I think it’s fair to say we all need to be eating more fruits and vegetables. That, or we need to supplement the nutrients we’re missing out on ... which is probably why you're reading this article.
So, let's get into it.
According to the CDC, only 9% of adults met the recommended intake of veggies, and 12% for fruits in 2015 (1). Those recommended amounts are 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of veggies per day.
That’s a staggering statistic if you ask me, but it gets worse. Even for the people who are getting the right amount of fruits and veggies, they may be eating the same ones (2).
The problem is, if you always eat the same foods, you only get the spectrum of nutrients that come in those foods. As a result of this, you’ll be missing out on a lot, and that can lead to deficiency in some key nutrients.
Ideally, you would get all of your nutrients from whole foods to cover all your bases. If that were the case, then there wouldn’t be an actual need to supplement anything!
Although, most people still won't actually change their diet after hearing those statistics.
I get it ... I don’t consume 2-3 cups of veggies every day.
I also understand that it’s hard to change your lifestyle and eating habits ... then stick with it long-term.
Heck, it’s hard enough to make sure you get enough protein and stay in a good calorie range. Making sure you also get your fruits and veggies can take some extra care and planning ... which is something so many of us miss out on.
Instead, it’s easier for me, and for many other people, to fill in nutritional gaps with supplements.
Because of this, a lot of people find themselves asking the question: "Should I take a greens powder or a multivitamin?"
I can 100% relate to you if you’re asking that question. I wasn’t even sure exactly how to answer that for myself early on in my fitness journey until I looked a little deeper.
When it comes to which is right for you and your lifestyle, you may not even need to choose one or the other. I’d actually argue that both can benefit you when used alongside one another.
After all, they aren’t designed for the same purpose ... and while they both contain vitamins and minerals, they are still two completely different supplements.
That’s what I’m here to help you understand today. By the end of this article, you should have a much better grasp on what these supplements are, and when to choose each.
Let’s start with multivitamins.
What are Multivitamins?
Multivitamins are supplements that contain the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis. I like to think of multivitamins as your personal health insurance policy.
They can help you make sure you are covered from a nutrition standpoint every day. However, you should know that not all multivitamins are created equal.
Some multivitamins don’t even have all of the vitamins and minerals you could be missing in your diet. Some of them may have several different vitamins and minerals, but only trace amounts of each.
On the other hand, some differences can be great. You still may find differences in nutrient content because they're designed for different people.
Some are designed for growing children and their needs...
Some are designed for older people...
Some for athletes...
...and some are designed for women who are pregnant or nursing.
With all of these differences, you just need to find which one is best for you and your needs.
Benefits of Multivitamins
Look, we all have different nutritional needs. A good multivitamin can help ensure that your body has what it needs to function the way it's supposed to.
I know what a lot of you are thinking, because I’ve thought this before too: “I don’t use a multivitamin, and I don’t eat a lot of fruits and veggies. My body seems to be functioning just fine.”
This may be what you think, but that’s because a lot of the signs are very discreet.
For instance, if you don’t eat a lot of animal products, you might not get enough of the more absorbable forms of iron or vitamin B12. This can cause symptoms like feeling cold, tired, or even experiencing shortness of breath. It can also cause random headaches, and affect your memory too (4).
Now, you may feel like you’re just getting sick and not think twice. Heck, you may even blame your sleep quality from the night before. But, the reality is: there's a good chance you're not giving your body the nutrients it needs on a consistent basis, and your body is suffering as a result.
Multivitamins help to fill in the gaps you naturally have in your diet. That’s what they’re there for.
Without a good multivitamin, the gaps you have in your nutrition could also lead to lower energy levels and mood. Believe it or not, vitamins can even affect your metabolism (14).
That’s why it's so important to make sure that you are getting them, and in the right amounts.
Most people I know who add in a good multivitamin end up having more energy, better mood, and get sick less often too.
You could always try to look up the foods you eat, and gauge what vitamins you’re lacking. That way, you can choose the right multivitamin for you.
