When you think of superfoods, you probably think about foods like blueberries, kale, quinoa, and acai. But what about algae? Algae are something that you don’t recognize as edible or something that exists only in your fish tank. However, algae is also a superfood, which gives many benefits of chlorella, and in fact, there are dozens of edible algae that have incredible health benefits. One of them is called chlorella, which is vivid, green algae that are like spirulina and other algae.
What is Chlorella?
Chlorella is a bright green, unicellular algae, and its color comes from the high levels of chlorophyll that chlorella contains. The strain of chlorella that is commonly used as a dietary supplement is called Chlorella Vulgaris. Chlorella has been sold in the form of powders, dietary supplement, pills, teas, and even instant ramen.This simple, unicellular algae has been scientifically proven to help with various bodily functions and is full of nutrients.
History Behind the Benefits of Chlorella
The benefits of chlorella were initially discovered by a Dutch microbiologist by the name of Dr. Beijerinck in 1890. However, chlorella wasn’t widely used until World War I, when Germany cultivated chlorella to use it as a source of protein.
This is the initial reason why people were interested in cultivating chlorella. Chlorella, even in small amounts, is packed full of protein. This meant that people could eat only small portions of chlorella and get their daily amount of protein without all the extra calories or feelings of fullness afterward.
Japan cultivated pure chlorella in mass amounts, which led to the research and study of chlorella after World War II. Similarly, to spirulina, chlorella was renowned for its health benefits and was used as a supplement.
NASA conducted various studies on chlorella as a potential supplement for astronauts due to its nutritional effects in such a compact organism. A benefit of chlorella is also known for its ability to act as a “waste collector” in ocean environments.
To this day, the health benefits of chlorella continue to be studied, and it is often referred to as a “superfood” due to its high density of nutrients.
Chlorella Benefits and Nutrition Facts
Chlorella is naturally high in many types of nutrients. Listed below are the nutrients in chlorella.
- High in protein: 42-58% of chlorella is protein!
- Contains all 9 essential amino acids, which means chlorella is a complete protein
- Has polyunsaturated fatty acids (aka a type of “good” fat)
- Contains antioxidants such as chlorophyll and beta carotene
- Good source of iron
- Contains vitamins A, E, C
- High in vitamin K
Chlorella has a rich vitamin and mineral profile that could aid in many functions in the body.However, since chlorella is deficient in some essential minerals, it is crucial to keep consuming a nutritious, balanced diet. A vital component of a healthy diet that chlorella lacks is carbohydrates.
Our bodies need a certain amount of carbohydrates to function correctly and optimally (though the number of carbohydrates may differ from person to person).
The Health Benefits of Chlorella
Due to its nature of being nutrient-packed algae, chlorella has been shown to have various positive health effects. Here are just a few, but keep in mind that chlorella is continuously being studied for its beneficial effects.
- Chlorella has been studied as a potential adsorbent for heavy metals, which means it pulls heavy metal substances out of cells.
- Heavy metals can be harmful to the body, which is why natural chelators such as chlorella are vital for optimal body health.
Promotes Muscle Regeneration:
- A study found participants treated with chlorella had improved regeneration capacities of myoblasts, which supports muscle regeneration. The same study also concluded that chlorella may act as an anti-aging agent for the myoblast cells.
- As mentioned before, chlorella contains many antioxidants. These include chlorophyll, beta carotene, and vitamin C. Antioxidants have been found to prevent and fight against chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and asthma.
Potential fibromyalgia, hypertension, and ulcerative colitis reliever:
- Participants that consume 10 g of pure chlorella and 100 mL of liquid with chlorella extracted daily for 2 to 3 months have reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, faster-wound healing, and better immune system functions.
- However, this is merely one study, and more comprehensive clinical trials regarding use of chlorella as a relief for fibromyalgia, hypertension, and ulcerative colitis patients need to be conducted for chlorella to be officially recommended as a treatment of any sort.
Potentially Lower Cholesterol:
- Chlorella, when taken daily in 5 g doses, reduced cholesterol in patients that had mild cases of high cholesterol. This positive outcome may be related to the fact that chlorella contains beta carotene, which is a carotenoid.
Chlorella may contribute to these positive health effects. Still, the most essential and beneficial method of maintaining good health is to exercise, eat a healthy diet, and partake in self-care!
Chlorella vs. Spirulina
Chlorella and spirulina are often confused because they are both types of algae and are similar in color. Both chlorella and spirulina are known for their ability to collect waste from contaminated oceans, and both are considered superfoods due to their high nutritional value.
