Chlorophyll is the natural compound present in green plants that gives them their color. It helps plants to absorb energy from the sun as they undergo the process of photosynthesis. This nutrient is present in green vegetables and other plant-based foods, like algae. The greener the vegetable is, the higher its chlorophyll content.
There are two types of chlorophyll in plants: chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. All plants contain either one of these two varieties. They are both fat-soluble compounds that have antioxidant properties.
When you ingest chlorophyll, it moves around your body in micelles, which are molecular groups that contain fat. Even though research hasn’t been able to prove what minimum amount of fat is needed to metabolize chlorophyll, it’s thought that small amounts of healthy fats can help the body process it during meals.
Chlorophyllin is semi-synthetic, water-soluble, and not fat-soluble, and is commonly used as an additive to medicines or food colorings. While chlorophyll is a natural compound in plants, chlorophyllin is a supplement that is taken with meals. For more than 50 years, chlorophyllin has been used to treat slow-healing or bad-smelling wounds as it acts as an internal deodorant.
The benefits of chlorophyll on the human body are still in the early stages of investigation. However, research has already found that this compound does indeed provide certain health benefits.
Studies in rodents show that chlorophyll can reduce the occurrence of cancerous tumors. It was found that chlorophyll can form close bonds to carcinogenic chemicals called aflatoxins. When they bind, the chlorophyll helps to block the absorption of the aflatoxins (cancer-causing agents) in the intestines. Additional studies in humans are needed to support these findings.
Chlorophyll also helps to prevent damage done to genes by harmful aflatoxins. Scientists are studying the effects of chlorophyll intake when it comes to liver, skin, stomach, and colon cancers. It’s important to note that this research is on chlorophyllin and not natural chlorophyll. This is so that the dosage can be monitored more accurately.
Research in early studies on humans shows that taking 100-milligram doses of chlorophyllin three times a day for four months decreased aflatoxin damage to DNA by up to 55%. Other studies show that there is a connection between eating vegetables and cancer protection. The higher your daily intake of green vegetables is, your body has a better effect of cancer prevention.
Chlorophyll has antioxidant properties, even though they’re not as strong as those found in other nutrients like vitamins C and E. Some studies show that regular intake of leafy, green vegetables helps to increase antioxidants in the bloodstream.
Limited studies show that chlorophyll may also decrease oxidative damage done by harmful carcinogens. So far, these studies have only been tested on animals and await human trials.
Natural chlorophyll has no known side effects and so far only has benefits for humans. However, chlorophyllin as a supplement may have some possible side effects that you should consider such as:
- Occasional diarrhea
- Discoloration of the urine or feces
- Discoloration of the tongue
- Mild burning or itching when applied directly to a wound
It’s also important to note that the safety of taking chlorophyllin has not yet been studied in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. These women should not take a chlorophyllin supplement until further research has been carried out.
Amounts and Dosage
Chlorophyll is abundant in plant-based foods, yet, has the highest concentration in green vegetables. It is recommended to eat at least 4 servings of green vegetables a day, however, there is no recommended amount of chlorophyll to ingest per day.
Spinach and Leafy Greens
Spinach has a high chlorophyll concentration, with around 24 milligrams per one-cup serving. This vegetable is easy to prepare, as you can eat it raw or cooked in different ways. Other leafy greens have between 4-15 milligrams of chlorophyll per raw serving. These include:
- Bok choy
- Beet greens
- Green cabbage
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
- Mustard greens
Other green vegetables are good sources of chlorophyll, which also contain up to 15 milligrams per serving. These include:
- Green beans
- Brussel sprouts
Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds
Small amounts of chlorophyll are present in green fruits like kiwi and green grapes. There is also a small chlorophyllic concentration in green nuts and seeds, like pistachios.
Green algae like chlorella and spirulina are often sold as chlorophyll supplements. Since natural chlorophyll is more expensive, over-the-counter supplements that are marked as having chlorophyll are usually chlorophyllin supplements.