Today’s review is Garden of Life’s newer version of its Green Food supplement, Perfect Food RAW (as opposed to the original Perfect Food product which has already been on sale for many years).
(Side note: for the rest of this review I’m going to omit the RAW in all capital letters part of the title and just call it the Perfect Food Raw. For some reason it’s mentally fatiguing to continually type something in all caps).
The Garden of Life brand of products has been sold in retail stores for some time which should set the bar pretty high because this tells us that the company has met the standards that places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s place on their suppliers and survived the gauntlet of cost-conscious consumer shopping.
This means we should expect to see extensive use of ingredient certifications, an at least solid-if-not-spectacular ingredient list and reasonable price. And this is indeed what we get. Garden of Life’s Perfect Food Raw is a nice product that, in addition to achieving the major benchmarks of quality you’d want to see in this sort of supplement, also manages to differentiate itself from some of its major retail competitors in a way that’s quite impressive for a product as widespread as it is.
But of course let’s start with a disclaimer:
I market a similar product. However I write these reviews to educate and not slander. When it comes to these things I think the golden rule is best: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. I write from my own personal experience and yours may differ. If so….that’s great. I only write about companies that I believe are honest and ethical, and for me to consider them is an implicit signal that I like what they stand for.
Okay, so here goes.
How It’s Unique
Overall the Perfect Food Raw is well balanced and high quality. It contains 34 different vegetable juice powders, digestive enzymes, and probiotics.
However, I think the following qualities are the most important fulcrum points that make it distinct:
- Entirely organic and certified Non-GMO, vegan and dairy free
- Makes extensive use of grass juice powders instead of simply using fruit or vegetable powder
- Makes extensive use of sprouts. 15% of the formula by weight and 12 different sprouts in all
- Unusually large variety of digestive enzymes included in the mixture
- No Stevia or Lecithin
With that being said, it’d be useful to talk about these different points in detail to understand how they affect the quality of the supplement.
The Perfect Food Raw is certified organic through an organization called QAI. I’ve previously written that the organic standard means a product is sourced and manufactured by suppliers that meet the USDA protocol for various production inputs such as soil fertilizers, pesticide use, treatment of animals, wild-crop harvesting, crop rotations, and manufacturing protocols followed within the facility. The USDA enforces the organic standard through third party companies which will always be listed on the label.
While it’s important to note that being certified organic does not mean pesticides weren’t used, it’d be silly to think this is anything but a plus for the perfect food, especially since it’s competitively priced (definitely not the case for all organic products).
A confusing aspect about supplements are the many different forms an ingredient can take. You can have powders, juice powders, and concentrated extracts of an ingredient.
Regular fruit and vegetable powders (ie, wheatgrass powder) is the least processed, least expensive, and least dense form of the ingredient. These ingredients are dehydrated and crushed. If you wanted to you could do it at home with an Excalibur Food Dehydrator and Vitamix.
Juice powders (ie, wheatgrass juice powder) are made by juicing the dry produce and then either freeze or spray drying them to create the powder. Juice powders are a little more concentrated while still maintaining the “natural form” of the ingredient, but the drying process for juice powders is a little more complex and can sometimes include the use of solvents which scares some people off.
Extracts (ie, wheatgrass 4:1 extract) are the most intense and most appropriate for a supplement that’s attempting to mimic a pharmaceutical (not the case for the Perfect Food Raw).
I think juice powders are a good choice for this type of product because they pack a little more punch than regular fruit and vegetable powders, can provide more sweetness, and are typically a little more palatable than non-juice powders, which can be astringent and coarse.
The Perfect Food Raw is distinct for its fine texture and mixibility despite not having lecithin in its mixture, and I think the inclusion of juice powders is why. It also has the benefit of only freeze-drying its juice powders, which eliminate potential complications from using solvents in the drying process.
Perfect Food Raw includes 12 different sprouted seeds and grains which comprise about 16% of the mixture by weight. Sprouts are slightly germinated seeds of grains and other vegetables that have slightly higher levels of digestive enzymes that make them more easily absorbed by the body.
As far as I know, the BoKu Superfood (another excellent product) is the only other greens product that makes such extensive use of sprouted products in its mixture.
Are sprouts the make-or-break feature of a nutrient powder? No. They’re not essential for having an excellent product, and there are quite a few excellent ones (like Vitamineral and Pure Synergy) that do equally well without using sprouts in their mixture.
But they are a benefit and difficult to find and I don’t know of another greens product that offers such a wide variety in its mixture.
Lecithin and Stevia
Lecithin and Stevia are not used in the Perfect Food Raw mixture and that’ll certainly please many people.
These two ingredients, despite seeming innocuous, frequently create tipping points for whether or not someone will buy a greens powder.
Stevia seems like a natural fit (a bad pun, I digress) for greens powders. It comes from a tree. It tastes great. It has no odious speculation about hidden dangers surrounding it. And supplement makers even have the benefit of using the real thing instead of insanely concentrated isolates that are patented by Big Ag. But despite these qualities it turns people away from a product just as often as it turns them on. If you’re not careful the taste can be overwhelming, and for many people it can give a nutrient powder a taste that doesn’t seem authentic, or poorly contrasted with the earthy taste of its major ingredients.
Lecithin arouses similar divisiveness. It’s essential to human functioning and can’t be made by the body. It gives our cell membranes fluidity that allows them to transport nutrients in and out of cells more efficiently. It’s an important structural component of our nervous system and has documented health benefits for cognition and cholesterol metabolism. And perhaps most importantly, it helps bind ingredients together in the digestive tract and allows them to be digested more efficiently.
But for many people it seems out of place in a greens/nutrient powder. It just doesn’t belong, and detracts from the purity of the mixture. A sizable portion of greens powder customers feel this way, and excluding lecithin undoubtedly makes the Perfect Food Raw more pristine and deserving of its name.
I can typically tell when a greens powder uses lecithin in its mixture because they’re a little more mixable and have a better consistency. However, the Perfect Food Raw is unique since it manages to have these same qualities despite not using it in its mixture.
This is a sign of intelligent formulation and careful manufacturing.
The Perfect Food has a deep green color, likely due to its reliance on grass juices. Its taste is rich and earthy and reflects its wide variety of ingredients, which you can see here:
What I found most distinct about the taste of the Perfect Food was the hints of tomato in it. The aftertaste of grasses, algaes, and spinach are typical in these types of drinks is but I can’t remember ever being able to taste a tomato in one.
I found this enjoyable because it makes you feel like you’re drinking a liquid garden, which is the whole point of these drinks.
People looking to sweeten it up could easily mix it up with a little bit of juice, some blended fruit, smoothies, or yogurt to give it a more familiar palette. After taking these drinks long enough a deep greens taste is pleasant to me, but if you’re at the beginning of your green drink learning curve it’s a good idea to add a little bit of sweetness.
If you’re looking for a recipe, here’s an appropriately titled “Garden Green” smoothie from the Williams Sonoma blog which would compliment the Perfect Food really well.
1/4 cup water
1 orange, peeled, halved, seeded
1 celery stalk, halved
1 small carrot, halved
1 green apple, cored, quartered
1/2 medium zucchini, cut into large chunks
1 cup romaine lettuce
1 cup kale, spine removed
Despite its extensive certifications and clean ingredient list the Perfect Food still clocks in at well under $30 for a 240g bottle on Amazon. It’d be easy to charge more and market the product differently to justify the price, but I give the good folks at Garden of Life quite a bit of credit for charging much less than they could.
So all in all this is a very good product. It will satisfy the pickiest of eaters while still being affordable enough for the less devoted to try out.