If you remember your grade school science, you'll recognize chlorophyll as the compound present in most plants that is responsible for their green color. Indeed, chlorophyll is an important part of photosynthesis; it's what allows a plant to convert sunlight into energy and the nutrients it needs to survive.
Chlorophyll has long been thought to have some measure of benefit when consumed. It's hard to tell, though, what benefits come from the chlorophyll and what benefits come from the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals already present in the various green vegetables we eat to get it.
The green substance certainly has some effect, whether it's on nutrition or on taste and character. Matcha tea, for example, is a freshly vibrant and vegetal tasting form of Japanese tea. What makes Matcha stand out from other green teas is how it's grown and processed. It's the same tea plant as other teas, but a few weeks before harvest, the plants are covered to block our most of the sunlight that reaches them. The plant responds by producing more chlorophyll to take advantage of what little sun reaches it, producing a unique kind of tea.
Chlorophyll supplements and high-green vegetables have been increasing in popularity over the last ten years, with more and more celebrities endorsing the benefits of green plants. Of course, celebrities will endorse anything that makes them money, and many of them are prone to believing all manner of nonsense, possibly to their detriment.
So where does the truth lie? It's hard to say. Science has been spending more and more time over the last few years studying chlorophyll directly, but many such studies are still ongoing, and have not yet produced results worth mentioning.
In the mean time, chlorophyll has found roles in just about every manner of health, medicinal, and curative purpose you could name. In the 40s it was used to fight the stench of army hospitals. In 2001, a Chinese study indicated that chlorophyll tablets could help fight off a particular kind of fungal toxin that contributes to a kind of liver cancer. The list goes on.
Of course, you don't need me to convince you that consuming chlorophyll can be a good idea. Here's the thing; even if it's a modern health trend with no basis behind it, the foods you eat to get chlorophyll in your diet are all going to be generally healthy for you, and chlorophyll itself isn't going to do you any harm. There's no downside unless you're replacing some kind of real medicinal treatment with a placebo of chlorophyll, but that's just making a mistake one way or the other. Remember, herbal medicine, holistic healthcare, and other such treatments are meant to augment existing treatments, not replace them.
So what are the best foods you can eat to get more chlorophyll in your diet? We've put together a list of 15 of them. Eat as many as you can, as often as you can, for the best benefits.
Spinach is one of those archetypal “good for you" vegetables for about a thousand different reasons. As a leafy green, it's one of the best leaf-based sources of chlorophyll in your typical grocery store.
In addition to chlorophyll, a typical serving of spinach includes protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K1, vitamin B9, and plenty of the minerals iron and calcium. As far as plant compounds are concerned, it also contains lutein (which benefits your eyes), kaempferol (an antioxidant), quercetin (another antioxidant), and zeaxanthin (another eye booster). That's quite a lot for these little green leaves! Turns out Popeye had it right all those years ago.
Parsley is typically used as a garnish, and if you're anything like every picky eater everywhere, you may not have ever actually eaten the stuff. At the very least, when used as an herb in cooking, you might not notice you're eating it. Even still, it's an incredibly nutritious little herb, though you don't usually get much of it in a single meal unless you're going out of your way to get it.
What's healthy about parsley? It has a ton of vitamins A, C, and K. On the mineral side of things, you also get a lot of calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium out of it. Ounce for ounce it's one of the best sources of chlorophyll out there, too.
If you're not a frequent browser of the health food world, you might never have heard of chlorella before. It's barely even a plant at all! In fact, chlorella is a type of algae, which is almost more like a bacteria than a plant.
What do you get out of it when you eat it? For one thing, it's extremely protein dense. It's 50% protein, in fact, and it has all nine of the amino acids your body needs to function.
On top of that, you get vitamins B12, C, and folic acid, as well as plenty of iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, calcium, and zinc. It also has a bunch of fiber, omega-3s, and antioxidants. What can't this little organism do?
Well, it can't be digested normally in the human body. You can only reap the benefits of chlorella if you take it as a supplement, otherwise it just passes through you and keeps all its nutrients on its way through the sewer.
Spirulina is another kind of algae, but despite being in the same general kingdom, it's a different kind of organism entirely. It's also a more popular supplement, because of how nutrient-dense it is.
So what's in it? Protein, for one thing. As far as vitamins go, it's packed with Bs, including B1, B2, and B3. Where it really shines is the minerals; it has copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. You also get a small amount of healthy omega-3s, comparable to eggs.
