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Chlorella might sound like a cross between a pool cleaner and a certain music festival. Its actually an awesome superfood that packs some pretty potent health benefits.
Like its close cousin spirulina, chlorella is a nutrient-rich freshwater algae typically available as a dark green powder or tablet. Its loaded with protein, fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants and its trending big time as a supplement.
If youre thinking about hopping on the bandwagon, well hey, it might be a good idea. This green from the sea can support your overall health in some impressive ways, and as long as youre buying from a reputable manufacturer, it likely doesnt pose any serious risks.
Here are 10 science-backed benefits of chlorella and what to know about taking it safely.
Whats all the craziness over chlorella about, exactly? Heres a look at how you might benefit from taking it on the reg.
Chlorellas a whopping 60 percent protein, and unlike most plant foods, it contains all nine essential amino acids.
Its also rich in EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B-12, plus antioxidants. As an added bonus, its got trace amounts of minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium, and calcium.
In other words, the nutritional stats basically read like a top-of-the-line multivitamin.
Adding chlorella to your diet just might give your body an extra oomph at warding off infections. The algae contains immunostimulators, which stimulate the immune system and help keep it in fighting form.
In fact, one small study found that taking 5 grams of chlorella daily for 8 weeks enhanced certain markers of immune response in healthy people.
High cholesterol can up your risk for heart disease, but taking chlorella along with eating a healthy diet and exercising may help lower total cholesterol and triglycerides in people with mildly high numbers.
The benefit seems to come from chlorellas high level of carotenoids, antioxidants known to play an important role in heart health.
Trying to get more prebiotics in your diet? Look no further than chlorella. Its a rich source of prebiotics like polysaccharides and oligosaccharides, which play a key role in nourishing the good bacteria in your gut and keeping your microbiome healthy.
Oxidative stress from free radicals causes damage to cells, which over time, can raise the risk for chronic diseases.
Where does chlorella come in? Its loaded with antioxidant compounds including vitamin C, beta carotene, lycopene, lutein, and chlorophyll, which can help minimize the harm done by free radicals and may help lower chronic disease risk.
Managing your blood sugar is major for avoiding type 2 diabetes and promoting overall health. While chlorella isnt a magic bullet (your best defenses against T2D are eating right, keeping tabs on your weight, and exercising), taking it regularly could help.
Both healthy people and those at high risk for blood sugar issues lowered their fasting blood glucose levels after taking chlorella daily for 12 weeks, one study showed.
Need a nudge at the gym? Chlorella could help. Thanks to its branched-chain amino acids, taking 6 grams of the stuff daily for 4 weeks was shown to improve exercisers oxygen intake, which is a key marker of endurance.
Over time, the blue light emitted from the sun can damage the cells in your retina and up the risk for vision problems like age-related macular degeneration. (Phones and laptops emit blue light too, but theres no evidence that blue light from electronic devices damages your eyes, though it can mess with your sleep.)
Chlorella is a potent source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants proven to fight against blue lights harmful effects and lower macular degeneration risk.
Fatty fish like salmon and tuna actually get their EPA and DHA omega-3s from eating plants like chlorella. So, if youre not a fan of seafood or just dont eat it very often, you can legit go straight to the source and get your omega-3s from algae-based supplements like chlorella.
Some research suggests that taking chlorella supplements may help relieve period pain. A study in 44 girls with menstrual cramps found that taking 1.5 grams of chlorella daily for 8 weeks improved symptoms such as cramping, headaches, fatigue, and decreased inflammation.
Is that enough to justify adding chlorella to your diet in the days leading up to your period? You decide.
Chlorella and spirulina have a whole lot in common, but theyre not exactly the same. The nutrient composition of each is a little different, so if youre thinking about taking one, you might want to base your decision on the vitamin and mineral content thats more geared towards your health goals.
Gram per gram, chlorella is a little higher in calories than spirulina. It also packs more omega-3s, vitamin A, magnesium, iron, and zinc. So if youre looking to get more of those nutrients, chlorella might be the better bet.
Chlorellas typically found as a fine powder, tablets or capsules, or an extract. The plant has a hard cell wall that our digestive tracts cant break down, so the easiest way to reap all those impressive nutritional benefits is to take the algae as a supplement.
As for how to actually take it: If youre going for the powdered stuff, experiment with adding it to smoothies, salad dressings, puddings, or even raw desserts. Like spirulina, itll turn your food a dark blue-green color.
It also has a slightly vegetal flavor, but its pretty easy to mask with other ingredients, like sweet fruit in a smoothie or an acid or citrus juice in a salad dressing.
Opting for a pill or extract? You can take those straight. Just follow the dosing instructions on the supplement packaging.
Its generally safe to add chlorella to your diet. Just keep in mind that it can have some weird (but not really harmful) side effects and might not be appropriate for people taking certain medications.
One last thing to keep in mind: Like all supplements, chlorella-based products arent =tested for safety before hitting the market.
Before buying a powder, pill, or extract, do your research to make sure the supplement is high-quality and is verified by a third party like United States Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or Consumer Lab.