That takes a lot of work though, and I don’t recommend it, especially since diets do vary day to day. You would just end up deep diving for hours on google every single day.
No matter how much I love being a nerd about this stuff, I don’t have the time to do that, and I'm sure you don't either ... which is why multivitamins can be so beneficial. You get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs without having to think about it!
That’s enough on multivitamins though, let's take a look at greens powders.
What Are Greens Powders?
Greens powders are actually quite different from multivitamins. Greens powders are a blend of superfood greens, grasses, and other plant extracts that are beneficial for your overall health.
Their main purpose is to provide you with the green superfoods and phytonutrients that you are lacking in your diet.
Depending on which one you get, they may even have some blends in them that benefit other aspects of health. These could be things like your immune health, gut health, and blood sugar.
While these greens powders do contain vitamins, they aren’t designed to cover all of your daily vitamin needs. They are generally designed with specific health benefits in mind such as immunity and gut health.
Benefits of Greens Powders
There are a bunch of benefits to taking a high-quality greens powder. Notice I used the word “high-quality” … that’s for a reason.
Just because a product is a greens powder doesn’t mean it's a good one, and that goes for all supplements. With that being said, the benefits will vary depending on which ingredients they use and how they come processed.
For instance, a common ingredient in greens supplements is spirulina. Spirulina is a type of blue green algae with a ton of benefits!
It was used by NASA as a supplement for astronauts in space for it’s benefits (7) which may include:
• Reduced inflammation
• A lower risk for cancer
• Anti-viral effects
• Protecting against allergic reactions
It’s a straight-up superfood! In fact, organic spirulina is actually the second most abundant ingredient in my favorite greens powder.
Other than spirulina though, barley grass is another superfood to look for in a greens powder. This is a big one that makes it different from pretty much all multivitamins.
Studies show that barley grass is the best functional food for eliminating toxins from human cells (8). It is seriously jam-packed with nutrients that go far beyond vitamins and minerals.
Barley grass even has properties such as:
• Anti-diabetic effects
• Anti-depressant effects
• Benefits for GI function
• Anti-inflammatory effects (8)
…and the list goes on.
Just those 2 types of greens sound like they can completely change your health! It certainly has for me over the years, and I'm already in great health.
Some of the higher-quality greens powders take it a step further. They also benefit your digestion and gut health with digestive enzymes and probiotics.
Digestive enzymes help you break down your foods more. This can help to relieve a lot of GI distress, bloating, and nausea (10).
Breaking down your foods further can help with nutrient absorption as well.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that not only benefit digestion, but overall gut health. Not only can your gut help with how you feel, but it can also help improve your:
• Immune system
• Energy levels
• Stress response
Those are just a handful of the benefits of greens powders. Don’t forget though, not every greens powder is as good as the other. It largely depends on the ingredients and quality of those ingredients.
So … Should You Take a Greens Powder or Multivitamin?
Should you take a greens powder or multivitamin? The answer is both … if you want to maximize your health!
Either one alone will be great for you, but won’t cover the benefits of the other. Too many people, and articles you find on google, talk about them as if they are the same thing.
They are not.
...and even though these are both great supplements for your health … supplements aren’t all you should care about either. You need to take care of your diet first.
That said, if you don’t plan on eating more fruits and veggies, then you should make sure you’re supplementing correctly.
Let’s take a look at what to look for in a multivitamin and greens powder. That way, you know exactly what to look for when you go to pick out which one is right for you!
How to Choose a High-Quality Multivitamin
When it comes to choosing a quality multivitamin, there are a few things to pay attention to.
First of all, you need to make sure you’re getting a sufficient dose of your essential vitamins and minerals. Not every vitamin should be up to 100% of the daily value on the label, but a majority of them should be. Some of them may strategically be a little lower so you don’t get too much between the multivitamin and your diet.
