Unicellular green algae have inhabited the earth for billions of years. No climate change or natural disaster has eradicated this organism from the earth. Chlorella is one example of these hardcore survivor algae.
What makes Chlorella wonderful is its amazing nutritional content and health benefits. And that is why it is being used as a dietary supplement. Its use has pretty much been there in Japanese and Chinese cultures as a superfood and as a medicine, but it rose to new heights when recent advancements in biotechnology revealed its nutritional value.
Today, Chlorella is available to us as a dietary supplement in the form of powder, tablets, and capsules. In this article, we will be discussing all you need to know about using this green algae, its health benefits, and its risk factors.
What is Chlorella?
Chlorella is a freshwater alga rich in nutritional components such as minerals, proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, etc. It is closely related to the blue-green algae Spirulina, which prefers saltwater environments to grow and flourish, and is also rich in nutrients.
After World War II, scientists were looking for ways to grow nutrient-rich food in a shorter time and feed a larger population at a low cost. supplementation with fast-growing unicellular algae came into the spotlight at that time.
Chlorella gained popularity in those days because it is a fast-growing unicellular alga with a power-pack of nutrients, especially essential proteins, minerals, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.
It comes in capsules and tablets and can be taken as supplements. Or you can use the dark-green powder in smoothies, dairy beverages, or dessert recipes.
Nutrient Content of Chlorella
The nutritional supplementation of Chlorella varies with the conditions where it is grown. It also depends on the method of extraction from brand to brand. But roughly, chlorella products are good sources of the following components:
- A major portion of its nutrient content is composed of protein, almost 59 % of dry weight. Also, it has all the essential and non-essential amino acids required by the human body.
- 17 % portion of Chlorella Pyrenoidosa and Chlorella Vulgaris constitutes the carbohydrates. Out of this, almost 65 % is a dietary fiber that comes from the chlorella cell wall.
- Almost 11 % of its dry weight is made of fats. A greater portion of these fats comprises the healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, and the remaining portion is made up of alpha-linolenic and linoleic acids. These are involved in hormone synthesis.
- In addition to all the necessary micronutrients such as folate, niacin, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B group, pantothenic acid, vitamins E, C, and K, Chlorella Pyrenoidosa and Chlorella Vulgaris contain large quantities of vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. Hence, it has various other health benefits for pregnant women too that have been discussed below!
Health Benefits of Chlorella
Chlorella also called the Chinese or Bulgarian Chlorella, offers the nutritional components, important vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds that a normal human diet cannot fulfill. In addition to improving the overall health of your body, it has the following potential health benefits:
1. It gets your body rid of toxins and aids in Detoxing
Toxins such as cancer-causing agents and heavy metals accumulate in our bodies all the time. Many of these toxins come from the food we consume. At the same time, others get access to certain working and pollution conditions where people are exposed to certain chemicals and metals.
Chlorella has been shown to bind to heavy metals and hasten their excretion from the body. Hence, it can prevent the development and progression of cardiovascular disease linked with chronic metal poisoning.
Due to the detox benefits of Chlorella, it has shown proven benefits in the management of the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Triglycerides and saturated fatty acids also act as toxins, and chlorella consumption can reduce their harmful accumulation in the body.
In addition, it can enhance and support the natural toxin-clearing mechanisms of the body.
2. It acts as a Superfood
Chlorella extract used to make powder, tablets, and capsules can act as a superfood. Because it contains all the necessary nutrients in one small weight that the human body needs for health and growth. Here is a short account of the nutritional supplementation of these products that help in growth:
- A major portion of the nutritional supplementation of Chlorella is made up of protein, including all the essential amino acids.
- It contains folate in concentrations higher than green foods such as spinach. Folate is required to synthesize numerous hormones and essential compounds in the body and is essentially important for the growth of the baby in pregnant women.
- Vitamin B12 is required in the blood-forming process.
- Iron, vitamin C, and Vitamin D are important for developing immunity and maintaining bone health.
