Top 19 Health Benefits of Chlorella
If you’ve been tuned in to the health food world over the past few years chances are you have heard of something called chlorella, though you may not know exactly what it is.
Often referred to as a potent superfood, chlorella, or c/ vulgaris, is a type of single-celled algae whose incredibly high content of chlorophyll gives it a rich, green colour.
It is one of, if not the highest, food sources of chlorophyll, which may contribute to its impressive array of healing benefits.
Many natural health practitioners recommend including chlorella in your daily routine as a nutrient dense dietary supplement and for good reason!
Helpful for everything from weight loss to cellular detoxification, liver support, and immune function this simple little organism packs a big nutritional punch.
Let’s dive a little deeper into this single-celled freshwater algae!
How Do We Get Chlorella?
Though originally found in shallow fresh water in nature, most commercial chlorella is now grown in controlled environments to ensure purity and quality.
Many companies grow their chlorella in large, freshwater ponds that have often been filtered and ozonated.
The requirements for growing this algae are incredibly small: carbon dioxide, water, sunlight, and a few trace minerals, but it can reproduce at an astonishingly fast rate.
Generally chlorella triples or quadruples every 24 hours, which is an indication of the power of this little superfood.
When purchasing chlorella you will want to make sure it is sourced from a company that takes care to create the optimal growing environment so that you can get the most potent and pure supplement possible.
What Are the Main Healing Components of Chlorella?
As mentioned above, chlorella is one of the highest plant sources of chlorophyll (see the name connection there?), which has incredible health benefits in the body.
However, this green algae is not a one-trick pony. It’s an incredibly nutrient dense food that contains an impressive array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. (1)
A couple of the major players are outlined below.
Perhaps one of the coolest nutrients out there (yes I do believe nutrients can be cool), the centre atom of chlorophyll is magnesium, which means that plants such as green algae are naturally a fantastic source of this mineral whose functions include hundred of enzymatic reactions in the body.
Chlorophyll also functions as an excellent blood purifier, liver supporter, detoxifier, and anti-inflammatory molecule in your body.
Humans require a broad range of essential amino acids in order to provide the building blocks for everything from muscles to hormones to neurotransmitters.
Though only a single celled organism, chlorella provides a complete profile of amino acids so it can help keep energy levels high and the body healthy.
This vitamin is crucial for everything from maintaining high energy levels to supporting neurological health.
For vegans and vegetarians it can be hard to find dietary sources, so chlorella makes a great option.
This nutrient is a precursor to vitamin A and functions as an antioxidant in the body.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These fats are the darling of the health food world and have many health benefits including modulating the inflammatory response in the body, protecting the brain and cardiovascular system, and supporting healthy skin.
What is Cracked-Cell Chlorella?
Many plants have cell walls that are indigestible to humans, making it difficult to extract all the health benefits and nutrients found within.
Luckily, there is a process by which the cell walls are broken open in the absence of heat and light (this protects the nutrient density of the algae!) to improve digestion, absorption, and assimilation so that you can reap the incredible health benefits of this superfood.
How Does Chlorella Compare to Spirulina
Another powerful algae you may have heard of is spirulina.
Though these nutrient dense dietary supplements have many similarities there are also a few differences that may influence your decision to take one or the other.
Chlorella is a single celled algae while spirulina is a much larger, relatively speaking, multi-cellular organism called a cyanobacteria, a type of blue-green algae.
It is also much easier to digest and does not have to go through the same cell-cracking process in order to provide bioavailable nutrition.
Spirulina is slightly higher in iron, protein, and GLA (a type of healthy fat), but does not have the same chelating effect on heavy metals.
So if detoxification is your primary concern then chlorella is definitely the way to go.
Top 19 Health Benefits of Chlorella
Now that you’re familiar with some of the primary nutrients found in chlorella, how it’s produced, and how it compares to spirulina, you’re probably wondering about the specific health benefits of this single-celled green algae.
There are plenty of different animal and human studies that speak to the myriad ways it can improve your health when taken as a dietary supplement.
1. Chlorella Helps Cellular Detoxification
We live in a world where we are bombarded by toxins and heavy metals not only in the environment, but also in the food we eat on a daily basis.
These heavy metals and toxins can impact many systems in the body including the nervous system, which can lead to brain fog, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
As a former smoker, chlorella is a huge part of my heavy metal detoxification program as it chelates, or binds, to these toxic compounds and helps excrete them.
Thanks to the myriad vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it can also help repair damage done throughout the body.
2. Chlorella Helps Weight Loss
Having worked as a nutritionist for the past five years I can safely say that I have rarely worked with a client who didn’t have weight loss in their top three goals for working with me.
While I think that there are many factors that contribute to weight gain, such as stress, poor diet, leaky gut, imbalanced gut bacteria, hormone imbalance, and a sedentary lifestyle, I still like to keep my ear to the ground for foods that can help support my clients on their journeys a little more easily.
