The next stop on our greens-powder-world-tour is the house brand of the most influential health food company in the last 50 years: Trader Joe’s Super Green Drink.
If you happen to be grazing through the store aisles, do yourself a favor and pick it up folks. It’s balanced, well-formulated, and like all things Trader Joe’s……very inexpensive. It’s the only product that outdoes Amazing Grass at its own game.
What’s Best About It
Here’s the condensed scoop on the Super Green Drink.
- Very affordable – you can get it for $19.99, at 300g this makes it the most affordable greens powder on a per-ounce basis.
- 1/2 organic – Not including probiotics and enzymes (which can’t be organic) – 11 of its 37 ingredients are organic, and many of these are at the top of the label, meaning they exist in large quantities. I’d guess about 1/2 of the product by volume uses organic ingredients
- Balanced mixture – The Super Green Drink is an everything-in-one mixture, as opposed to one that does just greens. It covers all the bases I talked about in my Green Superfood Powder Buying Guide – greens, aquatic organisms, fiber, fruits, herbs, enzymes and probiotics. So it’s a good choice for someone who wants a little bit of everything.
- Deep ingredient list. It has 48 total ingredients (including the different bacteria strains and enzymes), which makes it a very “deep” formula that incorporates a lot of esoteric ingredients that otherwise would be hard to find.
- Can’t buy it online. It’s only legally sold in Trader Joe’s grocery stores, so if you can’t make a trip to their store you’re out of luck.
- 40% Greens by Weight. Maybe not a huge deal for some, but the Super Green Drink has about a 50/50 split between fibrous meal and greens. Some might prefer a higher greens content. Sort of in the eye of the beholder.
Breaking Down the Ingredients
Of the 48 ingredients found in the TJSGD I like these four the best:
- Turmeric Rhizome Extract – a very powerful herbal extract that helps revitalize your phase II detox system. It’s standardized to 85% curcuminoids which is the active compound. This makes it more potent but also more susceptible to degradation. Highly purified extracts are difficult to source.
- Green Tea Extract – Green tea is a wonderful food with many wonderful health benefits. Standardized to 60% polyphenols which means it has lots of ECGC – the stuff in green tea that does the heavy lifting.
- Polygonum Cuspidatum – A potent source of resveratrol.
- Quercetin – Flavonol that works with rutin to promote cardiovascular health. Admittedly, it’s unclear whether or not it gets digested very well.
All the others fine, and rather than writing a dissertation on them I’ll summarize the formula as follows:
- The collection of greens, which consists of barley grass, chlorella, spirulina, and alfalfa is both fine and typical. The only critique is they omitted wheatgrass……probably for financial reasons. It’s the most expensive of the grasses. Barley grass the least.
- The collection of herbal extracts is probably the most remarkable aspect of the formula. I’m reading what I’ve written so far and realize that all four of my favorite ingredients are herbs. In particular, it’s very heavy on free-radical reducers, and especially heavy on those that contain some form of resveratrol. In addition to polygonum cuspidatum, it also has red-wine extract and grape seed extract, all of these are typically used in formulas for their resveratrol content.
- It’s heavy on fiber, but surprisingly light on lecithin. The rest of its fibrous ingredients – apple fiber, flax lignans, oat-beta glucans, etc, are fine and fairly standard for the industry. For further reading you might want to check out previous articles on lecithin and the use of fiber in supplements.
Checking Out The Label
The label for the Super Green Drink looks like this:
What can we infer from this?
There are no synthetic vitamin add-ins. (And oh yeah, they’re pretty much all synthetic, even if they claim otherwise).
In addition to thinking about specific ingredients like wheatgrass, chlorella, or milk thistle, an important formulation decision is what proportion you’ll devote to different classes of ingredients. Often this decision will go more towards determining the price point and flavor characteristics of your product than the choice of specific ingredients.
The major classes are as follows:
- Greens - self explanatory.
- Botanicals/herbs - Usually included in smaller quantities because they taste terrible and too much can cause bad side effects. Most ingredients labeled as “antioxidant blends” fall into this category.
- Fibrous Meal – flax, F.O.S., apple fiber, etc
- “Other” – Enzymes, probiotics, specialty ingredients, etc.
With that in mind, here’s the breakdown of the Trader Joe’s Green Drink:
For comparisons sake, here’s the breakdown for Amazing Grass’es flagship product, the Original Green Superfood:
As you can see, Amazing Grass concentrates more heavily on the greens than Trader Joe’s. As a result, Amazing Grass is a little more dirt-like in its texture, astringent, and doesn’t mix quite as well.
With these charts it’s important to remember that dwelling on the percentage devoted to the “other” category can be misleading because they often contain ingredients that can’t exist in high quantities (like probiotics). By far the biggest ingredient categories are usually going to be some combination of greens, herbs and fiber.
As far as greens powders go the Super Green Drink does pretty well. It’s not that bitter, and blends well in water due to its mix of fibers.
It has berry flavoring added to it, but you should be aware that this taste doesn’t come off as organic to the product. It doesn’t taste like berries. It tastes like berry flavor added on top of a bunch of greens.
A lot of people prefer this since they don’t like the taste of greens. Others think it’s weird. I’m more of the latter, but nevertheless the overall taste characteristics of the drink are good. It’s mild and smooth.
The following chart compares the most important characteristics of the Trader Joe’s product with two other popular choices: Amazing Grass and Green Vibrance.
From the chart you can see that Trader Joe’s does very well in price, but is somewhat lacking in certifications compared to the other two. This shouldn’t be surprising – certifications are expensive and you wouldn’t be able to have them and still come in at the price it does.
Certifications are nice, but they’re not the end-all be-all.
Trader Joe’s actually has a very good track record for product quality with its house ingredients.
For example, this study found that Trader Joe’s store brand olive oil is very high quality, when very few olive oil products actually contain olive oil! The others….even very expensive brands…..are actually doctored up canola and soybean oil.
So I’ll say they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Okay kids, until the next time……