Is the Chlorella leading the new wave of superfoods?
Are you looking for a new superfood to add to your diet? Once you understand the health benefits of chlorella you might just stop looking.
Chlorella is a type of green freshwater algae and one of mother nature’s greatest nutritional gifts.
Sure, the thought of eating algae for breakfast doesn’t sound too great but adding Chlorella supplements to your diet could bring you a range of health benefits.
In this article we’ll tell you why the use of Chlorella could have a positive effect on heart health, immune function and lowering your blood sugar levels as well as boosting your overall health.
If you enjoy reading about natural wellness then be sure to check out our other articles right here.
Why is Chlorella good for you?
To answer this question we first need to understand what Chlorella is.
We know that it is a green type of algae which differs slightly from the other well known superfood, Spirulina which is a few million years younger and a blue-green algae.
Chlorella is a single celled organism with a hard cell wall which makes it tough for the human body to digest.
The goodness inside needs to be extracted and turned into a nutritional supplement like Chlorella powder or Chlorella tablets before we can harness the beneficial nutrients.
The two types of Chlorella most often used in supplements and other food products are Chlorella vulgaris and Chlorella pyrenoidosa.
Although in the United States the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t give a recommended daily allowance for taking Chlorella, using it as part of your daily routine could bring some important health benefits.
15 Health Benefits of Chlorella
1. Impressive nutritional value
Chlorella extracts are densely packed with vital vitamins and nutrients for good health.
6 essential nutrients in Chlorella include:
- Vitamin B-12: Used in the production of red blood cells and to keep the nervous system healthy.
- Iron: Chlorella can be a good source of iron and depending on the specific dietary supplement it may provide anywhere between 6–40% of your daily RDA.
- Vitamin C: Chlorella is also an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron.
- B vitamins: Chlorella provides small amounts of magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, calcium, folic acid and other B vitamins.
- Omega-3s: As with different species of algae like Spirulina, Chlorella contains some omega-3 fatty acids. Just 3 grams of Chlorella delivers 100 mg of omega-3s.
- Fiber: Lots of Chlorella can be a good source of dietary fiber which plays an important role in the efficiency of the digestive tract.
2. Great for Eye Health
Over time, the blue light emitted from the sun can damage the cells in your retina and up the risk for vision problems like age-related macular degeneration.
Phones and laptops emit blue light too, but there’s insufficient evidence that blue light from electronic devices damages your eyes.
Chlorella is a potent source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants proven to fight against blue light’s harmful effects and lower macular degeneration risk.
3. A Master of Detox
Chlorella has long been thought to have a detoxifying effect on the body. In particular, it’s shown to have an ability to bind to harmful heavy metals, which are then flushed out of the body naturally in waste.
In a Japanese study, published in The Journal of Toxicological Sciences, taking Chlorella reduced mercury levels in body cells.
Animal studies support the theory that Chlorella helps remove harmful substances from the body and have proved that Chlorella species’ reduce the toxicity of metals in the brain, liver and kidneys.
Heavy metals include some elements that are essential in small amounts, such as iron and copper, but these and other heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead can be toxic in larger amounts.
While it’s rare for people to have dangerous levels of heavy metals in their system, people can get exposed to heavy metals through pollution or certain jobs such as mining.
4. Immune System booster
Your immune system is the human body’s defence system that keeps you in good health and fights off infections and disease.
Chlorella extracts have been found to enhance the immune response in both animal and human studies, although the scientific studies conducted have only been on a small scale.
In one small study, men produced more antibodies (Salivary secretory immunoglobulin) when taking Chlorella than when they took a placebo.
Those with auto-immune diseases should consult with a doctor before taking Chlorella products as they can increase immune function and may make these conditions worse.
5. Vegan friendly source of Omega-3s
When we think of omega-3s we usually think of fish like salmon or fish oil tablets that you’d find in the chemist.
But did you know that fish actually get their omega-3 intake from eating species of Chlorella and other algae.
So, if you’ve recently watched the Seaspiracy documentary on Netflix and have been put off eating fish then you can legit go straight to the source and get your omega-3s from Chlorella or another type of fresh water algae.
Not only are you maintaining a healthy diet by choosing a sustainable food source but you’ll also be saving the planet!
6. Useful for improving Cholesterol Levels
Studies suggest that Chlorella supplementation may help lower cholesterol.
Taking 5–10 grams of Chlorella daily lowered total cholesterol and triglycerides in people with high blood pressure and/or slightly elevated cholesterol.
