It would be hard to find a superfood with more health benefits than chlorella, but many people still haven’t heard of this under-the-radar algae— or don’t realize its full potential.
To give you the short version, chlorella is one of nature’s top detoxifiers, incredibly nutrient-dense, and full of compounds that support immunity, heart health, and much, much more. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-aging food.
Of course, that only scratches the surface of what chlorella can do, so get ready to go deep on this super-algae, the research behind it, and how best to consume it.
What is Chlorella? Another New, Yet Ancient, Superfood
Chlorella refers to a whole genus of green algae that are mainly single-celled and grow in freshwater. The type most often harvested for supplements (and with the most research behind it) is known as Chlorella vulgaris.
Native to Taiwan and Japan, chlorella has some interesting characteristics.
Despite having an amazing spectrum of nutrients, the algae have a hard cell wall that cannot be broken down by the human digestive tract. This means that supplements and food products with chlorella have to be processed a certain way so that your body has access to their nutrition.
Once this is done, however, your body can benefit from a unique combination of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. that no other plant has.
This unique, nutrient-rich composition is one of the reasons chlorella has been newly named a superfood. But just like with many other superfoods, chlorella is not so new after all.
Until fairly recently, chlorella was mostly known and used inside Asian nations where it natively grows. It has seen use in both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, particularly as a “nourisher” that boosts vitality or life force.
Chlorella didn’t receive much attention in the western world until it was considered as a possible food source to aid a growing population following World War II. This never panned out, but it did spur research that eventually discovered superfood qualities of a seemingly ordinary green algae.
Top Health Benefits of Chlorella
Incredibly Rich in Nutrients
Chlorella has a nutrient profile that surpasses many of even the most nutritious vegetables.
One of the most notable nutrients in chlorella is protein. Its makeup is about 50-60% protein, which means it’s an excellent source of plant-based protein. Even better, chlorella contains all nine essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein source.
Chlorella also contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals, some in trace amounts and others in larger quantities.
Two of the most notable vitamins are A and C— both essential antioxidant nutrients that support your body and skin. The amount varies depending on how you consume chlorella, but in tablet form, you’d get about 87% the daily value (DV) of vitamin C and 60% the DV of vitamin A from just three tablets.
Another very important vitamin in chlorella for plant-based eaters is B12. This vitamin is most abundant in animal sources, and chlorella is one of few plant-based B12 foods.
Again, the amount of B12 can vary widely, but some research has shown that consuming chlorella successfully helped vegans and vegetarians with suspected vitamin B12 deficiency.
Moving on to minerals, chlorella contains a good amount of iron (about 35% DV in three tablets), which is another nutrient that can be hard to find outside of animal sources. And because the iron is paired with vitamin C, your body can absorb more of it.
The list of nutrients goes on, but it’s sufficient to say that chlorella is also rich in antioxidants, omega-3s, fiber, and chlorophyll (the beneficial bright green plant pigment).
Highly Effective Natural Detoxifier
Apart from its superb nutrition, detoxifying your body naturally and effectively is absolutely one of the best health benefits of chlorella.
Detoxification is something that happens in your body all the time. Your liver, colon, lungs, etc. are constantly “filtering out” toxins, breaking them down, and trying to get them out of your body efficiently.
However, we are living in a time of toxic overload, constantly accumulating toxins from air, water, food, skincare products, and everyday household items. This means that providing your body with extra detox support (as well as cutting down on toxins) is critical for optimal health.
Research has shown that chlorella is especially effective at binding to heavy metals and carrying them out of your body. Some lab studies also indicate that it may help prevent heavy metal accumulation in tissues and reduce heavy metal toxicity.
Of course, chlorella’s detox powers don’t stop at heavy metals.
It has shown potential for helping to rid your body of BPA (the hormone-disrupting plastic chemical) and other chemicals, like dioxin. In addition, chlorella is packed full of chlorophyll, which has its own benefits for supporting liver detoxification.
Enhances Immune Function
Chlorella can provide powerful support for your immune system in several ways.
To start with, chlorella is rich in vitamin C, which is an important nutrient for immune function. Vitamin C encourages the production of white blood cells and is needed by your body to fend off infections, particularly respiratory ones.
By lowering the toxic load in your body, chlorella also helps to take a burden off your immune system (which often reacts to toxins), promoting optimal function.
Some research indicates that there may also be health benefits of chlorella for stimulating your immune system as well as supporting its general function. This mainly comes from studies showing that it boosts markers of immune activity and may also boost antibody production.
So while chlorella is a great superfood to take year-round, it can be especially helpful during cold and flu season or whenever you’re trying to fend off illness.
Fights Chronic Inflammation
Toxic overload contributes to another common health problem of our times: chronic inflammation.
Unlike acute inflammation, which is a healthy response to tissue injury, chronic inflammation is constant and harms rather than helps your body. It can come from a variety of sources but especially from free radical damage caused by toxins, stress, diet, etc.
Some research has shown that chronic inflammation (a major contributor to disease) becomes a vicious cycle. Free radicals cause inflammation, inflammation contributes to the production of more free radicals, and so on.
One of the best ways to stop this harmful cycle is by consuming antioxidant-rich foods, herbs, and spices. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, halting their destructive effects, and lessen chronic inflammation.
Chlorella is packed full of powerful compounds that act as antioxidants, including beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, vitamin C, and chlorophyll. In fact, the specific antioxidant makeup of chlorella is so potent that research has shown it has potential for reducing the incidence of chronic diseases as well as inflammation.
