal?
Although the same can be said of multivitamins, they have been around for so long already. Most of us have taken them at one point or another and experienced at minimum, no harmful effects.
So, green powders vs multivitamins. Which is better? Read on to find out.
The Quick Answer: Green Powders are Superior
This is because they are more natural and provide a good way to supplement the nutrient intake you get from food. There is less risk of an overdose.
You can also get additional beneficial ingredients such as probiotics and adaptogens along with your powdered veggies.
As long as you are eating healthily as often as possible, a green powder should fill in the gaps nicely.
I recommend Garden of Life Perfect Food Green Superfood if you’d like something with just a few vitamins and minerals. It also contains probiotics and enzymes.
If you want a green powder that has the same variety of nutrients as a multivitamin and natural ingredients, try Athletic Greens Ultimate Daily.
I suspect they added some vitamins and minerals to achieve this.
But there are also good reasons why you may feel more comfortable with a multivitamin.
|Vitamins and minerals are usually natural, made from a combination of actual veggies, fruit, herbs, adaptogens, probiotics, and enzymes.||Nutrients are mostly synthetic although there are a few brands that use whole foods.|
|Reputable green powders are purer.||Tablets are often filled with questionable fillers, binders and colorants.|
|The risk of an overdose is lower due to the natural form of the nutrients and nutrient amounts.||Some brands are too high in nutrients posing a risk of overdose.|
|Green powders rarely provide the same variety of nutrients as multivitamins.||Multivitamins cover all the bases but bear in mind that you may not need to supplement all nutrients.|
|Almost all green powders are entirely plant-based, gluten-free, lactose-free, and kosher.||Many multivitamins aren’t vegan-friendly or suitable for those with allergies, check the labels.|
|Green powders are safe for most adults but may need to be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, children, or those on medications.||Multivitamins are often tailored to various stages of life, certain conditions, and even gender.|
|Green powders only come in powder form.||Multivitamins are available as tablets, capsules, softgels, sprays, and liquid.|
What Are Green Powders?
Green powders are essentially dried and finely ground veggies.
Some of them contain just dark green vegetables but some options contain other vegetables, fruit, adaptogens, herbs, spices, probiotics, etc.
For the most part, it’s easy to find pure green powders that contain only whole food ingredients that we can all pronounce and recognize.
Most are also sugar-free and vegan-friendly as they are plant-based.
What Are Multivitamin Supplements Actually Made Of?
I’m going to assume that we all know what multivitamins are. But do we actually know what they’re made of? Do they take the vitamins and minerals out of fresh produce and/or meat?
The answer is that most multivitamin supplements are synthetic. There are a few that use natural vitamins and minerals, but doing this costs more money.
Some vitamins and minerals are also less stable when removed from the whole food source which is part of why these supplements are more expensive.
Synthetic ingredients aren’t necessarily bad for you. Synthetic vitamins and minerals have the same chemical structure as natural vitamins and minerals and offer good bioavailability.
It’s more the amounts of the nutrients that can be excessive or too small to make a good impact.
Sometimes it’s the form of the nutrient that may be problematic. More on this later.
Having said this, I would recommend that you go with a natural option given that not all synthetic vitamins may be used by the body differently and have more potential of being overdosed.
I will always advocate for proper food over supplements. But considering the state of the soil and our stressful busy lifestyles, a multivitamin can be helpful, even in synthetic form.
The Pros of Green Powders
These pros are largely dependent on reputable brands.
Most Green Powders Are Pure
Most powders are pure, although a few may have an additive that prevents clumping and allows for easy flow. Some also are flavored and/or sweetened. But you won’t struggle to find pure products.
Most Green Powders Cater to a Variety of Diets
Unless your green powder is a meal replacement, chances are good that the powder is:
- Vegan and vegetarian friendly
If you are considering a green powder while pregnant, breastfeeding, on chronic medication, or for your kids, first check with your doctor about all the ingredients.
Not all adaptogens and herbs are safe during these situations.
Green Powders Contain Antioxidants
Dark green vegetables are high in antioxidants and in their dried and ground forms, these antioxidants stay intact.
Unlike antioxidant supplements, green powders a safe way to boost your antioxidant intake through a supplement.
This is because the body processes antioxidants along with other nutrients differently in actual food. Fresh produce is essentially the perfect delivery system for these antioxidants.
The Cons of Green Powders
As with the pros, these cons mainly pertain to the not-so-great brands, although this isn’t true for every single con either.
The Nutrient Content Isn’t Always Guaranteed
There are a few trusted companies that send their products for analysis.
So many times I’ve come across powders, in some cases, from very popular brands, that give no indication of the nutrient content.
Some companies give the explanation that it’s difficult to measure the exact quantity present in each scoop.
This is understandable to a small degree, but in my opinion, this is a bit of a cop-out. There are a few reputable brands that provide the nutrient content per scoop.
There may be some discrepancy with regard to a few extra granules, but if you use a flattened scoop or whatever they recommend, the amounts shouldn’t be too different from what they say.
Reputable brands will also give you access to reports, either freely available on their website or upon request from the nutrient analysis and safety tests, preferably done by third-party labs.
Green Powders Don’t Contain as Wide a Range of Nutrients as Multivitamins
If you want a product that covers all your bases, it can take some doing to find a brand that contains the same vitamins and minerals as a multivitamin.
It all depends on the types of fruit and vegetables they use, whether they add mushrooms or herbs, etc.
It’s likely that they may contain more vitamins and minerals than they state, but that the amount of each of those was too small to be put on the label.
Again, choose a reliable brand.
Green Powders Are Generally Only Available As Powders
If you’re more of a “pop a pill” kind of person, you may find it tedious or unpleasant to use a powder.