Chlorella’s content of niacin, fiber and antioxidants may help improve blood lipid levels to help combat high blood pressure and heart disease.
7. Acts as an Antioxidant
Chlorella contains high levels of chlorophyll and several other compounds that are considered antioxidants such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein.
Clinical trials showed Chlorella supplements increased antioxidant levels in chronic cigarette smokers, a population at a higher risk of oxidative damage.
8. Chlorella can ease PMS and period pain
Research suggests that taking Chlorella supplements may help relieve period pain.
A study in 44 girls with menstrual cramps found that taking 1.5 grams of Chlorella daily for 8 weeks improved symptoms such as cramping, headaches, fatigue, and decreased inflammation.
9. Keeps Blood Pressure in Check
Chlorella supplements could help promote heart and kidney health, which is essential for normal blood pressure.
A small study in healthy men showed that taking Chlorella supplements was linked to less stiffness of the arteries, a factor that affects blood pressure.
Chlorella’s nutrients, including arginine, potassium, calcium and omega-3s, help protect arteries from hardening.
10. Improves Blood Sugar Levels
Chlorella may help lower blood sugar levels. A study found that taking Chlorella for 12 weeks lowered fasting blood sugar levels in both healthy individuals and those at high risk of lifestyle-related diseases.
Other studies have shown that supplementing with Chlorella improves blood sugar control and increases insulin sensitivity in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Health claims that Chlorella on its own can manage blood sugar are a way off being proven but may help when combined with other methods.
11. Helps Manage Respiratory Problems
Managing cardiovascular diseases like asthma and COPD often requires controlling inflammation of the lungs.
The antioxidants that we spoke about above have qualities that help reduce inflammation and manage respiratory issues.
One study found that Chlorella supplements improved antioxidant status in COPD patients, but that didn’t translate into any improvements in breathing capability.
12. Enhances Aerobic Endurance
There has only been one study which looked at Chlorella’s effect on aerobic endurance, but it showed a positive effect.
Researchers gave a group of young adults six grams of Chlorella daily for four weeks.
At the end of the study, the group showed a significantly improved ability to saturate their lungs with oxygen, which is a measure of endurance.
This effect may be due to Chlorella’s essential amino acid content, these are called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Branched-chain amino acids are a collection of three amino acids that have been found to improve aerobic performance.
The use of Chlorella amongst professional athletes has been on the rise in the past decade for this reason.
13. Muscle building and repair
In food shortages following the second world war, many governments considered mass producing Chlorella to feed starving communities due to its high nutritional value and protein content.
14. Tackles Diabetes
The antioxidants in Chlorella help us fight chronic diseases and can restrict the production of advanced glycation end products improving insulin resistance.
This is particularly important in people with medical conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Chlorella benefits those who are already on diabetic medication and helps prevent adverse effects from the disease.
15. Improves the quality of breast milk
If pregnant women are ingesting toxins these can be passed to the infant child through breastfeeding.
The detoxing properties of Chlorella help rid these toxins from the breast milk and stop them being passed on to the baby.
A recent study found that Chlorella can prevent hormonal imbalance and strengthen the immune system.
5 side effects of Chlorella
For the most part Chlorella is considered a great addition to your diet.
However it can have some mild side effects and may interfere with certain medications.
- Taking Chlorella in small amounts or tablet form doesn’t tend to cause issues but larger quantities have the potential to cause nausea, diarrhea and cramping.
- It can turn your breast milk green! Like other intensely colored foods, Chlorella can change the color of breast milk and even your poo! This is totally harmless…just a bit weird!
- It can make your skin more sensitive. Chlorella could potentially make you more prone to sunburn, so if you’re taking large quantities, be smart about minimizing your exposure to direct sunlight.
- In extreme cases you could have an allergic reaction. Severe ones like anaphylaxis, although very rare, have been reported.
- It’s not for people on blood thinners. Chlorella is high in vitamin K, which can affect blood clotting and reduce the effectiveness of blood thinning meds.
Spirulina or Chlorella?
Both Chlorella and Spirulina are considered supergreens and aren’t too dissimilar.
They’re both packed with essential nutrients, and they are associated with boosting your nutrient levels, improving overall health, and preventing diseases.
However, this does not mean that one is better than the other, this mainly comes down to personal preference. As a general rule they will most likely be marketed in a similar way ie. a natural plant based superfood.
I would always lean towards Chlorella if pushed, only because it is the older of the two. The difference essentially is minimal.