Look for added benefits like probiotics, antioxidants, essential fats, and fruit & veggie extracts. Some of them won’t be the same amount you’ll get in a greens powder, but every bit helps!
Personally, I recommend making sure it comes in a capsule or powder. Definitely avoid any multivitamin that comes as a hard-pressed tablet.
It can be more difficult for your body to digest the hard-pressed tablet than soft gels or powders. Plus, if you’re taking any supplement, you obviously want to digest and absorb it! Otherwise, you’re just wasting your money.
Something to keep in mind too is making sure you don’t take too much of your vitamins. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing too.
For most vitamins, this isn’t really an issue. For vitamins like A, D, and E for example though, you want to make sure you don’t over-supplement. Most multivitamins won’t have too much of these, but other supplements might also have some too.
Multiple supplements together can cause you to take too much, so be careful. For example, there are 2 main forms of vitamin A in supplements: beta carotene, and retinol.
Retinol is much more potent. If you take too much, it can cause issues like headaches, blurred vision, nausea, and dizziness (6).
If your multivitamin uses beta carotene as vitamin A, you’re in luck because there isn’t the same risk of it being toxic (5). So if you’re worried about that, check what form of vitamin A is being used in your multivitamin.
I do have one other thing to note as well.
There are a lot of other articles you may find claiming that you don't absorb synthetic vitamins. They say that you should only get vitamins from natural sources.
However, that’s not what the real scientific studies actually show. Let’s look at synthetic B vitamins vs natural B vitamins in a randomized controlled trial.
In this study, they tested the absorption differences of natural and synthetic B-vitamins. Both groups had increased vitamin levels, and saw increases in antioxidant activity (3).
There were no significant differences between the two groups. So while I do agree some vitamins should be in natural forms, it doesn’t make a huge difference based on this study.
I know that was a lot, but now you should have a much better idea of how to pick a quality multivitamin!
If you’re curious what vitamins we have to offer, my favorite is Micro Factor. Micro Factor is an essential daily nutrient pack which gives you a full multivitamin along with so much more!
How to Choose a Quality Greens Powder
With a lot of greens powders out there, I understand it’s hard to know what to look for. In my opinion, there are a few key things to look for specifically.
For one, make sure the greens are organic. Organic greens have been shown to have higher amounts of nutrients left in them (12). More nutrients from the crop is not a bad thing!
Next, check to see what kinds of blends it contains. If there is only one blend of greens and nothing more, you're missing out on the benefits other greens powders have.
Another thing to look for is whether the greens powder has a probiotic and digestive enzymes. On top of this, the number of strains in the probiotic is more important than the total amount in it. Different enzymes can help break down different types of food, so having a variety here is also very beneficial.
Last but not least, make sure the greens powder is low-temperature processed. When vitamins and probiotics get exposed to high heat, it can alter the value of the ingredients (13).
At 1st Phorm, we cover all 4 of these bases when it comes to quality. That’s why I know you’ll love Opti-Greens 50.
Just peek at the ingredients and the reviews. It’s the real deal, and is a supplement you can actually feel a difference with!
Conclusion: Take Both
With how unhealthy western society is today, it’s important that people start taking control of their health. I’m glad you decided to read this today because it means you’re on the right track!
Fruit and veggie consumption has gone down over time, and people are getting less and less nutrients. While it would be great for everyone to change their diet, it’s not likely going to be that simple or easy.
Supplementing the nutrients you’re missing in your diet is crucial to living a long and healthy life. That is more than just your vitamins and minerals.
Most people don’t know how many types of nutrients there are out there besides the main vitamins and minerals that we benefit from. According to a research scientist at Northwestern university, we actually have between 20,000-30,000 different chemical compounds in our food (9).
… and each one has the ability to interact with our body in unique ways.
So, a quality greens powder will have quite a few of these different compounds that a multivitamin doesn’t have. But, that greens powder won’t cover all of your essential vitamins and minerals in amounts that a quality multivitamin will.
