There are no additional ingredients you can add to your smoothie besides protein powder. Exotic components are also appearing in powdered form with promises that they provide a quick route to excellent health, including goji, baobab, and medicinal mushrooms, among others.
According to a market research analysis released in October 2022, sales of these so-called superfood powders are predicted to soar, growing by over 10% annually to reach approximately $9 billion by 2027. Celebrities like Kevin Hart, Kate Hudson, and Gwyneth Paltrow have either supported or backed financially these items, which is likely what is driving the craze.
Superfood powders have some advantages. In a scoop of powder, they enable you to easily ingest a highly concentrated type of nutrient-dense foods, according to Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, the owner of Once Upon a Pumpkin in Chicago. They’re simple to include in smoothies and other foods and beverages, much like protein powder.
Should you thus try these superfood powders? Find out if a scoop or two is really beneficial to your health or if the cost is not justified.
What Are Powdered Superfoods?
Superfood powders are made to improve your gut health, provide you with more energy, and/or increase your intake of vitamins and minerals.
The majority of the time, fruits and vegetables, herbs, or other botanicals are used to make these powders, according to Amy Kimberlain, RD, CDCES, a Miami-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
These apples and bananas aren’t your usual dried fruits. Instead, the powders are frequently created using unusual components. As for what they are, Kimberlain clarifies, “exactly, they’re dried powdered herbs that you might not be able to find at your store since they’re extremely unusual.” Consider plants like acai, moringa, matcha, maca root, and lucuma. In addition to superfood powders with only one component, you can also get blends with a variety of superfoods.
There probably isn’t much to the word “superfood” other than marketing, despite the fact that it may sound amazing and unusual (like the packaging of these items, which is undoubtedly used to justify their very high price tags). All foods are great is a phrase I frequently use, according to Kimberlain. There are several foods that have been described using that phrase, but there are no superfoods in terms of nutrition.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there is no formal “superfood” classification and no set requirements for a food to be classified as a superfood. However, according to Cleveland Clinic, some foods are healthier than others (consider a salad loaded with vegetables as opposed to a hot dog and fries), and many common foods, like avocados and beets, offer outstanding, well-documented nutritional advantages.
Do Powdering and Dehydrating Superfoods Change Their Nutrient Content?
In some cases, it makes sense to concentrate and grind parts of those ingredients to create superfood powders. Since acai berries are difficult to locate at your neighborhood grocery shop, you might have to settle for a powdered form. The fact that these specific superfood powders are more difficult to find in whole-food form, according to Kimberlain, contributes to their popularity.
Superfood powders may also be considered a more “natural” or holistic way to include specific vitamins and nutrients in your diet. While Michalczyk advocates prioritizing whole foods in meals, she acknowledges that “superfood powder might be a valuable supplement” because it “can be hard to receive enough of some critical elements from our diets at times.”
However, it’s important to keep in mind that dehydration can affect the nutritional value of produce, potentially degrading vitamins C and A with heat and air, according to research from the University of Missouri. Superfood powders may suffer from the amount of time they spend on a shelf. A study that examined the nutritional value of powdered vegetables like broccoli and carrots and was published in the October 2021 issue of the journal Foods came to the conclusion that while these foods were nutrient-dense, the 12-month storage period may have had an impact on their phenolic content. According to Colorado State University, phenolic content is a measurement of substances that includes things like polyphenols and antioxidants that are in charge of many of these foods’ nutritional advantages.
Superfood powders may be nutrient-dense, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’ll have other health advantages. As a result of the scant study, notes Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, a registered dietitian-nutritionist located in Chicago and creator of the podcast Nourishing Notes, “There is no guarantee of their health benefit.” Any claims made on the items’ packaging or in their advertising should be viewed with a fair dose of skepticism.
According to Retelny, because superfood powders are classified as dietary supplements, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has minimal control over them. The FDA, for instance, states that it does not certify supplements as safe and effective prior to their sale.
