The vivid green color of plants is given by chlorophyll, the molecule responsible for the process of photosynthesis. But chlorophyll is not only a key component of plants, it can also improve our health in several ways.
Chlorophyll and red blood cells (hemoglobin) have a very similar structure. In fact, the only difference between the molecule that gives the green color of plants and the one that gives the red color of blood is that chlorophyll’s center atom is magnesium and hemoglobin’s is iron.
Because of this similarity, chlorophyll intake results in increased red blood cell count. This is highly beneficial for the organism, since red blood cells are responsible with carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body where it is released to burn nutrients, providing the necessary energy for our bodily functions in the life-sustaining process known as metabolism.
Being able to improve our metabolism, chlorophyll delivers a wide array of health benefits by improving blood flow and oxygenating the body. Also, chlorophyll binds with heavy metals and other toxins, supporting their removal from the body. It’s great for detoxification, but it’s also been used to treat people affected by radiation and research found it could play an important role in cancer prevention.
It’s not too hard to get a decent amount of chlorophyll since there are lots of plants and plant-based foods that contain it. However, some of these foods have higher concentrations of chlorophyll, but also an interesting complex of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.
1. Wheatgrass and barley grass
These two young cereal grasses have very different nutritional profiles compared to the mature plants. The nutrients they contain resemble vegetables a lot more than grains. Besides being some of the richest sources of chlorophyll, wheatgrass and barley grass have high levels of protein, but also contain vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
Edible seaweeds are labeled as superfoods for good reason. While the green variety (which contains chlorophyll) is not as popular as the brown and red ones, all of them are an important source of iodine, but also has vitamins A and B12, calcium, protein and soluble fiber.
But you’d have to eat more seaweed than those nori sushi wraps, to reap the benefits. Luckily, seaweed can be incorporated in many recipes, from salads to soups and casseroles.
3. Green vegetables
They’re green, so they obviously have chlorophyll! From broccoli and spinach to kale and various types of lettuce, all of these veggies will give you a boost in your chlorophyll intake. Many of them are nutritional powerhouses as they contain a richness of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber with little to no fat.
Fresh parsley, basil, dill, cilantro and other herbs will add wonderful flavors to your home cooked meals, but also vitamins such as C and K, magnesium and calcium. Be generous when adding these herbs to your meals, since most of the times we eat insufficient amounts of them for beneficial effects to appear.
5. Spirulina and Chlorella
These two micro-algae have a strong green pigment, a sign of their high levels of chlorophyll. Chlorella contains 18 aminoacids and B complex vitamins which makes it a powerful immune boosting food.
While Chlorella is richer in chlorophyll than spirulina, the latter one has a higher amount of beta-carotene and is easier to digest. Both of them are attributed with a large number of health benefits through their anti-inflammatory, immune boosting and detoxifying effects.