Some preliminary research done on chlorella shows that it may help manage weight in menopausal women.(6)
Though the mechanism isn’t completely understood, if weight loss is your goal then regularly including chlorella in your diet may provide some benefit!
3. Chlorella Helps Manage Triglycerides and Cholesterol
When looking at your current state of heart health your doctor will often order tests for triglycerides, HDL, and LDL cholesterol.
While much new research has shown that there is not nearly the connection between cholesterol and heart disease as once was thought, elevated triglycerides remain a powerful indicator of possible or current heart disease.
One study(7) showed that rats fed high fat diets in conjunction with chlorella had significantly decreased triglycerides and LDL cholesterol when compared to controls.
While I never recommend taking a dietary supplement without changing other habits as well, it is promising to see the effect of such a simple change to help those who are in acute need.
4. Chlorella Increases Blood Sugar Sensitivity
Blood sugar balance in diabetics is essential to prevent serious illness and even death.
While lifestyle changes are crucial in maintaining health post-diagnosis it’s great to find foods and supplements that can help increase blood sugar sensitivity by supporting the body’s natural processes.
This study(8) demonstrated that chlorella improved insulin sensitivity by enhancing glucose uptake in the liver and muscle tissues.
The researchers theorized that it does so by decreasing certain types of fatty acids in the blood stream that can blunt the effect of insulin on cells.
If you are at risk for chronically elevated blood sugar or diabetes, chlorella could be a safe and effective way to help balance your numbers naturally. If you have already been diagnosed and are taking medications make sure you consult your health care practitioner before starting a supplement regiment as it can change your dosage requirements.
5. Chlorella Helps Protect the Body from Advanced Glycation End-Products
One of the by-products of too much carbohydrate in the diet or chronically uncontrolled blood sugar is the development of compounds called Advanced Glycation End-Products, or AGEs. This happens when a glucose molecule binds to a fat or a protein molecule.
It causes stiffening of the molecules, which promotes inflammation and is associated with different chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and others.
Your body has a natural way of detoxifying these AGEs, but if you’re eating a diet too high in refined sugars then your capacity can become overwhelmed.
Luckily, chlorella(9) has been shown to help protect the body from the free-radical damage caused by AGEs!
6. Chlorella Provides Anti-Inflammatory Support to the Body
Current research is finding that inflammation may be at the root of many modern diseases of Western Civilization, such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and even depression.
While there are many factors that impact the inflammatory state in the body, eating foods high in antioxidants like lycopene and omega-3 fats, such as chlorella(10), have been shown to have favorable effects on inflammatory markers.
7. Chlorella Supports Neurological Health—Anxiety & Depression
According to the World Health Organization(11) depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States and carries the heaviest burden of disability.
As mentioned above, recent research is finding that chronic inflammation(12) may lead to depression(13) and researchers are looking at the role of anti-inflammatory diets and supplements in helping to manage major depressive symptoms.
Preliminary research indicates that supplementing with chlorella improves the physical and neurological symptoms of depression and anxiety.(14)
Taking a dietary supplement in addition to other dietary and lifestyle changes may be helpful in managing symptoms, but always discuss it with your doctor before making any major changes.
8. Chlorella Increases Immune Function
Having a strong immune system is crucial for long-term health and staving off chronic colds, flus, and other illnesses.
The immune system is incredibly complex and based upon many things such as the health of your gut and the balance of your microbiome, but it’s always great to learn about things you can eat that naturally support your body’s own immune processes.
This study found that chlorella was effective in boosting the activity of different elements of the immune system, such as natural killer cells and various interleukin molecules,(15) which makes it the perfect addition to your winter supplement routine!
9. Chlorella Improves Nutritional Recovery
There are many reasons someone may end up depleted in nutrients such illness, fasting, poor diet, etc. but finding a way to increase nutrient absorption and digestive function can help you get back to tip top shape in no time.
Chlorella is being studied for its efficacy in boosting enzymatic function and liver health and shows promise as a component of pharmacologic dietary supplements.(16)
10. Chlorella Provides Bioavailable B12 for Vegans & Vegetarians
Finding absorbable dietary sources of vitamin B12 when on a vegan or vegetarian diet can be quite difficult as most sources are found solely in animal foods.
However, thanks to its impressive array of nutrients, chlorella has been shown to provide a bioactive and absorbable form of B12 (17) that, when taken regularly, can help them meet their daily needs.
11. Chlorella Supports Digestive Tract Health
Hippocrates stated that all disease begins in the gut and research is finding that the health of your digestive tract, including the development of leaky gut syndrome, plays a crucial role in your likelihood of developing chronic inflammation or illness.
By virtue of living in the 21st century you are constantly bombarded with foods, toxins, stress levels, and bacteria that can interfere with the function of your digestive tract and so as a nutritionist a primary focus of my practice is the incorporation of healing foods.