If you don’t enjoy the taste, you’ll find it helpful to mix it with fruit or juice or even a protein shake if you take one.
It’s not the end of the world if you don’t like the taste. Just get creative. But texture may also be an issue depending on the ingredients. This can also be minimized by using the powder in smoothies.
The Pros of Multivitamins
Ditto on the reputable brands being responsible for some of these pros.
You Can Cover All Your Bases With Multivitamins
If you don’t want to take a bunch of single nutrient vitamin or mineral supplements, a multivitamin is a good option in some cases. Look for one that includes mineral
This is also true if you want to fill in the nutritional gaps in general, but aren’t sure what they are exactly. We all know blood tests are expensive in general.
It’s one or two servings a day, and you’re done.
Multivitamins Are Measured Precisely
All the multivitamins that I’ve come across have the exact nutrient quantities listed. Reputable brands will contain the exact amount that they actually claim to have in the supplement.
Reputable brands will also list all the nutrients.
Multivitamins Are Formulated For Specific Purposes
I’m going to leave out those formulated for things like acne, PMS, healthy joints, etc as they only contain a handful of vitamins.
Multivitamins often contain a full range of vitamins and many contain a range of minerals too.
You can find multivitamins tailored for:
- Pregnant women
Multivitamins Are Available in a Variety of Mediums
You can choose between tablets, capsules, powders, sprays, and syrups.
The Cons of Multivitamins
The biggest questions here are can you trust your preferred brands and have you checked which vitamins and/or minerals you’re actually deficient or low in?
Multivitamins Can Provide Excess Nutrients
The thing about supplementing with multivitamins is that you can’t pick and choose which vitamins and/or minerals you need to take.
If your diet is generally unhealthy, you may benefit from taking a multivitamin. But some of us only need certain nutrients.
Taking a multivitamin may be harming your health more than helping in this case.
For example, vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. This means that in order to be absorbed and utilized by the body you need to eat fat.
Fat-soluble vitamins also stick around a lot longer in your body and you run the risk of overdosing on them.
In excess, nutrients like vitamin A, D, iron, and selenium are toxic and can make you ill and even cause long-term or permanent damage.
Reputable multivitamin brands likely won’t contain 100% of the RDA (recommended daily amount). This is a much better approach since you do still eat food I’m hoping.
The exception may be some prenatal vitamins as many pregnant women struggle to keep food down.
Some Multivitamin Supplements Provide Insufficient Nutrient Quantities
Some multivitamin supplements provide low amounts of the nutrients and won’t make a proper impact.
Some multivitamins provide the same RDA as reputable brands but use less bioavailable (can be absorbed and used by the body) forms of nutrients. For example:
- Magnesium oxide is a poor choice versus the more bioavailable magnesium citrate.
- Vitamin D3 is more bioavailable than vitamin D2
If you take a supplement but your body isn’t absorbing the nutrients optimally, you aren’t getting the full benefit.
Some Multivitamins Use Less Beneficial Ingredients or Harmful Forms of Nutrients
Did you know that certain forms of magnesium cause diarrhea in some people? Namely magnesium carbonate, magnesium gluconate, and magnesium oxide.
These forms of magnesium are usually present in cheap supplements. Rather go for a supplement that contains magnesium citrate.
Some people have an MTHFR gene mutation which makes it harder for the body to convert folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) into L-methylfolate.
This is the natural form of folate which the body uses to perform various functions like making red blood cells and aid the proper formation of a fetus’s brain, skull, and spine.
Taking folic acid isn’t contraindicated, but high doses of it can be the problem. Your doctor will be able to advise you. But if you are concerned, some multivitamins contain methylfolate.
Synthetic Food Colorants
I suppose it’s nice that tablets can be dyed and look more exciting. But honestly, what is the point really.
Synthetic colorants are now being linked to ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and allergies.
I was pretty skeptical. Sure, my mom and grandmother told me that if I had a glass of red or green cooldrink I’d be bouncing off the walls non-stop for hours afterward.
But I figured it could have been the sugar or simply the liveliness of youth before adulting kicks in and things like bills and rent come your way.
Yet, this is what scientists theorize has been happening.
Most studies are done on mice or rabbits. Need I point out that neither you nor I are mice or rabbits? So again, I wonder about association and causality.
Still, there has been an increase of these issues in humans. It could certainly be the colorants.
Even scarier is that when talc is used to color tablets and other foods white, it’s not worked out too well for those consuming them, leading to stomach issues and even cancer.
If you like colorful supplements, go for those with natural colorants instead of the potentially nasty synthetic colorants. The exception of course, would be talc. Natural isn’t always good.
Additives Including Certain Fillers, Binders, and Flow Agents
Other dubious ingredients include magnesium stearate, D-mannitol, microcrystalline cellulose, low-substituted hydroxypropyl cellulose, and silicic acid which can form formaldehyde.
I’m sure that the levels are pretty low, but it’s still concerning. Another additive, sodium benzoate can turn into benzene. Lovely.
Sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate may also cause DNA damage.
Best to get tablets free of these ingredients or choose capsules or liquid instead. It’s tedious, but read the labels before buying products.
Not All Are Vegan and Vegetarian Friendly
The addition of lactose, gelatine, and even certain types of glycerine make some supplements unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Some vitamins and minerals can also be derived from animals. For example, vitamin D3 in most cases is derived from the oil (lanolin) on sheep’s wool. Vegan vitamin D3 is derived from lichens.
Bear in mind that vitamin D3 is more bioavailable than vitamin D2
Check the label to make sure it says vegan or vegetarian-friendly.