The supplement that no green smoothie is good without is a bit of algae. While spirulina is one supplement that many people have probably heard of, chlorella is another impressive green algae that’s packed with nutrition and many potential health benefits. So, before you go scraping it off your local pond, read on to find out if taking this super supplement could benefit you.
What is Chlorella?
Chlorella is a single-celled green algae — a water-based plant, packed with nutritional value. It has survived various intense conditions to make itself one of the longest surviving species on Earth.1 While eating algae isn’t appealing to most people, algae-based supplements are very popular due to their incredible nutritional properties. Similar to spirulina, another popular algae supplement that anyone can benefit from this incredible plant.
What does it do?
Chlorella is a water-based “plant”, or green algae, that is a cornerstone of the aquatic food chain. It uses sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce a great deal of oxygen to help other plants and animals thrive.2 For years, many cultures have used chlorella as a food source and for its health benefits. Because it’s a plant with cell walls that humans can’t digest, to get the benefits humans must take it as a supplement. Let’s be honest, taking a supplement is much nicer than drinking pond water anyway…
What are the Health Benefits of Chlorella?
1. Nutritional Powerhouse
Chlorella is packed with protein along with chlorophyll, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. More than half of its contents is protein, but it also contains other health-boosting nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and healthy fats.
Chlorella is an impressive source of chlorophyll, a powerful plant pigment with many health benefits. Chlorophyll can keep our red blood cells healthy, help to heal wounds, and improve blood sugar control.1
Chlorella is composed of up to 60% protein, making it three times higher in protein concentration than beef.1 Most chlorella extracts contain up to 16g of protein per ounce, with a wide range of essential and nonessential amino acids, making it an excellent plant-based protein source3.
- Iron and Vitamin C
Chlorella is a great plant-based source of iron that’s suitable for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. The exact amount varies depending on the type of supplement, but most plant-based iron sources aren’t easily absorbed. In combination with the vitamin C in chlorella, the iron can have a greater impact through better absorption.
- Vitamin B6
Chlorella is a great source of several B vitamins, including vitamin B6. B6 is used for many metabolic functions, immunity, and plays a role in brain development.3
- Vitamin B9
Chlorella supplements are also a source of vitamin B9, or folic acid. It plays a role in DNA formation and cell division during growth and development.4 This vitamin is crucial for pregnant women and developing babies, making it a beneficial supplement for all women of child-bearing age.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the heart-healthy unsaturated fats that can have many health benefits, and they’re present in chlorella. These types of fats, found in plant sources, can help fight inflammation and other chronic health issues. They can help increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol to prevent heart disease.2
2. May Boost your Immune System
In addition to being a good source of vitamin C and other vitamins that help to boost immunity, chlorella supplements have also been proven to have powerful antioxidant properties.2 Oxidative damage to our body’s cells is to blame for many disease states and illnesses, making antioxidant foods and supplements crucial for sustaining good health long term. Chlorella supplements have even been linked with speeding up wound healing.1
In addition to being a good source of antioxidants, other research has shown that chlorella can also have anti-inflammatory properties, which is another way to prevent health issues.2
3. May Improve Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Because chlorella is a good source of heart healthy omega-3 fats and fiber, it can help improve cholesterol. Its other properties of anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation can also help to prevent the damage that high cholesterol can cause to your heart circulatory system. Chlorella has specifically been shown to help reduce LDL, or low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) levels and have a positive impact on blood pressure.1
4. Help Detox the Body
Chlorella supplements have been shown to aid in detoxing the body of harmful levels of heavy metals like lead and mercury.1 Chlorella’s properties help by binding to these harmful metals and helping remove them from the body through the digestive tract.1 Many supplements and products claim to help with detoxing, but don’t have as much supportive research as chlorella.
Is Chlorella Dangerous? Possible Side Effects and Risks
Chlorella and other algae species are classified as food sources by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and are “generally regarded as safe”.1 This classification means that, although there may be negative side effects in large doses, healthy individuals shouldn’t see any harm in reasonable amounts, so add that extra scoop to your smoothie.1
The side effects of chlorella in research have been mild and are usually related to digestive issues.2 Other potential risks are the fact that the content of chlorella supplements vary greatly depending on the species, growing conditions, and how they are processed. Because of its potential benefits in treating other health conditions, and like all nutritional supplements, it might interact with other medications. The impact of chlorella on the immune system is unique and could be potentially harmful for anyone with a suppressed immune system. If you’re concerned, it’s best to speak with your doctor before beginning any supplement routine.
How should you take Chlorella? Dosage and Frequency
When it comes to taking Chlorella, it depends on how you’d like to incorporate it in to your diet. Chlorella supplements are available in both powder- and pill forms. If you prefer taking pills, the tablets would be appropriate, but the powder makes a simple addition to a smoothie or vegetable soup. The fact that the processing of Chlorella varies so greatly means there’s no simple dosage that is recommended. Follow the guidelines of the supplier and speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you need help deciding the right dosage for you.
Take Home Message
If you’re looking for a mean, green supplement that’s packed with all the good stuff, then chlorella could be the one for you. From a high-protein content to being packed with vitamins, there’s plenty that this ancient, green algae can do for your morning smoothie or supplement routine.
Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
1. Rani, K., Sandal, N., & Sahoo, P. K. (2018). A comprehensive review on chlorella-its composition, health benefits, market and regulatory scenario. Pharma Innov. J., 7, 584-589
2. Panahi, Y., Darvishi, B., Jowzi, N., Beiraghdar, F., & Sahebkar, A. (2016). Chlorella vulgaris: a multifunctional dietary supplement with diverse medicinal properties. Current pharmaceutical design, 22(2), 164-173.
3. Office of Dietary Supplements. (2016, February 17). National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin B6. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-Consumer/
4. Office of Dietary Supplements. (2018, December 7). National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements – Folate. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-Consumer/