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When you think about “going green,” it’s not just about the environment…it’s also about what you eat. Chlorophyll – the pigment that gives plants their green color – is considered a powerhouse nutrient thanks to its many health benefits, including your thyroid health. Let’s take a look at chlorophyll, and how it may fit into your thyroid wellness plan.
If you think back to high school biology, you’ll probably remember the concept of photosynthesis, the process by which plants absorb light and convert it into energy. Nutrient-rich chlorophyll plays a key role in photosynthesizing sunlight into energy to help plants grow. In addition to being essential for plants, there’s also evidence that chlorophyll has health benefits for people.
While every green plant contains some amount of chlorophyll, higher levels of chlorophyll are found in sea vegetables like algae, leafy vegetables, and green plants. Generally, the greener the vegetable, the more chlorophyll it contains.
Which foods and supplements are high in chlorophyll?
Sea vegetables, including edible algae and seaweeds, have the highest concentration of chlorophyll. Chlorella, a form of algae, has more chlorophyll per gram than any other plant. Chlorella is high in protein, as well as a host of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Other chlorophyll-rich sea vegetables include:
- Sea moss (also known as Irish moss)
Leafy green vegetables are also high in chlorophyll. These include:
- Bok choy (leafy green parts)
- Romaine lettuce
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
Certain grasses are a good source of chlorophyll, including
- Barley grass
Green vegetables, while less rich in chlorophyll than sea vegetables and leafy greens, are a good source of chlorophyll.
- Green peppers
- Green peas
- Green beans
- Brussels sprouts
The leafy green tops of root vegetables also provide some chlorophyll.
Green fruits are also a source of chlorophyll. They include:
- Green apples
- Green grapes
Dietary supplements that are rich in chlorophyll come in a variety of forms, including:
- Liquid chlorophyll
- Chlorophyll water
- Chlorophyll capsules
- Chlorophyll powders
- Wheatgrass and barley grass juices, capsules, and powders
- Chlorella, spirulina, kelp, and sea moss powders, capsules, and liquid extracts
Nutritional and health experts have long recommended eating chlorophyll-rich foods, citing the benefits of this nutrient. Many health claims are made about chlorophyll, and some are well-supported by research. Nutritional experts and researchers claim that chlorophyll can:
- Improve energy and reduce fatigue
- Increase oxygen flow
- Remove toxic heavy metals like mercury and lead from the body
- Remove toxic pesticides from the body
- Boost the immune system to fight off viruses, bacteria, and toxins
- Act as a general detoxifier
- Help fight cancer
- Reduce blood sugar
- Act as an antioxidant
- Reduce cholesterol levels
- Support weight loss
- Help fight infections
- Improve digestion
- Helps relieve constipation due to high fiber content
- Act as a natural antidepressant
Because chlorophyll is fat-soluble, it is best absorbed by the body in the presence of some dietary fat. In its most natural form, even when accompanied by some healthy fat, chlorophyll can still be somewhat hard to break down.
That’s why a supplement form of chlorophyll canned chlorophyllin has become a popular recommendation among nutritionists. You may see it listed as "sodium copper chlorophyllin" or "chlorophyllin copper complex" as an ingredient on a dietary supplement label. Chlorophyllin is water-soluble, and is an easily absorbed form of chlorophyll.
Sea vegetables, and supplements derived from them, tend to be high in iodine content which is the building block of thyroid hormone. This means that having adequate iodine is essential for thyroid health. In addition to the many other benefits of chlorophyll, the iodine in sea vegetables can be a healthy way to address an iodine deficiency and support thyroid function.
Some people have potential side effects and adverse effects when taking concentrated chlorophyll in supplement form. While these supplements are generally quite safe, some patients report digestive problems like nausea, cramps, or diarrhea. (Also, don't be surprised if you notice that your stools are green!)
If you are hypothyroid, there are several concerns and/or potential risks about adding chlorophyll-rich foods or supplements to your wellness regimen.
- Sea vegetables are very high in iodine, especially chlorella.
Too much iodine from food and supplement sources can aggravate and worsen hypothyroidism, raise thyroid antibodies, and aggravate autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in some people. If you are sensitive to iodine, already eat an iodine-rich diet, take iodine supplements that include iodine, or you’re hypothyroid after thyroid cancer treatment and following a low-iodine diet, it may be advisable to bypass the sea vegetables in favor of other sources of chlorophyll. As an option, you may want to test your levels of iodine before starting on a chlorophyll-rich diet or dietary supplement. (People with thyroid cancer should always consult their healthcare provider about adding supplements that contain iodine.)
- Some of the chlorophyll-rich cruciferous vegetables are also goitrogens.
If consumed raw in larger quantities, goitrogenic cruciferous vegetable consumption may slow down thyroid function. These vegetables include:
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Brussels sprouts
You don’t need to avoid these healthy, chlorophyll-rich vegetables. People with hypothyroidism should limit their consumption of these raw. Instead, consider light steaming or cooking, which deactivates most of the goitrogenic properties of these vegetables.
Are you ready to “go green?” If you are interested in increasing your dietary intake of chlorophyll, especially for your thyroid health, consider scheduling a consult with one of Paloma’s registered nutritionists. As experts in healthy eating for optimal thyroid function, the experienced team of Paloma nutritionists can help you make nutritional choices for optimal thyroid health and recommend a food and supplement regimen.