Of chlorophyll pills to cholrophyll energy bars, the green dye is seen in all kinds of products from the last time. You may remember from high school biology that chlorophyll is essential for photosynthesis, the process plants use to convert sunlight into energy. So why is it suddenly appear in our food? It Is really a super-nutrient worth seeking out—or just a whim? Here are a few things to know about the chlorophyll-rage.
Chlorophyll is touted for a number of the benefits
Proponents say that it detoxifies the body, promotes healing, stimulates the metabolism, combats bad breath, herpes, and cancer—and the list goes on and on. Although the evidence behind these claims is largely anecdotal, there is some research on the benefits of chlorophyll. For example, one 2014 study looked at 38 overweight women who are following a weight-loss plan. The researchers discovered that over the course of 12 weeks, those with a chlorophyll supplement once a day lost an additional three pounds, on average, compared with those receiving a placebo. The women in the chlorophyll-a group also experienced a greater drop in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and a decrease in sweet cravings. Other research has shown that chlorophyll may have antioxidant properties.
It is worth noting that many of the other studies to date have involved intravenous or topical chlorophyll.
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There are a number of unknowns about chlorophyll
Since chlorophyll has not yet been thoroughly investigated, there is no established optimal dose, or a recommended way to consume it. A part of the research is carried out with compounds derived from chlorophyll, rather than the pigment in its whole form—which means that the same results may or may not occur if you have chlorophyll in its natural form.
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Supplements may cause side effects
While chlorophyll supplements are considered fairly safe, there are a few interactions you should be aware of. For instance, they may increase your sensitivity to sunlight. So you should probably skip them if you drugs that have the same effect (such as certain antidepressants, antibiotics, antihistamines, blood pressure and cholesterol medications). There are also some reports of nausea, digestive problems, and allergic reactions.
Chlorophyll comes in many forms
Chlorophyll is abundant in dark green leafy vegetables (think spinach, kale, mustard greens), as well as other green products, such as brussels sprouts, broccoli, green peppers, asparagus, green cabbage, kiwi, green apples, and herbs like parsley. In other words, you don’t need a special supplement to include chlorophyll in your diet. Simply add more green plants for your meals to ensure that you have enough chlorophyll.
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How do you eat your greens makes a difference
Cooking chlorophyll-rich foods, especially for longer lengths of time, seems less chlorophyll levels. Store them in the freezer for a number of months can have a similar effect. So for the best conservation of the chlorophyll content of your greens, eat them raw or use short, light cooking methods such as steaming or low-heat roasting.
If you decide to try a new chlorophyll product, read the ingredients list, and try to steer clear of artificial additives, and potentially risky herbs or stimulants. But more importantly, keep eating (and drinking) your greens!
Cynthia Sass is Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.
This article originally appeared on Health.com