- It contains a wide range of antioxidants that help fight various toxins in food, the environment, and the body.
- It is a good source of healthy omega-3 fats, which are essential as a part of our daily diet.
People who use a strict uncooked vegan diet can use this supplementation for their requirements of protein, B12, and the fat-soluble vitamins absent in other plant products. Due to its Iron content, it can also prevent Iron deficiency anemia in the malnourished.
3. Chlorella improves the Lipid Profile
High LDL, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels put your body at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Chlorella dosage regularly has lowered the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol and helped patients with high blood pressure. The following components help improve the lipid profile:
- B vitamins lower cholesterol levels by reducing its deposition and increasing excretion
- Dietary fiber that improves gut health and improves the excretion of triglycerides and cholesterol
- Antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of LDL and other fatty acids and prevent them from converting into dangerous free radicals
It also helps slow down the progression of blood vessels damage and cardiovascular conditions by flushing out harmful toxins from the body. These toxins would otherwise react with the lipids and damage the arteries.
4. Enhances the Natural Immune System of Our Body
Chlorella affects the immune system of our body positively. It enhances the natural killer cell activity and amplifies the early inflammatory response of the body to an intruder.
The antioxidants in the chlorella supplement act as anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-tumor. Besides, this green alga contains vitamins and minerals required for building blood cells, such as folate and B vitamins. Dietary Chlorella Pyrenoidosa hence can also strengthen the immune system by increasing the numbers of white blood cells in the body.
Short-term chlorella supplementation for two to three months has a beneficial immunostimulatory effect on the immune system of the body. Chemotherapy in cancer patients causes a weakened immune system. Such patients need supplementation of immune boosters. This supplement can definitely benefit such cases.
This green alga can also boost mouth and teeth health. A study showed that humans using chlorella-based supplements showed an increase in salivary secretory immunoglobulin (SIgA) secretion in their saliva. SIgA protects the mouth and teeth against bacteria, viruses, and pathogens and also prevents their entry into the body.
5. Improves Blood Sugar Levels
Chlorella helps control blood glucose levels in the following various ways:
- It increases the uptake and use of glucose by the liver and muscles
- It lowers serum levels of free fatty acids
- Chlorella activates receptors for insulin activity, hence improving insulin sensitivity in the body.
- For patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, it also helps by reducing the total body weight.
Hence, its daily consumption can help manage existing patients with diabetes mellitus and pre-diabetics. A study conducted in 2019 shows that chlorella intake coupled with regular aerobic exercise had more pronounced effects on the glycemic status of diabetes mellitus patients.
6. Prevents and Slows the Progression of Chronic Illnesses
Chlorella improves the antioxidant status of the body and hence can slow down the progression of chronic illnesses such as arthritis, COPD, cancer, and even asthma and heart disease. There are many vitamins and minerals that act as antioxidants or at least participate in the formation of antioxidants in the body. The prominent ones are:
- Vitamin C
Chronic inflammatory diseases such as gout and heart disease develop and deteriorate due to free radical damage to the cells. Antioxidants keep that in check by neutralizing the radicals. There is a unique nutrient complex inside the nucleus of its cells called the chlorella growth factor. This enables the cells to multiply rapidly and repair the human cells with the same speed. That’s how this green algal preparation can also slow down the aging process.
In vegetarians, when it rectifies the B12 deficiency, chlorella also lowers the serum methylmalonic acid levels. So, it is especially recommended for vegans and vegetarians.
7. Improves Gut Health
Chlorella supplements are rich in pre-biotic fiber and bioactive compounds that help the probiotic gut bacteria flourish and thrive. It contains beta carotenes and chlorophyll that naturally help with digestion.
In addition to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, chlorella supplementation increases blood circulation throughout the body through various mechanisms. This, in turn, improves digestion and absorption of foodstuff.
Besides, these seaweed-based food supplements also contain digestive enzymes such as pepsin which directly help efficient digestion. It promotes gut health in yet another way: by promoting liver health.
