Why Super Greens Are So Good For You

How Sun Chlorella is Bridging the Nutritional Gap

    People are slurping down super green drinks and gobbling up super green tablets. Everyone’s talking about green "superfoods".

    But just to be clear . . . these aren’t your mother’s good-for-you greens like spinach and broccoli. Those green veggies are nutritious. But they’re not like these . . . 

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    We’re talking about greens that are super good for you . . . Greens like spirulina, chlorella and cereal grasses (wheat or barley grass).

    Clinical studies and preliminary research support the use of these super greens as a complementary therapy for cancer, as cleansing detoxifiers, for regenerative skincare, countering anemia in pregnant women and the elderly, reducing the risk for heart disease and managing diabetes. 

    But what makes these super green foods so good for you?

The Two Pigments That Make A Super Green Super

    Each of these green foods is distinct. Each has unique compounds and combinations of nutrients that make them useful for different health concerns.

    But they also all have two super nutrients in common . . . and in many ways, these nutrients are so important, they are what helped create the super green category.  

    All these super greens are super rich in chlorophyll and a class of pigments called carotenoids. Super greens easily beat spinach, carrots and other vegetables in their concentrated delivery of these nutrients.

    And when it comes to health benefits, these two pigments have an exceptional amount of research demonstrating their prowess in keeping your body going strong. 

Chlorophyll’s Super Green Power

    Chlorophyll has a long history of evidence-based use for wound healing, internal detoxification, countering anemia, cancer prevention and as a topical antiseptic. 

    As far back as 1950, the Butler University Botanical Studies noted, “A few of the outstanding results of chlorophyll therapy are the rapid acceleration of healing, rapid and sustained proliferation of normal tissue cells, formation of healthy granulation tissue, reduction of bacterial action, relief from pain, itching and burning, and the, deodorization and clearing of malodorous suppurative conditions.” [1]

    As this article demonstrated with case studies and clinical trials, chlorophyll developed a solid track record in the 1940’s and 50’s for its health benefits. Chlorophyll was used successfully for post-surgical dressings, internal treatment for problems like ulcerative colitis, and even dental problems. 

    Antibiotics subsequently replaced some of chlorophyll’s uses. But over 60 years later a synthetic derivative of chlorophyll, chlorophyllin, continues to be used medically in many ways from ostomy care to wound dressing. 

    Now, a new wave of chlorophyll research is churning through the health arena. Health experts are revisiting this natural green powerhouse again. And researchers are uncovering more and more convincing evidence for using chlorophyll therapeutically. 

  • First, chlorophyll seems to make a huge difference in skin health.

    In one study 30 women in their 40’s took concentrated chlorophyll for 90 days. At the end of the study, researchers measured the women’s level of wrinkling and skin elasticity. Both of these were significantly improved. The researchers found chlorophyll’s antioxidant power seemed to help prevent free-radical damage of the skin. But it goes even further . . . 

    When they took tissue samples, the researchers found the chlorophyll had increased the expression of pro-collagen 1 mRNA, an indication that the genes that signal collagen production were turned on. [2] In other words, chlorophyll seems to help boost collagen production. And collagen is critical for connective tissue health. 

  • Chlorophyll’s chemical structure is very similar to hemoglobin, raising questions about how it may help with anemia.

    Research on chlorophyll-rich super greens like chlorella and spirulina have shown that supplementation can improve red blood cell counts. [3,4] Of course, these studies have not proven that chlorophyll’s chemical structure is behind these results. But they certainly add to the evidence! 

  • According to a number of studies, chlorophyll may help protect you from cancer.

    Chlorophyll binds with certain cancer-causing molecules and ferries them out of your body. [5] However, it seems to be most effective when taken with the cancer-causing compounds since it protects by moving these damaging compounds out of the body. 

    In one population study in rural China with high rates of liver cancer caused by fungal toxins, when people supplemented with a chlorophyll derivative, they reduced the amount of markers for this fungal toxin damage in the body 55%! [6]

The Hidden Power Of Yellow

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    Carotenoids, the other major class of pigments found in super greens, also have a big resumé when it comes to health benefits. They’ve been shown to play a role in preventing UV damage to skin, keeping your eyes sharp, bolstering your heart and supporting lung health. 

    There are at least 50 different carotenoids in foods. A few of them stand out as particularly critical to your health . . . 

    Beta-carotene is perhaps the most well-known. It is the orange and yellow pigment in carrots and squash. It’s also hidden under chlorophyll’s green in leafy greens. Your body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A. 

