Medically review by Kim Langdon
We're no strangers to the notion of "superfoods".
Essentially, foods with this oh-so-special label have a few things in common: their nutrient profile is quite literally dense, meaning the concentration of nutrients cannot be matched amongst other 'regular' foods, and these superfoods are often thought of as medicinal or functional, like cinnamon.
In today's post, we're covering the benefits of chlorella.
What is chlorella?
Given its bright green hue, you might already guess this food is pretty stellar for your health.
Most green plant foods - kale, collards, spinach and the like - have a pretty good reputation in the real food world.
Chlorella is no exception; you can start ranking it up against the big dogs from here on out.
This food has been around for awhile. Chlorella is a green algae, but don't let that turn you off. Embracing foods from under the sea can really boost your nutrition!
Check out this feature on the health benefits of seaweed for more aquatic wisdom.
While chlorella is fairly popular in Japan, other countries seem to be just catching on now.
If you've been hearing about it and its promising nutritional prowess, and its detox abilities have piqued your interest, we're going to explain why adding a little algae into your daily diet is a smart choice.
The health benefits of chlorella
Gram for gram, chlorella is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
With a daily dose of three to five grams, you can easily reap the nutritional benefits of this plant.
Here's what we've got going on:
Chlorella is great for detoxing from heavy metals. Hopefully, you aren't heavily exposed to elements like lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum, but we all face some risk of exposure over our lifetime.
Daily consumption can eliminate the toxic effects these things have on our bodies. This is perhaps its most convincing benefit to the body.
In essence, chlorella binds to the molecules of these heavy metals found in the body and flushes them out. Boom!
Chlorella has the most chlorophyll of any green plant food. This helps move oxygen to red blood cells, which in turn helps us maintain a healthy metabolism.
Chlorella is an adaptogen, which essentially means it helps your body naturally find its "happy medium".
Think along the lines of having high or low blood pressure - adaptogenic supplements have the power to level things out. Read more about adaptogens here.
Chlorella is a natural cancer-fighter.
Using it as a supplement - in addition to a real-food diet (like a ketogenic diet) - has shown to kill cancer cells, specifically when it comes to brain tumors.
Chlorella is great for liver detox, and its effects are especially strong in those with chronic liver damage or liver cancer, or for those looking to balance their hormones.
Chlorella is a complete plant protein, which means that it contains all 21 essential amino acids.
The details on detox
It's worth delving into the uncanny abilities of chlorella when it comes to detoxing the body. We mentioned above that it does an amazing job of removing toxins and heavy metals.
The word 'detox' is admittedly overused in the health and wellness industry, so let's discuss what this really means and the science behind it.
Chlorella is unique because it binds only to what we want to rid our bodies of. Some foods don't discriminate; as they bind to harmful substances to flush them out, they also bind to the good stuff.
Not so great, huh?
We want essential minerals like zinc, calcium, and manganese to stick around.
Chlorella is pretty specific, and it's on a mission - it's not interested in taking out the good guys.
What makes it so powerful? Adsorption.
It's a bit like absorption, but it works in almost the opposite way. Positively charged heavy metals attract and latch onto negatively charged chlorella cells.
Basically, chlorella is like a magnet to heavy metals, and it holds on tight.
Chlorella will help rid the body of cadmium, lead, mercury, aluminum, antimony, and arsenic.
While these are things you're likely avoiding, we inevitably come into contact with some rather unpleasant elements on occasion.
From mercury found in fish like tuna and cavity fillings to trace amounts of lead found in unfiltered water, it's best to have an active defense against their negative impact on our bodies.
Where to buy chlorella
First, you should know where to get chlorella. There are a few ways to take it, namely by pill form or powder form.
You can purchase these varieties online or at health food stores.
The important part of the buying process is to understand the source of your chlorella.
Considering its impressive ability to bind to heavy metals, it's more likely to pick them up during the manufacturing process.
You can read more about contamination factors and what to look out for here. In short, it's best to avoid purchasing chlorella from China as the contamination is the highest.
Non-organic chlorella from other regions was found to be much safer than organic varieties from China.
The "cleanest" chlorella is going to cost you a pretty penny, but there are plenty of options to consider when you're choosing your origin.
How to use chlorella
Now, let's move on to how you can use chlorella once you get your hands on some of this green goodness.
Fair warning: chlorella tastes a little weird. It's an acquired taste, to say the least.
Fortunately, it's only recommended as a supplement, so you can likely stomach the three to five grams per day.
Taking it as a pill or capsule is easy because you can avoid having to taste it or find a creative use for it.
If you're keen to add a bit more green into your actual diet, here are a few recipe ideas.
If you're going for a more minimalist approach, you can simply add a dose to any liquid or smoothie for a powerful boost.
- Green Dream Chlorella Cream from My New Roots
- Secret Green Chocolate Banana Smoothie from Ceara's Kitchen
- Fresh Avocado Detox Soup from Vic's Health Kitchen
Do you use chlorella in your kitchen? Share your favorite uses for this detox powerhouse with us below!
This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
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Lee HS, Park HJ, Kim MK: Effect of Chlorella vulgaris on lipid metabolism in Wistar rats fed high fat diet. Nutr Res Pract. 2008, 2: 204-210. 10.4162/nrp.2008.2.4.204.
Sansawa H, Inoue K, Shirai T: Effect of Chlorella tablet ingestion on mild hypercholesterolemic patients. Nippon Shokuhin Kagaku Kaishi.
Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She delivered over 2000 babies to mothers in a suburban Midwestern community.