Research on green food supplements offers new info about their benefits to health-conscious consumers.

Do you remember The Jetsons and their futuristic method of eating? They took one pill that contained all their nutritional needs for the day and off they went. Although this look into the future turned out to be less than literal, the nutritional pedigree of green food supplements may leave you wondering if flying cars and robotic housemaids are just around the corner.

Green food supplements have been staples on store shelves for years. However, recent trends demonstrate that these products, known for their amazing nutritional content and wide-ranging health benefits, are quickly growing in popularity. There has never been a better time to learn even more about the incredible benefits of these products. We will explore the nutritional aspects of these products, as well as how they can help your customers in their detoxification and immune health regimens.

While the range of products continues to broaden as more natural supplement companies invest in this market, three great examples of green food supplements we will discuss include:
• Cereal grasses (like barley and wheat)
• Spirulina (a form of blue-green algae)
• Chlorella (a type of unicellular green algae)

Packing a Nutritional Punch
For those consumers struggling to fit in the recommended minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, green foods are great supplements. Just three grams of spirulina is equal to five servings of vegetables (1).

Green foods are also good sources of easily digestible proteins, making them particularly helpful for vegetarians. Take spirulina: one serving contains every essential amino acid needed (1). In fact, spirulina is comprised of approximately 60% protein (2). All these green foods also contain chlorophyll (the chemical responsible for photosynthesis in plants), which some argue helps to boost one’s immune system (2) and reduce anemia (3). Chlorella and spirulina contain B vitamins, while all three types of green foods are excellent sources of iron, vitamin C and vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Spirulina is also a great source of vitamin E, GLA (or gamma linolenic acid, an omega six fatty acid), selenium, zinc and copper. Chlorella contains magnesium, which some say helps individuals cope with stress and can work as an antidepressant (6).

Although all these vitamins and minerals offer benefits, there remain many consumer-reported benefits that cannot fully be quantified by looking at nutrient lists. Regular consumers who swear by these products testify to increased energy levels, healthier-looking hair, skin and nails, increased regularity and fewer issues with allergies (1, 2, 4, 5).

Kicking Toxins and Oxidants to the Curb
As we go about our daily routines, it is impossible to avoid being bombarded with toxins, whether it is through pollution, pesticides or stress. Green foods act as powerful protectors against these toxins and pollutants. In the case of spirulina, its array of carotenoids fights the free radicals we encounter every day (1). Chlorella also excretes dioxins found in pollutants, inhibits the initial dioxins absorption and helps detoxify dangerous heavy metals that find their way into our systems (5). According to a study conducted by scientists at the Fu Jen University, “Supplementation with barley grass helped reduce the levels of cholesterol and oxygen free-radicals in the blood of type-2 diabetics” (7).

Another barley grass study isolated and identified glycosylisovitexin, a potent bioflavonoid antioxidant. These same researchers also discovered that barley grass degraded a variety of organophosphorus pesticides in vitro (4). This finding supports the use of barley grass as a tool to remove toxins from the body. Similarly, spirulina promotes IgA production in saliva, which helps to inactivate toxins and other foreign substances found in food (8).

Green foods can also help meet the needs of those consumers looking to perform a total body cleanse, or to find ways to regulate their digestive systems through natural products. Let’s look at chlorella: research shows that it encourages the growth of probiotic bacteria, which not only absorb toxins, but also encourage peristalsis (6). Through doing so, chlorella increases regularity of the digestive system and helps move toxins out of the body’s system (5). Regular consumers of cereal grasses also report greater regularity of the digestive system (4). Similarly, research shows that spirulina aids in regularity and full body cleansing; according to Christopher Hills, Ph.D., spirulina “helps cleanse the intestinal tract as well as relax the smooth muscles of the bowels” (3). Spirulina provides the body with a protein source that is not mucoid-forming in the intestines and colon, which can lead to weakened digestion and poor nutrient absorption. It also helps increase levels of lactobacillus that can aid in better digestion, nutrient absorption and immune health (3).

Making Illness a Thing of the Past
Simply looking at the nutrients available in green foods illustrates how beneficial they are for supporting the immune system, but these benefits go beyond their nutritional profiles.

The researchers from Fu Jen University mentioned earlier found in a study that barley grass helps normalize blood flow, thereby aiding the body in warding off sickness as effectively as possible (9). Research also demonstrates the potential for chlorella as immune support, since it has been found to improve the function of white blood cells, improve immune function through boosting antiviral properties, balance helper T-cells and speed up mitochondria formation (5). Spirulina also supports the immune system by stimulating the production of antibodies and cytokines. It contains phycocyanin (the blue pigment in spirulina), which has also been shown to stimulate the immune system. The polysaccharides found in spirulina also increase the production of red blood cells, white blood cells, T-cells and hemoglobin, as well as activate macrophages and monocytes (1, 8).

This has only been a brief overview of the research surrounding the benefits of green food supplements, but you can undoubtedly understand why the number of dedicated consumers is rising. As the information on these amazing supplements becomes more recognized, you can expect an increase in interest and sales for these products as customers continue to search for ways of meeting their nutritional needs in an ever-busy world. WF

1. K. Moorehead, et al., Spirulina: Nature’s Superfood, (Cyanotech Corporation, Kailua-Kona, HI, 2006).
2. M. Zimmerman and J. Kroner, 7-Syndrome Healing: Supplement Essentials for the Mind and Body, (Nutrition Solutions Publications, 2006).
3. R. Henrikson, Earth Food Spirulina: How This Remarkable Blue-Green Algae Can Transform Your Health And Our Planet (Ronore Enterprises, 1994).
4. B. Terry, “Barley Grass Neutralizes Pesticides In Vitro,”, accessed Mar. 1, 2012.
5. T. Kanno,  Chlorella vulgaris and Chlorella vulgaris Extract (CVE): The Powerful Japanese Medicinal Green Algae as a Biological Response Modifier (Woodland Publishing, 2005).
6. V. Lambert, “Chlorella: The Superfood that Helps Fight Disease,” The Telegraph,, accessed Mar. 1, 2012.
7. B. Terry, “Clinical Research: Green Magma Helps Lower LDL Oxidation and Free Radical Activity in the Blood, and Supports Normal Levels of Cholesterol,”, accessed Mar. 1, 2012.
8. “Earthrise University: What is Spirulina?”, accessed Mar. 1, 2012.
9. B. Terry, “Clinical Research: Barley Grass Supports Cardiovascular Function,” retrieved from, accessed Mar. 1, 2012.

  Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2012