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chlorophyll, including what foods it can be found in

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  • Scott Munson
    chlorophyll, including what foods it can be found in Although it s not very well known in the world of nutrition, chlorophyll couldn t be more important in the
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2008
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      chlorophyll, including what foods it can be found in

      Although it's not very well known in the world of nutrition,
      chlorophyll couldn't be more important in the world of biology and
      plants. All green plants contain at least one type of chlorophyll
      (chlorophyll a). Plants that evolved at a later point in history
      ("higher plants") also contain a second type of chlorophyll
      (chlorophyll b). There are also forms of chlorophyll called
      chlorophyll c1, c2, and c3, as well as a chlorophyll d, but these
      forms are much less widely distributed in the plant world. Chlorophyll
      is the single most critical substance in plants that allows them to
      absorb light from the sun and convert that light into usable energy.
      (In biochemistry, it's called the primary photoreceptor pigment).

      In many vegetables, there is slightly more chlorophyll a than
      chlorophyll b, and this slight edge in favor of chlorophyll a tends to
      decrease as the plant ages. However, research studies have yet to
      clarify what the exact health significance is of this chlorophyll a-to-
      chlorophyll b ratio.

      The color of chlorophyll

      It's usually easy to tell when a food has significant amounts of
      chlorophyll, because chlorophyll provides the green color that is
      found in grasses, leaves, and many of the vegetables that we eat.
      These plants and foods would not be green without their chlorophyll,
      since chlorophyll pigments reflect sunlight at exact appropriate
      wavelengths for our eyes to detect them as green. The chlorophyll a
      molecule actually reflects light in a blue-green range (about 685
      nanometer wavelengths), while chlorophyll b reflects light in a more
      yellow-green color (about 735 nanometer wavelengths). The overall
      affect, however, is for us to see varying shades of a color we would
      simply call "green."

      Foods that contain chlorophyll

      While all green plants contains chlorophyll a, and most vegetables
      that we eat contain both chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b, some
      vegetables contain particularly high amounts of total chlorophyll.
      Best studied of all the vegetables is spinach (Spinacia oleracea in
      the Latin scientific name), with this vegetable containing about
      300-600 milligrams per ounce.

      To understand how high in chlorophyll this amount turns out to be,
      compare the chlorophyll content of spinach to another of the World's
      Healthiest Foods - olives. Chlorophyll is one of the primary pigments
      in olives, but olives contain only 30-300 micrograms per ounce (about
      1/1000th as much as spinach). Some olive oil producers deliberately
      allow leaves to be placed in the olive presses to increase the
      chlorophyll and "grassiness" of the olive oil.

      All of the green vegetables in the World's Healthiest Foods -
      asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage,
      celery, collard greens, green beans, green peas, kale, leeks, green
      olives, parsley, romaine lettuce, sea vegetables, spinach, Swiss
      chard, and turnip greens are concentrated sources of chlorophyll.

      Chlorophyll and health

      Research on the health benefits of chlorophyll has focused on the area
      of cancer (including treatment and prevention). This research got
      underway when damage to genes (or more precisely, to the genes' DNA)
      by carcinogenic substances called aflatoxins (or more precisely
      aflatoxin B1, or AFB1), was found to be prevented by chlorophyllin.
      Chlorophyllin is a derivative of chlorophyll in which the magnesium in
      its center is removed (usually by placing it in an acid bath in a
      science lab) and replaced with copper.

      Research studies in humans have found that damage to DNA by aflatoxin
      can be decreased as much as 55% through supplementation with
      chlorophyllin at 100 milligrams, three times a day, for four months.
      This amount of chlorophyllin, 300 milligrams per day, is the same
      amount of chlorophyll found in one weighted ounce of spinach (a little
      over 1/2 cup of chopped raw spinach). Although research is still in
      the early stage, prevention and treatment of liver cancer, skin
      cancer, and colon cancer are all being investigated in relationship to
      intake of chlorophyll-containing vegetables and supplementation with

      The effect of cooking on chlorophyll

      One of the primary reasons for the change in color when green
      vegetables are cooked is the change in chlorophyll. What happens
      during this process is actually quite interesting.

      The chemical perspective

      Chlorophyll has a chemical structure that is quite similar to a
      chemical structure found within our red blood cells. A basic
      difference is the fact that this structure (called a porphyrin ring)
      contains an atom of iron at its center when it is found in our red
      blood cells, but when it is found in plants, it contains an atom of
      magnesium at the center. When plants are heated and/or exposed to acid
      (and when green vegetables are cooked and/or exposed to acid), the
      magnesium gets removed from the center of this ring structure and
      replaced by an atom of hydrogen. (In biochemistry, the chlorophyll a
      gets turned into a molecule called pheophytin a, and the chlorophyll b
      gets turned into pheophytin b). With this one simple change, the color
      of the vegetable changes from bright green to olive-gray. (The
      pheophytin provides a green-gray color, and the pheophytin b provides
      an olive-green color).

      The practical perspective

      The jury is definitely still out on the impact of cooking on
      chlorophyll. At one end of the spectrum, it's totally clear that
      dramatic loss of chlorophyll occurs after prolonged cooking. In
      studies on broccoli, for example, about two thirds of the chlorophyll
      was removed after 20 minutes of boiling. Researchers have also
      determined that there are steadily increasing losses of both
      chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b when the boiling time for broccoli is
      increased from 5 to 20 minutes. However, at cooking times less than
      five minutes, the research is not as clear, and some studies suggest
      that brief steaming of vegetables like spinach actually increases the
      amount of chlorophyll that can be absorbed into our body.

      Whenever a vegetable is cooked long enough to cause a change in color
      from bright green to olive-gray, we know that some of the chlorophyll
      a and chlorophyll b in the vegetable have been changed to pheophytins
      a and b. This color change is one of the reasons we have established
      the relatively short steaming times for green vegetables in the
      World's Healthiest Cooking techniques! Our cooking methods are
      designed to preserve the unique concentrations of chlorophyll found in
      these magnificent vegetables.

      Practical tips

      Overcooking is particularly important to avoid when it comes to
      chlorophyll, but with very short steaming times, the chlorophyll
      content of these foods is preserved, and absorption of chlorophyll
      from these foods may actually be increased. Consumption of these green
      vegetables in raw form is also an excellent way to obtain the health
      benefits of chlorophyll.


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