Chlorophyll: how to get this valuable nutrient from your diet
- Chlorophyll is generally known for its ability to help increase the production of red blood cells
- Chlorophyll is a pigment that absorbs sunlight to help plants to make their own food, as well as give them their green color
- 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 where green plants/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 a very important process vital not just to plants, but to humans and the animal kingdom as 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 many people can obtain, as long as they consume vegetables. According to the Global Healing Center, chlorophyll may help with various aspects such as helping control hunger, as well as fighting free radicals and yeast.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 already have some chlorophyll in them, so you can gain its potential benefits if you eat these vegetables regularly. That being said, there are several sources that contain more chlorophyll compared to others. If you want to maximize this nutrient, I suggest consuming the following:5,6
Not only do these vegetables contain generous amounts of chlorophyll, they are also rich in unique nutrients that may help optimize your health further. Broccoli, for example, contains isothiocyanates that may help lower your risk of inflammation and detoxify your body.7
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 causes swelling in the mouth, windpipe and back of the throat.8
Studies That Examine the Potential Health Benefits of Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll has been extensively studied for its effect on human health for years now and it has been found to be potentially helpful in certain situations. By consuming vegetables high in chlorophyll, you may obtain the following benefits:9
• Increase red blood cell count — Chlorophyll is generally known for its ability to help increase the production of red blood cells. That's because its chemical structure closely resembles hemoglobin, an essential protein located in the bloodstream. A high red blood cell count can help transfer oxygen to your cells more efficiently.10
• Lower your risk of cancer — Chlorophyll may help lower your risk of cancer by inducing apoptosis, according to a research published in Nutrition Research.11 In one documented study, the pigment has been found to help specifically with colon cancer.12
• 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.13 TNF-α is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that triggers other inflammatory molecules to flare up.14
• 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.15
• 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.16
• 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.17
• 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.18
• Prevent 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.19 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.20
Side Effects of Chlorophyll Supplements Are Not Alarming, but They Can Be Uncomfortable
Chlorophyll supplements are generally considered safe when ingested, as long as you follow the instructions of your doctor. However, side effects have been reported. They aren't fatal but may be uncomfortable depending on the severity, such as:21
• Green, yellow or black stool which can be mistaken for gastrointestinal bleeding
• Itching or burning (when applied to the skin)
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 kids or taking them while you're pregnant. Similarly, not much is known about the interactions of chlorophyll with other drugs.
If you still wish to take chlorophyll products while taking prescription medications, be sure to consult with a doctor.22 In any case, if you do happen to develop any of the side effects mentioned above, consult your doctor immediately.
Chlorophyll Supplements May Help, but Prioritize Consuming Green Veggies
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 prevent health problems.
However, there are certain situations that may prevent you from enjoying vegetables, such as allergies.23 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.24 Its potential therapeutic benefits include protection from free radicals and yeasts. It may also help promote red blood cell production and even control food cravings.25
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.26
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.27
Q: Where in the chloroplast is chlorophyll found?
A: Chloroplasts are the tiny energy factories found inside plant cells. Inside them is chlorophyll.28
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