Additionally, Kimberlain advocates speaking with a healthcare practitioner to evaluate your dosage and make sure a supplement like a superfood powder is suited for your specific needs before incorporating it into your regimen. It is best to keep cautious and steer clear of them if you are expecting or nursing. According to Kimberlain, “For many of these superfood powders, there isn’t enough data to tell if they are safe to consume while pregnant or breastfeeding.”
Using Superfood Powders
Your best bet if you want to try a superfood powder is to look for reputable brands like Navitas or Bob’s Red Mill, advises Retelny. “I usually say that full foods are preferable to pills or powders.” In spite of this, she continues, “If the superfood powder is manufactured without additives, fillers, flavorings, and sweeteners, it can be a good method to enhance the nutrients in your day.”
According to Kimberlain, you can search for certifications from independent third parties, such as “USDA Certified.” If you have any dietary limitations, such as a gluten allergy or following a vegan diet, labels can be very crucial.
The simplicity with which superfood powders can be incorporated into your diet is one of their benefits. According to Retelny, superfood powders are a quick and practical way to gain extra nutrition without a lot of preparation or planning. “It’s simple to get on with your day after adding a scoop of these superfood powders to regular beverages or baked products.”
Even some superfood powders might have a tasty flavor. Oatmeal, energy bites or even pancakes can nearly taste like they have a chocolate flavor thanks to cacao powder, says Kimberlain. Do some web study to find out which powders go well with which recipes because not all of them will (some may work better with savory meals). According to her, “It just really depends on what you’re producing and which powder you’re using.”
Learn about some of the most well-liked superfood powders and whether your diet would benefit from them.
1. acai powder
There is a reason why whole acai berries aren’t in your vegetable section. Kimberlain claims that acai berries are rarely sold since they rot quickly. Acai is therefore sold as a powder, juice, or puree, she explains. You may make your own version of the immensely popular acai bowl or add acai powder to smoothies.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that acai berries, which are native to Central and South America, contain the purple-hued antioxidant known as anthocyanin, according to a study published in the journal Foods in October 2020. According to Kimberlain, anthocyanin may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation and hence support brain health. Anthocyanins, for instance, may have brain-protective characteristics and may be helpful for a number of brain illnesses, according to one review of studies that was published in November 2020 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. However, additional research is required, especially in people.
Acai may lower blood sugar levels, according to a previous small study, but Kimberlain cautions those with diabetes to use it carefully. It’s crucial to check your blood sugar levels if you’re taking diabetes medication because some of them have the potential to diminish the effects of the medicine by dropping blood sugar levels too low.
2. Baobab Powder
The baobab tree, which can be found in Madagascar, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Australia, yields a fruit that is frequently used to make drinks, according to Britannica. Kimberlain continues, “The powder is frequently mixed together with a beverage of choice; also, you might throw a sprinkle into your porridge or yogurt.”
What about its health benefits? According to Kimberlain, “baobab is abundant in fiber, and that ties to satiety, which in turn may aid with weight management.” According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 3 grams (g) of fiber can be found in about a tablespoon of baobab powder.
Additionally, in a short study that was released in April 2017 by the journal Nutrition and Health, researchers offered smoothies with baobab supplements to 10 participants while giving plain smoothies to the other 10. Compared to the control group, those who drank the baobab smoothie felt less hungry afterward. The enhanced satiety may have been caused by the fiber, the researchers remarked, and they hypothesized that fiber may help people lose weight.
As it has a lot of fiber, Kimberlain continues, “that can also aid with GI health and prevent constipation – it definitely can help to keep a person regular. According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber can prevent or treat constipation.
3. Cacao Powder
Cocoa lovers, pay attention! In addition to receiving certain important nutrients, cacao powder has a mouthwatering, creamy flavor. Fermented and dried cacao beans are used to manufacture cacao powder (the same kind used to make chocolate and cocoa powder). Cacao powder is made by finely grinding unroasted beans into a powder. When the beans are roasted and processed at higher temperatures, cocoa powder is created. According to Kimberlain, cacao powder has a more bitter flavor, therefore you should incorporate it into a smoothie that also has other sweet ingredients.