By removing the toxins from the blood and body on the part of the liver and promoting anti-inflammatory actions, Chlorella improves liver function. The liver enzymes, in turn, help in digestion, absorption, and gut motility.
8. Benefits for the Respiratory System
Patients with respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of the chlorella group. But for healthy people, too, it can enhance lung function and improve aerobic endurance.
A study conducted in 2014 tested the effects of chlorella supplementation on lung function in a group of six young adults. It was a placebo-controlled trial, and the results were quite affirmative.
The young adults who took these supplements daily or the placebo group exhibited a considerable increase in oxygen uptake. This study showed that consumption of this natural supplement regularly increases aerobic endurance in young individuals.
There is immense room for research and development using Pyrenoidosa as a photosynthetic artificial lung. Green algae are the fastest-growing organisms that produce more than 60 % of the total oxygen produced by green plants. And this can be used to manufacture biological life support systems for those who need oxygen support on ventilators. A maltose excreting chlorella strain is already under research for this purpose.
Which Chlorella Species is more Nutritious: Chlorella Vulgaris or Pyrenoidosa?
There are almost 20 chlorella species that grow in different conditions and are used for different nutritional purposes. Two of them are more commonly used for chlorella supplementation: Chlorella Pyrenoidosa and Chlorella Vulgaris.
Both are different species of the same green algae genus Chlorella. Chlorella Vulgaris is the fermented form with a weakened, cracked cell wall. At the same time, chlorella Pyrenoidosa has an intact, rigid cell wall.
Chlorella Vulgaris hence is easier to digest and provides better nutritional value than the Pyrenoidosa species. Pyrenoidosa, at the same time, is a better detoxifier of heavy metals and toxins because its cell walls bind them better.
In commercial preparations, both species are used to make the perfect combination of detoxifying, digestive, and supplementation properties.
Which is Better: Chlorella Powder or Chlorella Tablets?
Chlorella is a superfood, rather a nutrient supplement that comes in various forms. The powder form is popular for its variety of applications. You can use chlorella powder in your protein shake or fruit smoothie every day. Or just sprinkle it on your dessert, cereal, or morning yogurt, and that’s it.
Powder chlorella products are also easier to digest, and the absorption of the nutrients is also more efficient and quicker. If you like the strong taste of the powder in your favorite snacks and foods, powder form can be ideal for your daily chlorella consumption.
You can also use chlorella tablets for supplementation. Tablets are easier and simpler to use. Just swallow one with some water. And you can keep the tablets with you and take one anytime, anywhere. Or you can switch to the powder form by simply crushing the tablets!
So, it’s basically your call, whichever form you like to choose.
Can we eat Chlorella?
Technically, yes. You can eat Chlorella. But because of the rigid chlorella cell walls that are indigestible, it is not recommended that you eat Chlorella as it is.
It should be consumed in the form of chlorella extract that comes in powder, tablet, and Capsule forms. The cell wall of this green alga is tough and rigid and hard to digest for the human digestive system. That is how it impedes the availability of nutrients in the chlorella cells to our digestive system and body.
For the maximum benefits, chlorella water extracts are better than eating the indigestible unicellular algae preparation.
What does Chlorella do to your body?
When you incorporate chlorella supplementation into your regular diet, this is what it does to your body:
- Chlorella acts as the health food that keeps you energetic, fresh, and young every day.
- The mineral supplements such as zinc and B vitamins keep your skin, nails, and hair healthy.
- The vitamin A and beta-carotene in Chlorella extracts keep your eye health in check.
- The antioxidant contents and the omega-3 fatty acids keep your day-to-day blood pressure in check and also promote the health of the blood vessel and heart.
- Its anti-inflammatory properties prevent the development and progression of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, gout, moderate hypertension, arthritis, COPD, and cardiovascular conditions.
- Chlorella, as a dietary supplement, takes care of the bloating, gas, and cramps associated with our dairy-based breakfasts and sedentary lifestyle.
