What is Chlorophyll? A Plant Pigment With Health Benefits. Do You Need It?
You may have heard the recent buzz about chlorophyll, and, while you have a vague recollection of it having something to do with plants turning green, not be entirely clear on what exactly the substance is. Well, readers, you’re in the right place. Here, we’ll break down what chlorophyll is, how it may help your body, and the best chlorophyll products of the bunch. Ready to learn more? Green on... ahem... Readi on.
What exactly is chlorophyll?
“Chlorophyll is the green pigment that is found in plants” explains nutritionist Kylie Ivanir, MS, RD. “This pigment helps plants convert sunlight into energy they can use,” she continues, adding that it can be found in green vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, parsley, and garden cress.
In addition to its presence in green fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spirulina, says Ashley Shaw, MS, RD, for Preg Appetit!, you can also buy it in supplements in the form of chlorophyllin. “Consuming chlorophyll has the potential to boost immunity, aid in weight loss, boost energy, and even protect against cancer,” Shaw notes. On that note, let’s dive into some health benefits of chlorophyll, which is far from “borophyll” as Shaw jokes.
Chlorophyll may decrease cancer risk
Shaw first points to a 2018 study on mice that showed that these animals who consumed chlorophyll (in the form of green plants) saw a decreased incidence of cancer, specifically pancreatic cancer. “The chlorophyll actually changed the status of the cancer cells in the body, slowing the progression of cancer and potentially stopping the spread as well,” she says. In the case of early-stage cancers, chlorophyll could act as a more mild type of chemotherapeutic drug, she adds, referencing this critical overview. “This is amazing news considering just how many foods naturally contain chlorophyll and how easy it is to consume,” she concludes.
Dr. Ryan Greene, DO, MS, for Preg Appetit! sheds further light on the realm of chlorophyll and cancer research: “Chlorophyll also may provide benefit reducing cancer risk specifically from certain food-borne toxins (aflatoxin has been evaluated in academic studies) by binding and reducing absorption into our system via the gut,” he says, citing this study. “This benefit may be beneficial in reducing risk for liver and colon cancers, although the data is still not yet well described.”
Chlorophyll is high in antioxidants, just like your fave fruits and veggies
“Chlorophyll has also been shown to have antioxidant properties,” says Ivanir, pointing to this study, as well as a second here. “This can help to reduce oxidative damage via free radicals that will look to bind to cells in our body. When they bind they cause damage to those cells that could eventually lead to cancer.”
Citing chlorophyll’s therapeutic value particularly to our immune system, Trista K. Best, MPH, RD, at Balance One Supplements elaborates that “antioxidants have an anti-inflammatory side effect which can improve the body's immune function and response.”
Chlorophyll may increase the number of red blood cells in the body
Quick science refresher: red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body and then returns carbon dioxide from your body back to the lungs, so you can exhale it.
Here’s how the science plays out in your bloodstream: “Chlorophyll has a very similar structure to hemoglobin molecules in our blood. Hemoglobin makes up a large portion of your red blood cells and is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body,” says Ivanir, referencing this review and this pilot study. “Because chlorophyll and hemoglobin share a very similar structure, chlorophyll has the ability to help boost the supply of red blood cells and aid in the ability to carry more oxygen throughout the [body].”
Chlorophyll may aid in weight loss
“You may wonder why celery juice and other green juices are always trending with the health and wellness crowd, and there’s a good reason for that. These drinks are packed with chlorophyll, which has the capacity to act on hunger hormones, suppressing hunger and boosting the feeling of satiety,” says Shaw, citing this study. “Therefore, leading one to consume fewer calories overall and lose weight. Of course, weight loss isn’t always the goal, but these drinks are also packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that improve overall health.”
Chlorophyll may help your complexion
A quick Google search for “chlorophyll skincare products” elicits many, many results—and these beauty goodies could very well boost your skin’s appearance. “Many chlorophyll enthusiasts and researchers claim chlorophyll is beneficial for skin health because of the anti-aging properties of antioxidants, as well as red blood cell health, cellular health, and weight loss,” explains Best.
6 Chlorophyll Products We Love
Of course, getting the nutrient from real, whole foods is always an excellent option. But if you’re looking for some other great ways to load up on chlorophyll, here are our go-to's. As always, consult with your doctor or nutritionist before adding any new supplements to your routine.
1. Sakara Detox Water Drops, ($39)
These chlorophyll water drops are said to help aid in digestion, gut health, immunity, and liver function. All you have to do is add to your cup of H2O and guzzle.
2. YourSuper.com Super Green Mix, ($34.90)
Not a fan of eating your veggies? Enhance your intake of nutrient-dense greens with this versatile powder containing chlorophyll-rich wheatgrass, along with barley grass, baobab, moringa, spirulina, and chlorella, which is said to contain more chlorophyll than any other plant known to humankind. Just one spoonful in your smoothie or overnight oats is the equivalent of a handful of greens.
3. Sun Chlorella Udon Noodles, $7.99
In addition to these noodles being abundant in chlorophyll (a serving is equal to about two-to-two-and--half-cups of spinach or kale per serving), chlorella contains vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene, and more good-for-you antioxidants. Easy Vegan Pad Thai for dinner with Sun Chlorella Udon Noodles, anyone?
4. Life Extension Chlorophyllin Supplement, $18
These non-GMO, vegetarian capsules are a good option if you prefer to pop a supplement, as opposed to remembering to swirl powder into your AM smoothie or whip up a batch of chlorophyll-filled noodles. Worth noting: There’s no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for chlorophyll, so again, consult with a trusted healthcare professional before starting.
5. Hum Daily Cleanse, $26
Another solid option if you want to go the supplements route, these vegan capsules are purported to improve skin clarity, aid in digestion, and support detoxification. Within, you’ll find chlorella, spirulina, beetroot, red clover, dandelion leaf extract, Oregon grape root, milk thistle, and other herbs and ingredients designed to bolster your health.
6. Chlorophyll Water, $44.99 for a case of 12
The makers of this water added some powerful antioxidants so you can get all your necessary vitamins in one fell sip. Each bottle delivers chlorophyll, mint, and lemon (to make it tastier) with Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. The testimonials had us ready to order )and they offer a discount if you sign u for their emails). "Right now I’m loving Chlorophyll Water because it’s a convenient way for me to grab and go, and I love that it has the added health benefits of purified water and vitamins," says Holly Perkins Fitness Expert
and author of Lift to Get Lean, and founder of Women’s Strength Nation. Get it Erehwon Market or Alo or Inscape or on their website.