9 Amazing Benefits of Chlorella

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Chlorella is a type of single-celled algae that has been popularized as a potential food source due to its high protein content and photosynthetic efficiency.

What is Chlorella?

Chlorella is the name of a genus composed of green algae species that contain chloroplast and can multiply rapidly with very little stimulation, as per a research published in the journal Methods in Cell Biology. It first came to the world’s attention in the 1950s as a potential food source in the midst of a world hunger crisis. When it is dried, it provides a rich source of nutrients and protein, and has become popularly known as a “superfood”. You can find chlorella in many herbal supplement blends, naturopathic proteins, and healthy foods, as well as certain cosmetic products.

While it was expected that chlorella would become a major player in global nutrition, cultivation difficulties and expensive processes have kept it to a relatively small market. Despite being widely touted as a superfood, there is limited scientific research to back up many of the more impressive claims surrounding this protein supplement. That being said, there are some proven benefits to adding this supplement to your diet!

A wooden bowl filled with green pills next to a spoon full of the same atop a jute mat

Chlorella has detoxifying effects on the body. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Chlorella Benefits

There are many reasons for you to add chlorella to your diet, including its nutrient density which gives it the ability to boost immunity, promote growth and development, protect the heart, and prevent diabetes.

  • Immune system: It is found that regular consumption of chlorella can increase immune function and antibody production, as per research published in the journal Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology. While the research has been limited and the results show variability in terms of age groups, this supplement appears promising when it comes to protecting us against foreign pathogens and infections.
  • Growth and development: When dried, chlorella is composed of roughly 50-60% protein, depending on the species. Furthermore, chlorella is considered a complete protein, meaning that it has all nine essential amino acids. It can help in muscle growth and repair throughout the body, while also reducing your reliance on animal sources of protein.
  • Nutrient density: With a significant level of vitamin B, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, and folic acid, there is far more to chlorella than just protein, as shown in this review from the Journal of Food Science. This dietary addition can aid in bone growth and metabolic activity, blood pressure regulation, and nervous system function. This is in addition to omega-3 fatty acids and other antioxidant compounds that impact health in a variety of ways.
  • Heart health: Regular use of chlorella has been directly linked to lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, thanks to its content of fiber, vitamin B, and antioxidants. Reducing hypertension can help to lower the risk of coronary heart disease and hardening of the arteries. The omega-3 fatty acids found in this nutrient-dense algae help reduce inflammation and protect heart health too!
  • Gastrointestinal health: Anecdotal and laboratory evidence points to chlorella as an effective aid for gut health. When consumed regularly, the fiber content can help keep you regular, while the antioxidants can lower inflammation in the gut.
  • Detoxifying effects: Some of the more popular claims surrounding chlorella involve its ability to detoxify the body, specifically of neurotoxins in the gut. It is believed that chlorella is able to bind to unwanted toxins and heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, and then eliminate them from the body. Many people also claim that chlorella can help cleanse the liver, which is why this algae is so commonly found in trendy detox diets.
  • Diabetes: Some independent studies have found that chlorella can improve insulin sensitivity in those at high risk for diabetes, and also help manage sugar levels and keep fasting blood sugar low. The fiber content can help to slow stomach emptying, providing more consistent delivery of energy and glucose to the body. Some research has found that chlorella ingestion could also be a preventative measure against type 2 diabetes, as evidenced in this article published in Clinical Nutrition ESPEN.
  • Energy levels: Protein can be an excellent source of energy in the body, and can also release ketones that boost the body and mind. Additionally, chlorella contains branched-chain amino acids, which have been linked to greater endurance and higher oxygenation levels in athletes. Putting chlorella in the occasional meal can stabilize and sustain your energy levels throughout the day.
  • Chronic disease: There are quite a few claims about chlorella and its impact on cancer, but research has been inconclusive on a direct impact. That being said, chlorella does have a number of antioxidant compounds. There has been some research linking chlorella with a reduction in tumor size, and well as the induction of apoptosis in cancer cells, but more studies must be conducted. Chlorella contains chlorophyll, vitamin C, lutein, beta-carotene, and lycopene, all of which have antioxidant effects in the body. This can help reduce inflammation and lower your overall risk for chronic diseases.

Dosage

You can find chlorella in a number of forms, including tablets, pellets, and powder. The normal dose ranges from 500 mg to 1,000 mg, although some products suggest higher daily doses, depending on your particular health needs. The tablets, capsules, and pellets are preferable, as the dosage is standardized and easy to regulate.

You can mix chlorella powder into smoothies and shake, or cook within stir-frys and pasta dishes. The powder has a mild smell and taste of seaweed, so mixing it in with strongly flavored recipes is recommended. It works as a great healthy thickener for soups and stews, but can also simply be mixed into juice or water for a quick protein boost.

Side Effects

Aside from the many positive aspects of chlorella, there are some potential side effects and risks associated with using this supplement. Chlorella contains high levels of iodine, so those who have thyroid disease should avoid its use or speak with their doctor before adding it to their diet. Some people also report allergic reactions to chlorella, particularly if they are also allergic to mold.

It can take some time for the body to adjust to this new source of nutrients, so side effects are common in the first week or two. These side effects may include flatulence, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea, as well as discoloration of the stool. Photosensitivity may also occur, making people more susceptible to sunburns and rashes. As your body adjusts, you may increase your dose, if desired. If side effects persist or worsen over time, stop using chlorella or decrease your intake.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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