Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in pretty much all plants. It’s needed for the process of photosynthesis, which converts sunshine into energy. In some ways, chlorophyll is analogous to blood, and it’s actually very similar in structure to the hemoglobin found in human blood. Chlorophyll pigment by itself doesn’t contain any nutrients aside from magnesium, although liquid extracts of chlorophyll have very healthy nutritional profiles.
Chlorophyll is a molecule in plants that coverts specific frequencies of sunlight, mostly blue and red hues, into usable energy in the form of glucose. The process of photosynthesis also requires carbon dioxide and water. Chlorophyll reflects the green frequency of light which is why almost all plants are green. As a molecule, chlorophyll is “built” around an atom of magnesium. In contrast, human hemoglobin has a very similar structure, but it’s built around an atom of iron, which is why your blood is red instead of green. As a supplement, chlorophyll is available as liquid extracts, powders, capsules and tablets. These supplements are usually derived from alfalfa, barley grass, kelp, spirulina or wheatgrass. As a consequence, the nutritional profile of your chlorophyll supplement is directly related to its primary source.
All forms of liquid chlorophyll are rich in magnesium because the chlorophyll pigment is based on the mineral. Liquid chlorophyll is also a good source of most B vitamins, vitamin C, amino acids, some enzymes and many other minerals in trace amounts, although the exact nutritional profile is related to the source of the extract. For example, liquid chlorophyll derived from wheatgrass, alfalfa or algae tends to be the richest source of nutrients and antioxidants compared to other sources. In fact, juice from alfalfa or wheatgrass is often sold as chlorophyll supplements because up to 70 percent of the material in the juice is chlorophyll. Liquid chlorophyll must be kept in a cool place within tightly sealed, dark glass bottles otherwise it will oxidize and the chlorophyll will degrade and lose its efficacy.
All dark green plants and vegetables are excellent sources of chlorophyll. In addition to alfalfa, wheatgrass and algae, other widely available sources include spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans and parsley. However, prolonged cooking tends to destroy chlorophyll, so eating your veggies raw or quickly steaming them are the best methods. Aside from chlorophyll, green veggies are also excellent sources of fiber and many other nutrients.
Many of the health benefits attributed to chlorophyll, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting properties, are actually linked to the various nutrients and compounds of the plants from which the chlorophyll supplement is extracted. However, chlorophyll itself is a very good natural deodorizer, which is great for garlic or onion breath, and it is also an excellent chelating agent that is able to bind to heavy metals and toxins and remove them from your body. Furthermore, the high magnesium content in chlorophyll contributes to strong bones, relaxed muscle tone and healthy enzymatic activity. Another good point about pure chlorophyll is that it’s completely non-toxic, which makes it safe even in large doses. On the other hand, chlorophyll supplements contain compounds such as certain B vitamins or phytonutrients that can lead to side effects in large doses, so read the nutrition labels carefully.
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- PDR for Nutritional Supplements; Sheldon Hendler and David Rorvik
- Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine; Simon Mills and Kerry Bone
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.