A few studies have also shown that chlorella can specifically increase the antioxidant levels in chronic smokers, who are at high risk for free radical damage and chronic inflammation. This just goes to show how powerful it is.
Contributes to Longevity (Body and Mind)
There’s no one health practice that will help you live longer and better. Longevity is a combination of feeding your body the right nutrients, exercising, reducing stress, enjoying relationships, and so on.
However, antioxidants in general and chlorella specifically have both shown that they contribute to longevity in a significant way.
We’ve already discussed the nutritional and antioxidant health benefits of chlorella, and both of these are key factors to its longevity-supporting properties.
Perhaps the best example of this is research showing that chlorella can reduce the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). As their name suggests, AGEs are compounds involved in many age-related diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and atherosclerosis.
In the standard western diet, AGEs are consumed frequently in heat-processed foods and animal-based foods. They are also known as “glycotoxins,” and minimizing them is crucial for healthy aging.
Along with reducing the production of these harmful compounds, some preliminary studies have shown that chlorella also appears to protect brain function, potentially warding off cognitive decline and diseases like dementia. A truly protective substance for mind and body!
Promotes Heart Health
Speaking of healthy aging, heart disease remains the leading cause of death around the world, and heart problems tend to become more common with age.
Chlorella can help to protect the health of your heart in two major ways: improving cholesterol levels and improving blood pressure.
Several studies have shown that taking chlorella as a supplement (5-10 grams per day) can help to lower both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. It may also lower triglycerides, which are another risk factor for heart disease when they become elevated.
Researchers believe that this effect largely comes from the antioxidant content of chlorella. Carotenoids, in particular, are specific antioxidants in chlorella that have demonstrated a cholesterol-lowering ability. Niacin (vitamin B3) and fiber also both contribute to healthy cholesterol levels.
Boosts Energy and Endurance
Better endurance and energy are two more health benefits you can expect to get from chlorella. This isn’t surprising given the fact that it provides your body with important nutrients (like B12— needed for energy) and helps your body to get rid of toxins (energy sappers).
One interesting study from 2014 also found that chlorella supplementation improved the aerobic endurance capacity of participants. This means that it helped the lungs to become more saturated with oxygen, which boosts endurance and possibly athletic performance.
Promotes Younger-Looking Skin
Chlorella isn’t just beneficial for the inside of your body. It’s also one of the top superfoods for your skin.
Just a quick look at the nutrient content of chlorella will show you its skin-boosting potential.
Vitamin C (found abundantly in chlorella) could well be considered the top vitamin for young-looking skin. It boosts collagen production (needed to keep wrinkles at bay), reduces the appearance of age spots and hyperpigmentation, and helps protect your skin from damage at the cellular level.
Vitamin A (found in the form of beta-carotene) is another antioxidant vitamin with major skin benefits. It helps protect your skin from UV damage, fights the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and can also improve skin elasticity.
Of course, the other antioxidants in chlorella add their own anti-aging effects to your complexion. Chlorella also delivers omega-3 fatty acids to your body, which are known to combat skin inflammation and may even slow the aging process.
Overall, chlorella is the perfect example of a superfood that feeds both your body and your skin.
Are There Any Precautions with Chlorella?
Now that you know more about the many amazing health benefits of chlorella, are there any specific precautions?
In general, chlorella is incredibly safe when taken as a supplement. It is, after all, considered a food and can be consumed in food-like quantities by most people. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
First, like any other substance, certain people may have an allergic reaction or sensitivity to chlorella that can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, indigestion, and trouble breathing.
If you start out taking a large amount of chlorella, it’s also possible that you’ll suffer from “detox symptoms.” These usually include a range of flu-like symptoms and come from the too-rapid release of toxins from tissues, cells, etc. Avoid this by starting with small amounts and working your way up.
Finally, like other sea vegetables, chlorella can contain iodine, although usually not high amounts. Keep this in mind if you need to watch your iodine intake.
How to Choose and Take Chlorella
Normally, the whole-food version of a particular substance is the best route to go. However, it’s a little different with chlorella because it needs to be processed so that your body can access and digest the nutrients in it.
Now, this isn’t the same type of processing associated with nutrient-deficient processed foods. It’s simply a matter of breaking down the hard cell wall and making the nutrients and plant compounds bioavailable.
To this end, chlorella is typically sold as either a powder or tablets.
The powder can be added to recipes that don’t use any heat (like smoothies), but it does have a strong sea taste that not everyone enjoys. Tablets are a more concentrated form of chlorella and can easily be chewed or swallowed whole.
When choosing either type of chlorella, it’s important to know that this specific supplement can unfortunately become contaminated quite easily. This is because the algae takes up whatever is in the water around them, whether this is healthy minerals or toxic contaminants.
Look for USDA Organic chlorella that is sourced from clean freshwater to avoid potential toxins. Also, look for a company that air dries the chlorella post harvest, instead of using heat, to preserve the valuable nutrients.
Top Recommendation: RECOVERYbits Chlorella Tablets
If you are looking for a 100% pure and potent chlorella supplement, based on all my research the best choice is RECOVERYbits chlorella tablets which I personally take.
These chlorella tablets are sourced from algae grown in triple-filtered, spring mountain water in Taiwan. They are USDA Certified Organic (very rare in a chlorella supplement) and third party tested for purity. And very importantly, they have only ONE ingredient— chlorella!
Just a few of these tablets provide your body with the nutrition of several vegetable servings and give you powerful detox and immune support. They are easy to swallow whole or to chew and can also be tossed into smoothies for an extra green boost.
Learn more about RECOVERYbits here, and start benefiting from the incredible health benefits of chlorella, a super-algae.