What is chlorella?
Chlorella is a single-celled freshwater alga, known as one of the oldest species on the Earth. Its unique ability to reproduce 8 times a day makes it an attractive and sustainable nutrient source.
Due to its hard outer shell, chlorella is almost completely indigestible to humans, which means that any chlorella supplements must undergo a special process, which cracks outer shell and enhances digestibility.
What are the health benefits of chlorella?
A 1-ounce serving of chlorella contains:
- Vitamin A—287% RDA
- Vitamin B2—71% RDA
- Vitamin B3—33% RDA
- Iron—202% RDA
- Magnesium—22% RDA
- Zinc—133% RDA
- Healthy doses of vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and phosphorus.
Incorporating this potent superfood into your daily diet has countless health benefits. Let's look at the most astounding ones.
1. Ability to detoxify the body of heavy metals.
Many of us wouldn't suspect there are heavy metals lurking in our bodies. This applies to anyone who has had mercury fillings in their teeth, eat fish regularly, consume foods from China, has been exposed to radiation or according to some, anyone who has been vaccinated. Natural therapists believe that for overall health and well-being, it’s best to proactively cleanse the body of heavy metals and toxins.
Chlorella is invaluable in this process. One of its most prized properties is the ability to wrap itself around toxins residing in our bodies, such as cadmium, lead, mercury and uranium. It works even for the most stubborn toxins and protects us from reabsorbing them.
Consequently, consuming chlorella regularly can help prevent heavy metal from accumulating in soft tissues and organs of our bodies.
2. Boosts Your Immune System
Yonsei University researchers from Seoul examined healthy individuals and how their immune system’s responded to chlorella supplements.
According to research published in the Nutrition Journal, NK cell activity improved after just 8 weeks of chlorella intake. The results demonstrated that chlorella promotes a healthy immune system response and supports “natural killer” cell activity.
3. Aids Weight Loss
As we age, weight management can become more of a challenge. According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food,
“Chlorella intake resulted in notable reductions in body fat percentage, total serum cholesterol, and fasting blood glucose levels.”
Chlorella supports weight management on many fronts: regulating hormones, supporting metabolism, improving circulation and promoting higher energy levels. It’s also been found to reduce weight and body fat.
As we lose weight, we release toxins which can be then reabsorbed into the system. This is where chlorella’s toxin-binding properties come into play. Regular consumption helps to flush these toxins as well as prevent reabsorption
4. Chlorella for Anti-ageing
An increasing volume of research reveals that chlorella might contribute to the aging process, helping you preserve a more youthful appearance. According to a study which appeared in the journal Clinical Laboratory, chlorella significantly reduces oxidative stress, that can be caused by pollution, stress and an unhealthy diet.
Chlorella’s effectiveness as a “skin protector” is attributed to its ability to naturally increase levels of vitamin C, vitamin A and glutathione in the body, which eliminates free radicals and protects the cells. Results can be seen in as little as 2 weeks when taking at least 1 teaspoon a day.
5. Lowers Your Blood Sugar and Cholesterol
High cholesterol and type 2 diabetes are chronic conditions known as “civilizational diseases”. We know that bad diet, stress and poor sleeping habits – cardinal sins of modern, fast-paced lifestyle – play a role in development of these dangerous conditions.
According to a study published by Journal of Medicinal Food, 8,000 mg of chlorella per day helps lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
Researchers believe that chlorella activates a number of genes that improve insulin sensitivity and the cellular level, supporting a healthy balance.
What is the difference between chlorella and spirulina?
Although both chlorella and spirulina are waterborne organisms, which may look, smell and even taste similar, they significantly differ at a cellular level.
Spirulina is much larger than chlorella, which is a single-cell alga with a nucleus. Spirulina, on the other hand, is a multi-cell plant.
Chlorella can also be distinguished by its particular blue-green colour, typical for cyanobacteria.
Both chlorella and spirulina have a high content of valuable nutrients found to support the cleansing and detoxification of the body. While both plants are a valuable source of nucleic acids - important factors for DNA and RNA in the body - chlorella boasts almost double the amount of spirulina.
Chlorella is also a clear winner when it comes to chlorophyll content, containing twice the amount of spirulina.
Spirulina’s extraordinary nutritional value has been appreciated by World Health Organization and found application is feeding programs for malnourished. It’s been found that one-gram dose a day can prevent Vitamin A deficiency – a dangerous condition linked to blindness.
Unlike spirulina’s, chlorella’s hard exterior cellular walls are difficult to digest. Many years of research and study have been needed to develop the technology of “cracking” the cell walls which allows us to digest chlorella effectively. It’s the substance in chlorella’s tough walls which is believed to be surrounded pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins and assist in eliminating them from the body.
Overall, chlorella’s protein content and its unique combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and phytochemicals seem to surpass spirulina. Using them together can be a good solution, as their combined powers intensify.
What makes organic chlorella different, why is organic better?
The answer is not as simple - organic chlorella is usually more reliably pure than the alternatives, but this isn't one, hard rule.
An organic label doesn't supply all the necessary information about the product. How is it really grown and processed?
