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Chlorophyll: How to Get This Valuable Nutrient From Foods

Fact Checked

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Story at-a-glance -

  • Chlorophyll is a pigment that absorbs sunlight to help plants to make their own food, as well as give them their green color
  • Chlorophyll is generally known for its ability to help increase the production of red blood cells
  • According to the Journal of Food Science, dietary chlorophyll contains antioxidant and antimutagenic properties that may benefit your health by fighting free radicals throughout your body

Photosynthesis is the process wherein green plants or vegetables absorb light from the sun and transform it, along with minerals, water and carbon dioxide, into food to help them grow. It goes without saying that this is important not just to plants, but to humans and animals well. Oxygen, the chemical element that living organisms require to breathe, is a byproduct of this food-making process.1

At the heart of photosynthesis is chlorophyll, a pigment that absorbs blue and some red portions of the electromagnetic spectrum that causes it to become green. This also results in plants getting their distinctive color.2 As chlorophyll absorbs the light, it creates carbohydrates that serve as the plant's nourishment.3

An interesting thing about chlorophyll is that it possesses potential health benefits that people can obtain when they consume vegetables. According to a study published in 2016, chlorophyll possesses antioxidant properties that may help promote longevity.4 With this in mind, no doubt most people may benefit from the chlorophyll that comes from vegetables, and luckily, there are plenty of choices that you can enjoy.

The Best Natural Sources of Chlorophyll You Should Munch On

You may not know it, but the green vegetables you eat have some chlorophyll in them, so you can gain chlorophyll's potential benefits if you eat these vegetables regularly. That being said, some sources contain more chlorophyll than others. If you want to maximize this nutrient, I suggest consuming the following:5

  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Beet greens
  • Green bell peppers
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green cabbage
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Romaine lettuce

Not only do these vegetables contain generous amounts of chlorophyll, they are also rich in other nutrients that may help optimize your health further. Broccoli, for example, contains isothiocyanates that may help lower your risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.6

However, some people may not be able to enjoy vegetables due to the risk of developing allergic reactions. This condition is known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS), and is sometimes called pollen-food syndrome. It occurs whenever you consume certain fruits, vegetables and nuts with distinctive proteins that cause swelling in the mouth, windpipe and back of the throat.7

Studies That Examine Chlorophyll's Potential Health Benefits

Chlorophyll has been extensively studied for its effect on human health for years, and it has been found to be potentially helpful in certain situations. By consuming vegetables high in chlorophyll, you may obtain the following benefits:

Lower your risk of cancer — Chlorophyll may help lower your risk of cancer by inducing apoptosis, according to a research published in Nutrition Research.8 In one documented study, the pigment has been found to help specifically with colon cancer.9

Manage arthritis — Evidence has shown that chlorophyll has anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit people affected with chronic inflammation. In the journal Inflammation, researchers discovered that chlorophyll helped inhibit TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) in mice.10

TNF-α is a pro-inflammatory cytokine "produced by macrophages/monocytes during acute inflammation and is responsible for a diverse range of signaling events within cells, leading to necrosis or apoptosis."11

Fight free radicals — According to the Journal of Food Science, dietary chlorophyll contains antioxidant and antimutagenic properties that may benefit your health by fighting free radicals throughout your body.12

Promote longevity — Consuming chlorophyll may help slow down aging and rejuvenate your cells, according to a study published in Peer-Reviewed & Open Access. Researchers found that feeding chlorophyll to nematodes from the Caenorhabditis elegans species helped increase their lifespan by increasing resistance to oxidative stress.13

Kill pathogenic yeast — Oral thrush, a mouth disease caused by the yeast strain Candida albicans, may be treated by consuming chlorophyll, according to a study conducted by the South Brazilian Dentistry Journal.14

Manage your weight — Chlorophyll may help manage your weight and prevent overeating by helping control your hunger and food cravings. In one study, researchers fed 20 moderately overweight women meals that contained chlorophyll. Results indicate that the procedure was able to help suppress test subjects' hunger by intensifying signals of satiety.15

Reduce body odor — If you've been experiencing fishy body odor lately (trimethylaminuria), you may benefit from chlorophyll. It may help eliminate bad odor by reducing the amount of thrimethylamines excreted by your body.16 In a study that involved 62 geriatric nursing home patients, chlorophyll was found to be helpful in this regard, and even helped ease chronic constipation as a positive side effect.17

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Side Effects of Chlorophyll Supplements Can Be Uncomfortable

Chlorophyll supplements are generally considered safe, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements. However, side effects have been reported, such as:18

  • Urine changes — Your urine may turn green.
  • Skin reactions — Photosensitive rashes may appear after taking chlorophyll supplements.
  • Gastrointestinal issues — There's a possibility to develop diarrhea.

Very little research exists about the effects of chlorophyll on children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. In light of this information, I do not recommend giving chlorophyll supplements to young children or taking them while you're pregnant. Similarly, not much is known about the interactions of chlorophyll with other drugs.19

In any case, if you do happen to develop any of the side effects mentioned above, consult with your doctor immediately.

Instead of Supplements, Opt for Green Veggies First

It's no secret that vegetables are good for everyone's health due to their mixture of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Furthermore, they contain chlorophyll that may help optimize your health further.

If you're consuming a diverse selection of vegetables on a regular basis, you're already doing a great job eating a healthy diet. Your body is taking in all their nutrients and synthesizing them to help you maintain optimal health and enjoy your life. For those who are not eating enough vegetables, I urge you to increase your consumption to help lower the risk of health problems.

However, there are certain situations that may prevent you from enjoying vegetables, such as if you have allergies to these foods.20 If this is the case, a chlorophyll supplement may work in your favor.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chlorophyll

Q: What does chlorophyll do?

A: Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants that facilitates photosynthesis by absorbing sunlight.21 Its potential therapeutic benefits include protection from bad breath, among other things.22

Q: Do fungi have chlorophyll?

A: No, fungi do not have their own chlorophyll because they are not plants and do not undergo photosynthesis. Fungi take food from their immediate surroundings, while plants can make their own food through photosynthesis.23

Q: What does chlorophyll do in photosynthesis?

A: Chlorophyll is a molecule that absorbs sunlight and uses that energy to synthesize carbon dioxide and water to create food for plants. This entire process is known as photosynthesis.24

Q: Where in the chloroplast is chlorophyll found?

A: Chloroplasts are the tiny energy factories found inside plant cells. Inside them is chlorophyll.25

+ Sources and References