Chlorella is showing promise as a functional food(18) that can help heal and repair the digestive tract to ensure that you are absorbing all the good food you’re eating and keeping out all the toxins and bacteria that can throw your immune system into overdrive.
12. Chlorella Helps Improve Symptoms of Eczema
After weight loss, skin health is one of the next most common physical complaints I receive from my clients.
One of my teachers told me that the skin is the window to the inside of your body and so if you are full of inflammation, AGEs, or have leaky gut then it will show up on your face and body.
Since we already saw that chlorella is great at lowering inflammation, it should come as no surprise that it can also help improve symptoms of atopic dermatitis,(19) a fancy term for red, itchy skin or eczema.
Not only does it help with inflammation, but it also decreased the infiltration of immune compounds to the skin, calming the immune response that causes eczema symptoms.
13. Chlorella Improves Artery Health
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans according to the CDC,(20) and can sometimes show no external signs until the first cardiac event.
One issue associated with heart disease is a stiffening of the arteries, which makes the heart have to work even harder to pump blood around the body.
A couple of studies looked at the role of chlorella on the health of arteries and determined that it helps decrease arterial stiffness while increasing nitric oxide concentrations(21) in the blood.
14. Chlorella Helps Stabilize High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is another indicator of heart disease that can have dire consequences on health.
It should come as no surprise that chlorella(22) stabilizes or improves blood pressure(23) with no adverse affects leading the researchers to recommend it as a great dietary supplement for the prevention of hypertension.
15. Chlorella Helps Decrease Pain in Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Living with daily chronic pain is a burden carried by many of the clients who come to work with me. Finding ways to manage or alleviate their pain is one of my major priorities as it is incredibly difficult to feel vibrant and free when your body is hurting.
This study(24) found that chlorella was helpful in decreasing pain markers in over 1/3 of the participants over a two-month period.
When working with your health care practitioner it can take time to find the proper combination of supplements and strategies to manage your pain and chlorella may be a great option for you!
16. Chlorella Supports the Liver in People with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is fast becoming one of the most prevalent liver diseases in the United States(25) and may be linked to high intakes of junk food and refined carbohydrates.
The liver controls hundreds of different processes in the body, so it is so important to ensure that is it running as smoothly as possible.
This study(26) found that taking chlorella in conjunction with medications helps support the liver, decrease weight & BMI, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower triglycerides.
17. Chlorella Helps Protect the Liver from Harmful Toxins
One of the main roles of the liver is to help with digestion and detoxification, which puts it in contact with many environmental and dietary toxins. As such it’s important to include liver-protecting foods in your diet on a daily basis.
18. Chlorella May Protect Against Certain Cancers
After heart disease, cancer is the number two killer of Americans. You would be hard-pressed to find someone whose life has not been impacted by a cancer diagnosis in some way.
As with any disease there are many causes and risk factors to consider, but this study has shown that chlorella helps increase programmed cell death in liver cancer(29) in animal models. While this study(30) showed the potential inhibition of tumour development in breast cancer cells.
19. Chlorella May Help with Aging
One of the primary signs of aging is shortening telomeres (a compound structure at the end of a chromosome) and DNA damage, often caused by oxidation.
To help keep your body feeling young and vibrant, try incorporating chlorella into your diet as it has been shown to help modulate both DNA damage and the shortening of telomeres.(31)
While not the fountain of youth, it can certainly go a long way to helping you feel your best into your golden years!
Precautions & Contradictions
As with any dietary supplement you’re thinking about adding to your routine, make sure you first check with your health care practitioner. A few populations who should use discretion before taking include:
Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding: There is a lack of research on the effects of supplementation in pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Anyone with an iodine sensitivity: Chlorella contains iodine, so caution is encouraged.
Anyone with a mold allergy: There is the possibility of an allergic reaction in those sensitive to molds.
Anyone taking immune-suppressing medications: Chlorella may stimulate the immune system and decrease the effectiveness of the medication.
Anyone taking blood-thinners: Chlorella contains large amounts of vitamin K, which can help with blood clotting, thereby possibly counteracting the effects of blood thinning medications.
How to Buy Chlorella
Now that you know about all the impressive health benefits of this single-celled organism it’s important to source a high quality dietary supplement to ensure you are not wasting your money.
Luckily for you, Herb Affair sells an organic, cracked-cell wall chlorella grown in ozonated, filtered, fresh water ponds.
It is also regularly tested for radiation so you receive the healthiest, purest supplement possible.
Add it to water, smoothies, or make your own capsules to start enjoying the health benefits today!
If you are also looking for a way to get your Spirulina along with the chlorella, you may want to check out these Chlorella Spirulina 50/50 Tablets. They are the easiest way to get both your chlorella and spirulina fix everyday!