So in the end, you do want to make sure you’re getting the best of both worlds if you want to maximize your overall health.
If you still have questions, or need help with anything else … reach out to us! We have a full team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Certified Nutrition Coaches who can help. Just shoot us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com or give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 anytime!
(1) “Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Nov. 2017, www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html
(2) Varner, Becky. “Insider’s Viewpoint: Get Your Nutrients by Eating a Colorful Variety of Fruits & Veggies!” Have A Plant, fruitsandveggies.org/stories/insiders-viewpoint-get-nutrients-eating-colorful-variety-fruits-veggiesAccessed 2 May 2023.
(3) Lindschinger M, Tatzber F, Schimetta W, Schmid I, Lindschinger B, Cvirn G, Stanger O, Lamont E, Wonisch W. A Randomized Pilot Trial to Evaluate the Bioavailability of Natural versus Synthetic Vitamin B Complexes in Healthy Humans and Their Effects on Homocysteine, Oxidative Stress, and Antioxidant Levels. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019 Dec 12;2019:6082613. doi: 10.1155/2019/6082613. PMID: 31915511; PMCID: PMC6930747.
(4) Salamon, Maureen. “The Truth about Nutrient Deficiencies.” Harvard Health, 1 June 2022, https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/the-truth-about-nutrient-deficiencies.
(5) NIH. “Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin A and Carotenoids.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-Consumer/.
(6) Clifford, J, and A Kozil. “Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, and K - 9.315.” Extension, 27 Mar. 2019, https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/fat-soluble-vitamins-a-d-e-and-k-9-315/.
(7) Karkos PD, Leong SC, Karkos CD, Sivaji N, Assimakopoulos DA. Spirulina in clinical practice: evidence-based human applications. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:531053. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nen058. Epub 2010 Oct 19. PMID: 18955364; PMCID: PMC3136577.
(8) Zeng Y, Pu X, Yang J, Du J, Yang X, Li X, Li L, Zhou Y, Yang T. Preventive and Therapeutic Role of Functional Ingredients of Barley Grass for Chronic Diseases in Human Beings. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2018 Apr 4;2018:3232080. doi: 10.1155/2018/3232080. PMID: 29849880; PMCID: PMC5904770.
(9) Castañón, Laura. “Unraveling the Chemical Compounds in Food Could Improve How We Manage Our Health.” Northeastern Global News, 9 Aug. 2022, https://news.northeastern.edu/2019/12/10/heres-what-a-map-of-every-chemical-compound-in-your-food-could-mean-for-your-health/.
(10) Quinten T, Philippart JM, De Beer T, Vervarcke S, Van Den Driessche M. Can the supplementation of a digestive enzyme complex offer a solution for common digestive problems? Arch Public Health. 2014 Jun 6;72(Suppl 1):P7. doi: 10.1186/2049-3258-72-S1-P7. PMCID: PMC4094108.
(11) BMJ. “Anxiety Might Be Alleviated by Regulating Gut Bacteria.” BMJ, https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/anxiety-might-be-alleviated-by-regulating-gut-bacteria/.
(12) Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Apr;15(1):4-12. PMID: 20359265.
(13) “Degradation of Vitamins, Probiotics and Other Active Ingredients Caused by Exposure to Heat, Water and Sunlight.” Nutraceutical Business Review, https://www.nutraceuticalbusinessreview.com/news/article_page/Degradation_of_vitamins_probiotics_and_other_active_ingredients_caused_by_exposure_to_heat_water_and_sunlight/145924.
(14) Kennedy DO, Stevenson EJ, Jackson PA, Dunn S, Wishart K, Bieri G, Barella L, Carne A, Dodd FL, Robertson BC, Forster J, Haskell-Ramsay CF. Multivitamins and minerals modulate whole-body energy metabolism and cerebral blood-flow during cognitive task performance: a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2016 Feb 11;13:11. doi: 10.1186/s12986-016-0071-4. PMID: 26870152; PMCID: PMC4750202.