Additionally, chlorella and spirulina, as well as all other microalgae, are being considered an alternative to diesel oil. However, many differences lead to different uses of chlorella and spirulina. Spirulina is a higher protein and antioxidants, but chlorella is higher in calories and omega-3 fatty acids. Chlorella also has indigestible, rigid cell walls, whereas spirulina has digestible, soft cell walls.
This is why chlorella supplements are sold with “broken cell walls” so that our bodies can properly digest it.
Beneficial Chlorella Recipes
Once again, chlorella is relatively easy to add to the diet. Since chlorella can come in powder and tea form, there are many delicious ways to add it to your everyday life.
Chlorella Green Smoothie
Blend your favorite dairy alternative milk, spinach, a teaspoon of chlorella powder, a ripe banana, and a handful of blueberries for a balanced smoothie. Feel free to adjust the amount of milk or add ice for a thinner or thicker smoothie! You can even add oats or chia seeds for a fun, nutritious twist.
Chlorella Green Iced Tea
To make iced tea, steep 2-3 bags of chlorella tea in hot water. If you would like a bit more flavor, add in a squeeze of honey or squeeze the lemon juice into your tea. After cooling the tea off in the fridge, pour over ice, and relish on a hot summer day!
Chlorella Citrus Spritzer
If you love sparkling water, try mixing chlorella powder with a little bit of water and a squeezed grapefruit or lemon. Add your favorite seltzer, and you end up with a no added sugar drink that is a perfect accompaniment to any meal.
A simple, positive way to introduce chlorella’s benefits to your diet is by mixing half a teaspoon of powdered chlorella into a tablespoon of your favorite peanut, sunflower seed, hazelnut, cashew, or almond butter. The taste of chlorella is easily masked by the strong flavor of nuts or sunflower seeds. This spread could be used in sandwiches, spread on apples, or eaten right off the spoon.
Chlorella isn’t a problematic supplement to add to your diet, and although the thought of consuming algae may be intimidating, these recipes show you just how easy it can be. These are only a few recipes, but feel free to use chlorella in spice rubs, pestos, protein shakes, and more.
General recommendations on chlorella benefits and consumption
How much chlorella should I take?
Currently, there is no recommended dosage for chlorella. Chlorella is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, but the FDA does not regulate it. There does not appear to be a toxic limit; however, many of the studies on chlorella typically have participants ingesting up to 10 grams of chlorella.
Before you decide to take chlorella as a supplement, consult your doctor and discuss what dosage may be appropriate for you. Remember, starting off with a smaller dose is better than starting off with an amount that is too much.
When should I take my chlorella supplement?
There is no suggested time for chlorella consumption. Chlorella can be taken at any time of the day, before or after meals. Feel free to take your chlorella supplement at whatever time is most convenient for you.
Will my child benefit from taking chlorella?
Chlorella can be given to children, but it is best to consult your child’s pediatrician before giving them any kind of chlorella. Also, some children may have allergies to chlorella, especially children who are allergic to mold.
If your pediatrician does approve of chlorella supplementation for your child, start off with smaller doses such as 1 g of chlorella. The same applies to mother’s breastfeeding. Consumption of chlorella by a breastfeeding mother leads to breast milk that contains chlorella as well.
Are there adverse side effects of taking chlorella supplements?
For the most part, chlorella is a safe supplement with little to no side effects. However, some people cannot tolerate chlorella as well. Side effects include nausea, diarrhea, cramping in the abdominal region, flatulence, and green stools.
There have also been reports of people who suffer from chlorella allergies that led to asthma and anaphylaxis. Some benefits of chlorella show it has high amounts of vitamin K, which plays a huge role in blood clotting. This may interfere with warfarin, a blood thinner that works to prevent blood clots. People on warfarin need to be cautious or avoid chlorella entirely and should speak with their doctor if they are considering taking any supplements.
Final thoughts on chlorella
Chlorella is an algae that packs a punch. It is full of vitamins and minerals and high in protein. There doesn’t seem to be many side effects, but those who wish to take chlorella supplements should err on the side of caution as there is no recommended dosage or toxic limit of chlorella yet.
As with all supplements, be sure to look for a label of certification and consult your doctor if you are considering taking a supplement. Those taking warfarin should especially be cautious around chlorella products, as chlorella contains high amounts of vitamin K, which helps blood clots.
Chlorella appears to be an excellent addition to a healthy diet because there are many health benefits of consuming chlorella.