Goodbye Kale Smoothie, Hello Chlorophyll Water
The health drink we’re all obsessing over now is just one in the history of many.
Cheers, everyone! It’s time to get out your mason jar, we’re drinking chlorophyll. Whether you buy water pre-chlorophylled or add it yourself, you’ll be joining countless people all drinking the compound, which asserts a variety of health benefits.
Morgan Greenwald writes in NBC News, “Chlorophyll is the pigment found in plants that gives them their green hue.” Chlorophyll drops and liquid supplements, however, actually contain chlorophyllin, “a semi-synthetic mixture of water-soluble sodium copper salts derived from chlorophyll,” according to the Micronutrient Information Center of Oregon State University. While there are proven benefits to chlorophyll as eaten in green plants, whether it is beneficial to drink such liquid supplements is still debated by experts.
Many on TikTok swear by it, though. They’ve been documenting their journeys consuming the supplement on the app for others to learn about and follow.
But this isn’t the first time a drink has gone viral online. A few years ago, the thing to try was activated charcoal. According to an article in Refinery29 by Sarah Jacoby, although it is used in emergency medical situations because of its ability to bind to toxins, it is not meant to be consumed on a daily basis. But the lack of sound evidence for its benefits didn’t prevent activated charcoal drinks from becoming a huge fad amongst celebrities and the general health-conscious crowd. People were even consuming it in everything from lemonade to cocktails to ice cream.
Activated charcoal was also a popular ingredient in beauty products, in shampoo, shower gel, and facemasks, where its benefits are better documented, namely the ability to exfoliate and draw out toxins.
Before activated charcoal, there was the juice cleanse trend, which remains relatively popular today. Many would buy their supply of juices from a specific company for a cleanse lasting anywhere from one to several days. According to one of these companies, Pressed Juicery, a full, 6-day juice cleanse “includes 6 juices per day with no additional meals to give your digestive system a break and just deliver vitamins and minerals to your body.” Its FAQ page states, “A juice cleanse is a way of pushing the reset button for your body, both physically and mentally. It is not about food deprivation, fasting and is not intended to be a weight loss situation.”
Despite this, many saw (and still do) doing a juice cleanse as a way to fast-track weight loss. Another juice cleanse, by Raw Generation, is literally called “Skinny Cleanse.” “It’s been helping people feel lighter from the inside out for years. The raw fruit and vegetable juices give you the nutrition needed to support your weight loss goals, boost energy and jumpstart a healthier diet…fast!” states the product description.
According to Harvard Health, one should ask a dietician before trying juicing and as an alternative, “Whole fruits and vegetables have a higher nutritive value and can help the body to naturally detoxify itself.”
Going back even further, we come across detox tea. FitTea, which proclaims itself as a “globally known brand and the #1 detox tea in America,” “is a powerful detoxifying tea blend made from natural ingredients loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and ECGC [a plant-based compound] that help improve people’s overall health.” A whole host of influencers and celebrities have used FitTea, most notably, the Kardashians. Other teas, such as SkinnyMint and SkinnyFit, are also very popular. But numerous experts have called into question the benefits and even safety of “teatoxing,” as it’s called.
Fads in the health industry are really nothing new, whether for weight loss or other purposes. Over the years, there’s been the MasterCleanse (you can buy these drinks pre-made today), Atkins, WeightWatchers, Paleo, South Beach. There are oxygen shots, apple cider vinegar, celery juice, and more.
But a key difference between past health fads and today’s is the social media factor. Lots of foods today seem designed to be posted on social media. An example is the unicorn food trend, in which sparkly foods in pink, blue, and purple colors were all over Instagram. Ditto rainbow bagels. And latte art. And cronuts.
The same thing applies to health foods — people want to show off what they are eating and drinking on Instagram, and, these days, TikTok. A lot of juices and smoothies thus double as props for social media snapshots and are thus made in bright colors with pretty packaging. Looking up “juice cleanse” on Google, I am met with a number of different juice sets in perfect packaging.
But let’s go back to chlorophyll water. To many, drinking chlorophyll isn’t the most appetizing. But in exchange for an earthy, lush picture of your green drink on Instagram, TikTok, or VSCO? Sooo worth it.
There’s also a social factor. When everyone else is trying something out, of course, we want to too. We can participate in a health trend that is relatively easy (with chlorophyll, it’s basically just drinking water) and compare our results and experiences to others online. The social factor also helps to mitigate any grossness or difficulty (think of how everyone was doing Chloe Ting workouts at the beginning of quarantine) — if anything, it’s a trial we are participating in with an entire (digital) community behind us.
But when it comes to health, you should never just take Instagram’s word for it. While trying different juices and trends within reason can be fun and is usually harmless, there really is no magic wand that can replace maintaining a healthy lifestyle, whatever that means for you. So sure, sip your green juice of choice, but remember to eat some vegetables as well!