- Energy-packed Chlorella Pyrenoidosa supplementation reduces and relieves muscle aches, body stiffness, and fatigue. That’s why it is especially recommended alongside workouts and for the elderly.
- Research shows that these green algae can help with the appearance and progression of diseases of genetic origin such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cognitive diseases.
- Chlorella is one of those natural foods that can boost your immune system actively. One of the more long-term mechanisms it uses is the production of interferons white blood cells in the body. It naturally helps your body prevent and fight off infections and viruses.
- Providing Iron, B12, and fat-soluble vitamins, it maintains your bone and heart health, increases your endurance to exercise, boosts brain function, and increases blood circulation throughout the body. As a result, it slows the process of aging and improves the quality of life.
Chlorella Dosage Queries
Is it safe to take Chlorella every day?
It is completely safe to take Chlorella every day for adults. Each tablet is a 500 mg to 1000 mg formulation. And doctors recommend taking 3 to 4 grams daily for young, healthy adults.
Doctors even suggest taking up to 10 grams of Chlorella daily for people with some chronic diseases such as high Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels and consequent cardiovascular disease.
Chlorella Adult Dosing
Here is the recommended dosage regimen for each form:
- If you use the powder form, 1-2 teaspoons a day for an adult will be fine.
- If you prefer to use tablets, take 6-8 500 mg tablets daily.
- For 600 mg capsules, the recommended adult dosage is 5-7 caps a day.
If you are using a combination, just use the rule of 3-4 grams of chlorella ingestion a day for an adult.
You can take your chlorella supplements any time of the day. But doctors recommend you take your tablet or capsule about half an hour before your meal. This ensures optimum digestion.
Are there any Side effects to taking Chlorella?
In the early days of chlorella supplementation, you may experience bloating, nausea, or even mild diarrhea. But these side effects have very rarely occurred.
Contraindications to the Use of Chlorella Supplements
You should not be taking this supplementation if you have any of the following conditions:
- Irritated stomach or ulcer in the GIT. Gut diseases such as ulcerative colitis prevent the absorption of supplements, in fact, worsen the damage to the stomach walls.
- Disorder of Iron metabolism. Chlorella supplementation comes with Iron, and people with Iron storage diseases or Iron overload conditions should avoid it.
- The high amount of calcium, phosphate, or any mineral in the blood.
- Compromised kidney function. People with kidney diseases will not be able to clear the supplements sufficiently from the body, especially the patient undergoing maintenance hemodialysis.
- Patients who take blood-thinning drugs such as heparin and warfarin. Dietary supplements that contain vitamin K, such as Chlorella itself, help in blood clotting instead and thus can counteract the actions of the blood-thinning agents.
Does Chlorella make you Poop?
Yes. It does make you poop. If you face constipation and dread going to the bathroom whenever you have to, Chlorella can be of considerable help. The vitamin and mineral supplements found in Chlorella increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and thus help you poop.
In normal healthy adults who take chlorella products regularly, Chlorella makes your poop pass easily since it makes it moist and soft. It also increases the frequency of bowel movements in a day.
Due to these actions, people experience flatulence and mild diarrhea when they start taking chlorella supplements.
Does Chlorella help you Lose Weight?
Yes. Chlorella can definitely help lose weight. In fact, physicians recommend incorporating the nutritional supplement Chlorella Pyrenoidosa for the protein and fiber requirements of the body instead of the other calorie-rich foods.
So, one way of shedding weight with Chlorella is by eradicating the need for eating foods rich in sugars and calories. Secondly, Chlorella-derived dietary supplement reduces the serum levels of fatty acids. It consequently shrinks the fat cells in the adipose tissues of the body.
Chlorella Pyrenoidosa supplementation also reduces the absorption and deposition of fat in the body due to its high antioxidant levels.
The Bottom Line
Biotechnologists suggest growing and feeding Chlorella in bulk for the growing global population. Because it has all the nutrients required by the human body in perfect concentrations. In the case of a possible allergic reaction, seek professional medical advice before using seaweed-based food supplements such as Chlorella.