6 things to know about chlorophyll

We all know that eating your greens is good for you, but what if you could extract the green and take it as a supplement?

A recent trend has seen more people doing exactly that. Chlorophyll is the substance that give plants their green color, and chlorophyll supplements in liquid or tablet form are becoming popular.

Chlorophyll is an antioxidant that can boost your health. But does it have the same benefits when it’s taken as a supplement? We asked Lindsey Wohlford, our wellness dietitian, to weigh in.

Here are six things she wants you to know about chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll is not the name you see on the label. Chlorophyll is the name of the green pigment that plants use to make food during a process called photosynthesis. But if you try to buy it as a supplement, you will likely see it called chlorophyllin, which is a water-soluble form of chlorophyll that contains copper and sodium. These extra minerals are there to make it easier for your body to absorb.

The effects of chlorophyll are unclear. Supplement makers claim that chlorophyll can do many things, like boost red blood cells, help with weight loss, heal damaged skin, neutralize toxins, cut inflammation and prevent cancer. It’s an impressive list, but few of the claims are backed by scientific evidence.

“There is some research that shows chlorophyll skin products could potentially fight acne, and there’s been very, very limited evidence about weight loss,” says Wohlford. “Aside from that, we know it comes from plants and contains antioxidants, that's about the extent what we can safely confirm.”

Liquid might be better than tablet form. If you want to try chlorophyll, liquid supplements might be better value because they are more easily absorbed by your body. But you should talk to your doctor before you start taking chlorophyll.

”There’s no real risk of taking it, although some people report side effects like diarrhea or nausea,” says Wohlford. “You should always check with your doctor if you’re starting any new supplement.”

Chlorophyll is available in all green plants. You don’t need to take supplements to add chlorophyll to your diet. You can simply eat green fruits and vegetables. Even frozen vegetables contain chlorophyll.

“You get chlorophyll when you eat broccoli, spinach or any other green fruit or vegetable,” says Wohlford.

You may absorb slightly more chlorophyll from a supplement, but fruits and vegetables will give you other vitamins and minerals. They will also give you fiber, which is essential for good digestion and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

Green is not the only important color. Adding extra chlorophyll to your diet is nothing new. How could we forget that wheatgrass shot trend? That was all about chlorophyll. Wheatgrass is very high in the green substance. But it’s important to remember that all colors of fruit and vegetable are valuable.

“You want to try to eat a variety of colors so that you're maximizing the number of different of nutrients for your body,” says Wohlford.

For example, orange foods like carrots are high in beta carotene, purple foods like eggplant contain anthocyanin, and red foods like tomato contain lycopene. Each color contains different phytochemicals, and your body benefits from all of them.

Nothing can replace a healthy diet. No amount of chlorophyll is going to reverse the damage that unhealthy foods can do. Refined carbohydrates and other sugary foods can cause chronic inflammation and disease. Processed meats increase your risk for cancer. Fried foods and processed foods can also cause damage and lack the nutrients your body needs.

The best way to ensure that you feel good and reduce your disease risk is to eat a plant-based diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and seeds, with some lean or plant proteins.

It’s also important to stay active throughout the day and get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.

“If you take chlorophyll, it should truly be a supplement,” says Wohlford. “It may provide a little bit of extra benefit, but you still need to eat greens and other vegetables for the fiber and other nutrients that chlorophyll is not going to contain, and you still need to exercise.

Request an apppointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.