Growing chlorella in natural waterways might seem preferable, but in reality, cultivating the algae in an external environment might expose it to unwanted or even outright harmful substances, such as heavy metals. Thus, a controlled environment is considered much safer.
Country of origin is another crucial factor to consider. Some countries - China is a notorious offender here - have lax food safety standards. Organic isn't your best if the product is polluted!
A respectable supplier should be able to give you information about where the chlorella is sourced for and how is it produced. Are they hiding behind trade secrets or haven't updated their certificates for a while? Low-quality supplements might contain mercury. There's also no guarantee that the cell walls have been cracked - the product might be indigestible. Don't risk your health - it's time to look elsewhere.
As mentioned before, chlorella cell walls must open before the human digestive system can digest it. Today, producers have multiple methods of cracking cell walls at their disposal. Importantly, the manufacturer should state that the chlorella has been exposed to one of these methods and is, therefore, ready to be absorbed.
- Pressure release – the newest and possibly the best way to break the cell wall. In this process, chlorella is passed through a pressure chamber, where pressure rises and falls abruptly, causing the cell walls to crack. This process doesn’t involve any heat or harmful chemicals, guaranteeing the preservation of all the nutrients.
- Dyno-mill – One of the oldest methods, developed in the 1970s. The process involves placing chlorella in the mill with thousands of micro glass beads and rotating for a few minutes. The process is problematic as it might result in loss of nutritional value.
- Thin cell wall – This method is only applicable to Chlorella Vulgaris, which is grown inside the tank without sunlight. Thanks to this method of cultivation, the cell walls remains thin and are automatically “opened” during the drying process. This is one of the cleanest options available, and the best choice for those who want to consume Chlorella Vulgaris.
- Spray drying / jet-spray – in this process, a concentrated chlorella solution is sprayed into hot steam, forming small, instantly drying droplets. The result is a very stable powder which won't suffer a decline in quality for years if preserved under recommended conditions.
- Sound waves – This process is similar to pressure release technology, but uses sound waves instead. This method is considered clean and safe.
- Heat/freeze – In this process, chlorella is rapidly heated and cooled. Understandably, this destroys vital nutrients and isn’t recommended.
- Chemical peeling – The cheapest way which doesn’t involve any complex equipment. In this process, chlorella is fermented with chemicals and enzymes, resulting in the opening of cell walls. As so many alternatives are now available, this method is rare. Fermentation results in destruction of important nutrients, as well as increases potential toxicity of the final products
Are there different varieties of chlorella?
Chlorella has several distinct species.
- Chlorella Vulgaris – contains less chlorophyll and nutrients than Pyrenoidosa variety, but might be richer in chlorella growth factor (CGF). This variety is often grown in indoor tanks with no sunlight. It’s considered to be better absorbed than other varieties, making it the most attractive choice for those with a sensitive digestive system. This variety is widely grown in South Korea and Germany and often considered the purest among varieties.
- Chlorella Yaeyama – This subspecies of Chlorella Vulgaris is usually grown in outdoor tanks in Japan. Similarly to Vulgaris, it has a reputation as a clean and high-quality chlorella variety.
- Chlorella Pyrenoidosa is considered more nutrient- and chlorophyll-rich than other varieties. Grown outdoors with access to sunlight, this subspecies is vulnerable to pollution and environmental toxins, which makes the country of origin particularly important. For instance, Chlorella Pyrenoidosa grown in Taiwan is usually found to be much cleaner than organic chlorella grown in China. Despite high nutrient level, some find this variety more difficult to digest.
How to consume chlorella?
Considering the unmatched potency of chlorella, beginners should start slowly - a maximum of 1 teaspoon per day - and observe the reaction of the body, especially paying attention to any allergic reactions. If no irritation occurs, go ahead and mix it into your smoothies daily!
If you prefer, you can consume chlorella with plain, purified water. Optionally, adding a teaspoon of honey and lemon – good quality honey contains probiotics which might support the absorption of chlorella, while lemon enhances the taste of the concoction.
A selection of scientific papers supporting chlorella's benefits:
"Analysis of data suggested that chlorella supplementation had a significant lowering effect on both high-density and low-density serum cholesterol. "
- Chlorella and Spirulina. Green Supplements for Balancing the Body - Russ Mason, M.S.
"Chlorella provides a wide range of nutrients and phytochemicals that work synergistically to optimize lipid metabolism."
"A majority 84.61% of the patients had a significant decrease in their ALT levels from week 0 to week 12. 76.9 of the participants reported an improvement in their energy levels and 46.1% reported an improvement in their perception of general health."
- Efficacy and safety of Chlorella supplementation in adults with chronic hepatitis C virus infection - Jose Azocar and Arley Diaz
"The results are supportive of an antioxidant role for Chlorella and indicate that Chlorella is an important whole-food supplement that should be included as a key component of a healthy diet"
Chlorella pyrenoidosa Supplementation Reduces the Risk of Anemia, Proteinuria and Edema in Pregnant Women - Nakano, S., Takekoshi, H. & Nakano, M.
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