5. Barley Grass
Barley is a cereal grain, and we don't typically think of grains as being green. Indeed, barley is typically brown by the time it's harvested and turned into all manner of goods. Barley grass, however, is harvested when it's young, basically just sprouted, when it's still green.
This early harvest means many of the nutrients that would usually go to forming the barley grain itself are not yet consumed. They're yours for the eating! You get plenty of minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B9, and C.
All that stuff up there we said about barley grass? The same applies to wheatgrass. The young form of wheat, this grass is harvested when it's young and green, giving you all of those delicious nutrients. Usually you see wheatgrass as a supplement, where it's already processed and ground up for easy use. It's also often found juiced and available at juice bars.
The range of nutrients you get from wheatgrass will look familiar. The chlorophyll is present of course, as is potassium, fiber, selenium, zinc, iron, copper, and manganese. You also get vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. Nice!
If you were surprised that there haven't been more leafy greens on this list, be surprised no longer. Arugula is another great leafy salad green, usable in many of the same ways as spinach. It's low in calories, low in fat, and low in sodium.
The beneficial nutrients include fiber, as well as beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, folate, and calcium. And, of course, plenty of chlorophyll, as well as a bunch of antioxidants.
Seaweed isn't usually something many of us think about eating. It's more something to avoid at the beach, lest it wrap around and ankle and feel weird when you're swimming. Fans of sushi will be used to nori, the papery green-black substance used to wrap rolls. There are actually a range of different seaweeds (chlorella is technically one of them!), but they tend to have similar nutritional profiles.
Are you ready for the list? A typical serving of 100 grams of seaweed gives you a ton of fiber, as well as magnesium, vitamin K, manganese, iodine, sodium, calcium, folate, potassium, iron, copper, and trace amounts of vitamins A, C, and E. The only downside is that it's higher in calories than pretty much everything else on this list, at 45 per 100g.
Sprouts is not really just a single vegetable, similar to how seaweed isn't a single organism. You'll find various kinds of sprouts, ranging from alfalfa to beans to grains to nuts. Any seed that turns into a plant can be left to sprout and harvested after a mere few days to provide an extremely young and healthy plant.
Sprouts give generally give you the same range of nutrients you would expect. You get folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin K, with a few other nutrients that depend on the source plant.
The one potential downside is that sprouts often are contaminated with harmful bacteria, usually due to the humidity they need to be grown. Be careful of food poisoning if you eat them regularly!
Basil is another leafy green herb, similar to baby spinach or parsley. It would be fine as a salad green if not for its strong flavor, making it more useful as a spice. That's why it's great in pesto!
There are over 40 different, related types of basil, but they all have the same range of nutrients. You'll get a ton of vitamins A and K, along with calcium, iron, and of course your chlorophyll. It's also a great antioxidant.
11. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds might not strike you as something full of chlorophyll, since you rarely see them green. Still, they're packed with the stuff, along with a whole lot besides. They're very nutritionally dense, probably the most of anything on this list. A 20g serving will get you 111 calories, 6 grams of protein, almost 10 grams of fat, and 2 grams of carbs.
For your vitamins and minerals, hemp can give you calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and folate, as well as vitamins C, A, E, and some of the Bs.
Garden Cress is a kind of sprouted vegetable that is small and tasty. Not to be confused with watercress, garden cress is similar, but also related to mustard. It's pungent, that's for sure.
Your nutrient profile is high in chlorophyll, as well as vitamins C, A, and K, along with manganese, potassium, and magnesium. You can also get a decent amount of iron and phosphorus.
Where would we be on a list of green vegetables without the venerable broccoli? It's much maligned, but it's extremely good for you, and you can make it taste delicious just by roasting it.
In addition to fiber, broccoli gives you protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B9, potassium, iron, and manganese. It also has a lot of trace nutrients, giving you a little bit of almost everything you want out of a vegetable, and some more besides.
Asparagus is a strange vegetable, unlike pretty much any other veg we eat. It's a weird kind of grass, really, and it's quite pretty when it flowers, long after it would otherwise be harvested to eat.
You get a lot of vitamins from asparagus, including A, C, E, K, and B6. Minerals are there too, including iron, copper, and calcium. Not to mention the fiber and chlorophyll!
15. Brussels Sprouts
One of the most hated vegetables has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, largely due to some dedicated selective breeding to make them taste better. Give them a try if you haven't recently, and you can pull in vitamins A, C, K, and B9, as well as manganese, iron, and fiber. What's not to love?
Regardless of what you choose to eat, eating any of these veg and veg-adjacent organisms will give you a hefty dose of chlorophyll to boost your diet and nutrient intake. Try them all and find some you like to work into your daily diet.