Every few months, it seems, we are introduced to yet another ‘superfood’ purporting to be a panacea for all of life’s ills. Of course, no food is a cure-all – but neither are all foods equal, doing more or less the same thing. Some edibles very much deserve the polarising ‘superfood’ tag – and one of them is chlorella. But how does chlorella benefit us, and what are the merits of incorporating the all-natural supplement into our daily regime?
What is Chlorella?
Before we can get into what benefits, if any, chlorella provides, we should probably talk about what it is. Chlorella is a unicellular freshwater micro-algae native to Taiwan and Japan. Blue-green in colour and bursting with chlorophyll – just like its relative spirulina – chlorella exploded onto the UK health scene a decade ago, when it first appeared in tablet form. Nowadays chlorella supplements are much more widely available, though some are better than others – more on that later.
Nutritionally, chlorella packs a heavy punch. Not only is it dense with protein (twice as much as spinach), but it contains all nine essential amino acids, the so-called building blocks of muscle.
Chlorella is also teeming with useful vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B2 and B3, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc. Indeed, a single ounce of chlorella yields 287% of your recommended daily vitamin A and 202% of your recommended daily iron. Superfood? Not half!
How Does Chlorella Benefit Health?
A great many studies have been commissioned in chlorella’s name, largely owing to its rich supply of bioavailable carotenoids and other antioxidants like lutein, ascorbic acid and beta-carotene.
As such, most of the research tend to centre on the algae’s ability to detoxify heavy metals, support immune health, boost energy levels, stimulate weight loss or lower blood sugar. Some of the most fascinating ones are referenced below.
- Chlorella reduced serum lipid risk factors – mainly triglycerides and total cholesterol – in mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects
- Long-term chlorella consumption has potential to prevent age-related muscle atrophy
- Chlorella could prevent the progression of cognitive impairment
- Chlorella counteracts heavy metal poisoning by decreasing cadmium absorption
- Chlorella supports healthy immune response and stimulates ‘natural killer’ cell activity
- Chlorella helps maintain healthy serum cholesterol levels in an environment of free access to high-lipid foods
Needless to say, the scientific research assessing chlorella and its myriad benefits is considerable. Disappearing down the rabbit hole in pursuit of chlorella facts is easy.
The Best Chlorella Supplements
Although chlorella appears to be adept at dealing with heavy metals, you would not wish to buy a chlorella supplement which already contains a surplus of heavy metals. You would also surely wish to avoid chlorella supplements which contain cheap fillers and excipients.
In our view, chlorella grown indoors is preferable, as the intake of toxins and heavy metals is greatly reduced. Even outdoor chlorella that’s certified ‘organic’ risks exposure to harmful environmental contaminants. What’s more, indoor-grown chlorella develops thinner cell walls which – because they’re broken down during drying and processing – are far easier for the human body to digest.
Foodtopia has been in the chlorella business since before the boom, so it can hardly be accused of riding the superfood wave. Their chlorella is certified kosher, vegan-friendly and non-GMO, and unlike with some chlorella supplements, there are no fillers, additives, binders or excipients used in the manufacturing process: what you get is 100% pure chlorella pressed into a tablet.
Since chlorella is a whole food, it can be taken any time – with or without food. To make the most of its benefits for the digestive system though, it’s probably best taken just before meals.
Can chlorella benefit health? Absolutely. But if you're hunting high and low for a panacea, we suggest you call off the search.