  • Beta-carotene has been linked to a lower risk for heart disease

    Hardening of the arteries is often linked to free-radical damage. Beta-carotene’s antioxidant powers may help prevent this. Epidemiological studies have shown that people who eat lots of beta-carotene rich foods and who have more beta-carotene circulating in their blood have a lower risk of heart disease and arteriosclerosis. [7]

  • Beta-carotene has been linked to better lung health, especially in older people

    In one study involving disabled older women, researchers found that the higher amounts of beta-carotene in the blood, the healthier the women’s lungs were. In studies on older adults conducted in France and Holland, similar results were documented. [8] The more of this bright sunny pigment in your blood, the better your lung health. 

    However, there’s an important caveat to beta-carotene . . . 

  • Studies on beta-carotene supplementation among smokers did not show such nice results. Repeatedly, beta-carotene supplementation has been linked to a higher risk of lung cancer in smokers.
  • Similarly a few studies on heart disease have also shown that beta-carotene supplementation didn’t make much of a difference.

    Fortunately, health experts are able to shed some light on these seemingly contradictory findings . . . 

    All the studies showing no effect or bad effects from beta-carotene all involved nutritional supplements – not whole foods with beta-carotene in them. Isolated beta carotene as a nutritional supplements doesn't seem to work. The studies that simply looked at how high beta-carotene levels from consumption of vegetables affected the body all had positive results. 

    Because of this, health experts recommend getting beta-carotene in your body from whole food sources like super greens. It seems to work in concert with other nutrients to create the positive effects noted. [9]

    In addition to beta-carotene, some super greens like spirulina and chlorella, contain the carotenoids lutein and alpha-carotene. In a 2010 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, high blood levels of alpha-carotene was – simply put - associated with living longer. Based on data collected over a 14-year study period, people with more 6-8 micrograms of alpha-carotene per deciliter of blood had a 34% lower risk of death than people who had close to no alpha-carotene in their blood.[10]

    Lutein, another super green carotenoid, is beloved by eye doctors. A 2004 study published in the Journal Optometry found that when the concentration of this pigment increases in the macula of the eye, people experience better visual acuity.[11]

Eat Super Greens To Get Your Chlorophyll And Carotenoids

    Now you can see why these super greens are so super. They supply your body with a rich dish of chlorophyll and carotenoids. When you add in the other special nutrients found in these super greens, like chlorella’s chlorella growth factor (CGF) you can see why these foods are powerhouses of nutrition.

 Best of all, for busy people, these super greens offer a concentrated way to squeeze extra nutrition into your packed schedule. When taken as a whole-food supplement or mixed into a smoothie, you can get a day’s worth of nutrition in a single serving! 

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Sources:
[1] Esten, Mabel M. and Dannin, Albert G. (1950) "Chlorophyll therapy and its relation to pathogenic bacteria," Butler University Botanical Studies: Vol. 9, Article 21
[2] Cho S et al. Drink containing chlorophyll extracts improves signs of photoaging and increases type I procollagen in human skin in Vivo. Korean Journal of Investigative Dermatology; 2006; 13(4)
[3] Selmi C et al. The effects of Spirulina on anemia and immune function in senior citizens.Cell Mol Immunol. 2011 May;8(3):248-54. Epub 2011 Jan 31.
[4] Nakano S et al. Chlorella pyrenoidosa supplementation reduces the risk of anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnant women. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Mar;65(1):25-30.
[5] Simonich, MT. Cancer Prevented By Chlorophyll. Linus Pauling Institute Website. Fall/Winter Newsletter 2006. Viewed 10/14 at http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/fw06/chlorophylls.html
[6] Bailey, G. Chlorophylls and Cancer Prevention, Passing The First Hurdle. Linus Pauling Website. November 2002. Viewed 10/14 at http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/f-w02/chlorophylls.html
[7] D’Odorica, A et al. High plasma levels of alpha- and beta-carotene are associated with a lower risk of atherosclerosis: results from the Bruneck study. Atherosclerosis. 2000 Nov;153(1):231-9.
[8] Semba RD et al. Serum Carotenoids And Pulmonary Function In Older Community-Dwelling Women. J Nutr Health Aging. Apr 2012; 16(4): 291–296.
[9] Beta Carotene. NYU Langone Center Website. Viewed 10/14 at http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21547
[10]Chaoyang Li et al. Serum {alpha}-Carotene Concentrations and Risk of Death Among US Adults The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Follow-up Study.Arch Intern Med., November 22, 2010.
[11] Richer S et al. Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degeneration: the Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial). Optometry. 2004 Apr;75(4):216-30.