Kimberlain explains that cacao is much lighter in color than cocoa powder and contains naturally occurring antioxidants. “Flavonoids, a family of antioxidants found in cacao, have been linked to enhanced heart function, may be improved cognition, and possibly reduced inflammation.” For instance, one study highlighted that cocoa is a significant source of flavonoids and has been extensively researched for its potential advantages against cardiovascular disease. The work was published in the July 2021 issue of BMC Genomics.
4. Maca Powder,
Maca appears to have an endless list of uses at first. According to Retelny, “Maca, or ‘Peruvian ginseng,’ is derived from an ancient root with a range of purported medical effects, including [alleviating] sexual dysfunction, neuroprotection, and stress-relieving characteristics, as well as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant qualities. Despite these assertions, a scientific assessment published in January 2020 in the journal Food & Function came to the conclusion that more investigation into the possible pharmacological applications of maca is required.
Retelny asserts that “further proof may be required to support these claims.” For instance, the authors of one study stated that the “traditional local knowledge about the health advantages of maca has been taken out of context to match the demands of a developing market for herbal treatments.” This study was published in January 2018 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
But because previous studies have shown it probably won’t have any negative side effects, you might want to give it a try if you enjoy the nutty flavor. To do so, try mixing maca powder into your coffee, cereal, or energy bars.
5. Lucuma Powder,
The famed Andean powder lucuma also referred to as the “Gold of the Incas,” is derived from a fruit rather than a root. According to Retelny, “Lucuma fruit has a vast variety of nutrients and phytochemicals,” and a study published in the August 2021 issue of the journal Molecules supported this claim.
According to the USDA, lucuma also contains fiber, with roughly 2 g per 5 g serving. According to Retelny, this could be one reason why lucuma powder could aid in blood sugar regulation. A previous study suggested that lucuma might have an antihyperglycemic effect (which implies preventing high blood sugar levels), but more human studies are required.
Are you prepared to start lucuma cooking? Retelny continues, “Lucuma powder can be used in baked items as a brown sugar alternative.
6. Powdered mushrooms
Despite being used for centuries in Asia to cure illnesses like cancer, medicinal mushrooms are currently popular, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Although Retelny points out, more research is required on therapeutic mushrooms including reishi, lion’s mane, chaga, shiitake, and cordyceps. Mushroom powder blends are available, as are the individual varieties.
According to Retelny, each one of them offers various health advantages, including those related to sleep, cognitive health, focus, energy, anxiety, and depression. They are renowned for their antiallergic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory capabilities (and the list goes on! ), according to a review of the possible advantages of medicinal mushrooms that were published in January 2021 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Retelny advises adding the mushroom powder to tea, pudding, smoothies, lattes, and soup as a way to use them. She advises doing so in moderation; you should adhere to the directions on the package’s label because taking too much of reishi mushrooms might cause nausea; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center notes this negative effect.
7. Turmeric Powder,
The powder is well-liked for a reason. According to Michalczyk, curcumin, often known as turmeric powder, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics. The Mayo Clinic advises including turmeric in curries or chutney since it has been shown to have a beneficial effect on conditions like type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, and obesity.
One piece of advice, says Michalczyk, is to buy turmeric powder with black pepper mentioned as an ingredient to improve absorption. She claims that higher amounts of turmeric powder ingestion have been linked to minimizing adverse effects, but Mayo Clinic advises that as long as you keep your serving size to 8 g per day, it is safe.
8. Goji Powder,
Goji berries are sometimes found in trail mix and breakfast cereals, but they are also becoming more and more well-liked in powder form. According to Michalczyk, goji powder is well known for its health-promoting properties, including being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, antibacterial, and more.
Regular consumption of goji berries may help prevent or delay age-related macular degeneration, according to a study that was released in the journal Nutrients in December 2021.
Be aware that a past evaluation of researchers found evidence of a potential interaction between the drug warfarin and Lycium, a type of goji berry, which may raise the risk of bleeding before you start adding the powder to your smoothie.