What is it?
Much of the green you see in the plants around you — and on your plate — comes from chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a green color pigment that plants use to transform light into energy in a process called photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is quite waxy, but can be converted into a water-soluble form, chlorophyllin, that makes it easy to put into dietary supplements and foods.
Where is it from?
You can get chlorophyll from almost any edible green plant, but deep-dark leafies like spinach, kale, grape leaves, parsley, chard, arugula, beet greens, dandelion greens, and collards are especially generous.
But other green fruits and veggies also offer chlorophyll, like broccoli, lettuce, chives, algae (like spirulina and chlorella), cucumbers, bell peppers, sprouts, green onions, escarole, wheatgrass, zucchini, green tea, and other luscious greenies. Even produce that isn’t exactly green often contains some chlorophyll, though less than plants that proudly display their living green color.
What does it do?
Chlorophyll and chlorophyllin molecules share an extremely specialized shape, which allows them to juggle energy in ways that seem magical to more ordinary molecules.
- Akin to how chlorophyll turns light into energy, chlorophyllin protects DNA (which makes up your genes and makes you you) and chromosomes (where all your genes are safely tucked away) from damage by potential cancer-causing substances.
- Chlorophyllin can handcuff itself to certain kinds of toxic compounds and help move them out of the body.
- Chlorophyllin can also influence — through messaging your genes — the ways cells protect themselves, deal with their garbage, and how well they prepare themselves for a clean death that doesn’t disrupt the cells around them.
A truly fascinating study showed how chlorophyllin changes the way cells deal with toxins according to a person’s unique genetic makeup. Benzo[a]pyrene (aka BaP) is a chemical found in grilled meat, tobacco smoke, and burning fossil fuels, and it’s a known DNA-damaging carcinogen.
In people with genetic differences in the amounts of two enzymes that prepare BaP for neutralization, chlorophyllin improved how well they were able to deal with BaP. In 20 out of 20 cases in this study — and in 20 different ways, coded by each person’s individual genetics — chlorophyllin protected the DNA from damage caused by BaP.