Chlorella vs Spirulina | Which One Is Best? Why Not Both?
Chlorella and Spirulina are two of the most powerful algae to boost your health. They are often sold separately and people like to compare chlorella vs spirulina in order to decide what should they spend their money on.
These micro-algae, found in bodies of water, are packed with nutrients that can boost immune health and aid in healing various ailments.
In fact, both chlorella and spirulina supplements have become increasingly popular, and you will often find them in the best greens powders (combined), or as powders on their own.
So which one is best chlorella or spirulina? What should you spend your money on?
- Both spirulina and chlorella are great for you.
- They have multiple health benefits from improving digestion, to reducing risk of chronic diseases.
- Furthermore, studies have found that when taken in combination they could have synergistic effects.
- You should look to have at least 1g of each
- Instead of buying them separately, buy them together in a greens powder blend
- Check the best greens powders that contain both chlorella and spirulina
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina, often hailed as a “superfood,” is a bright blue-green powder derived from a type of algae. It is not an herb but rather one of the oldest life forms on earth.
Spirulina is incredibly nutrient-rich, containing protein, antioxidants, amino acids, vitamin B-12, iron, minerals, and chlorophyll. It is primarily harvested from natural freshwater sources such as lakes, ponds, streams, and saltwater. When properly grown and harvested, spirulina is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available.
Health Benefits of Spirulina
Taking spirulina as a supplement can offer a range of health benefits, including:
- Complete protein source: Spirulina is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids required by the body. It also contains gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA), an essential Omega-6 fatty acid that is not commonly found in most food sources.
- Omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids: Spirulina is rich in these beneficial fatty acids, which promote heart health and have anti-inflammatory properties.
- High levels of chlorophyll: Chlorophyll is a powerful antioxidant that helps detoxify the body and boost immune system health.
- Calcium and iron: Spirulina is a great source of calcium, with 120mg per 100 grams, making it beneficial for bone health. It also provides a significant amount of iron, with 28.5mg per 100 grams, making it suitable for individuals with iron deficiency or anemia.
- Phosphorus and Vitamin K: Spirulina is high in phosphorus, which helps remineralize teeth, and is an excellent source of Vitamin K, essential for blood coagulation and healthy teeth and bones.
- Fat burning during exercise: Spirulina may help increase fat burning during exercise, making it a potential aid for weight loss[^1^].
What is Chlorella?
Chlorella is another type of micro-algae that is similar to spirulina but has a bright green color. It is also found in freshwater bodies but can be more challenging to harvest due to its microscopic size and tendency to grow alongside other organisms. Like spirulina, chlorella is rich in protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients[^2^].
Chlorella offers similar benefits to spirulina due to its nutrient profile. We discussed the key benefits of taking chlorella in another article, but here are some highlights:
- Potential food source: Chlorella is a great potential food source, with approximately 45% protein, 20% fat, 20% carbohydrate, 5% fiber, and a range of vitamins and minerals.
- Heavy metal detoxification: Chlorella has the ability to bind and remove heavy metals from the body, making it beneficial for individuals with heavy metal toxicity.
- Chlorophyll content: Like spirulina, chlorella is high in chlorophyll, enabling the body to detoxify and eliminate harmful toxins and chemicals.
- Nucleic Acids: Chlorella is rich in nucleic acids, which play a crucial role in DNA and RNA protection and cell health.
- Beta-Carotene: Chlorella contains a significant amount of beta-carotene, an essential antioxidant that protects the body against free radicals and promotes healthy skin and eyes.
Spirulina vs. Chlorella: An Overview
Below you can check the differences in one-ounce (28g) servings for each:
- Calories: 115 calories
- Protein: 16 grams
- Carbohydrates: 7 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Vitamin A: 287% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Riboflavin (B2): 71% of the DV
- Thiamine (B1): 32% of the DV
- Folate: 7% of the DV
- Magnesium: 22% of the DV
- Iron: 202% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 25% of the DV
- Zinc: 133% of the DV
- Copper: 0% of the D
- Calories: 81 calories
- Protein: 16 grams
- Carbohydrates: 7 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
- Vitamin A: 3% of the DV
- Riboflavin (B2): 60% of the DV
- Thiamine (B1): 44% of the DV
- Folate: 7% of the DV
- Magnesium: 14% of the DV
- Iron: 44% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 3% of the DV
- Zinc: 4% of the DV
- Copper: 85% of the DV
While spirulina and chlorella share similarities, there are some key differences to consider:
Best for heart health and digestive health.
- Easier digestion: Spirulina is generally easier to digest compared to chlorella.
- Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA): Spirulina is the highest known source of GLA, an essential Omega-6 fatty acid.
- Contains more copper: This mineral is required to make red blood cells, and helps keeping your nervous system and immune system healthy.
Best for immune system function, detox, and tissue repair.
- Higher chlorophyll content: Chlorella has almost ten times as much chlorophyll as spirulina.
- More iron: Chlorella contains more iron than spirulina.
- More Omega-3s: Chlorella has a higher concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids compared to spirulina.
- Higher in vitamin A, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
Key Differences Between Chlorella vs Spirulina
While chlorella and spirulina share many similarities in terms of their nutritional content, there are a few key differences that set them apart.
Source and Growth
One of the primary differences between chlorella and spirulina lies in their source and growth characteristics. Chlorella is a freshwater alga, whereas spirulina is a saltwater alga. This distinction impacts their cultivation methods and nutrient profiles.
Chlorella grows rapidly and can quadruple in size within a short period. Its freshwater habitat allows for controlled cultivation, making it easier to maintain quality and purity standards. On the other hand, spirulina grows slightly slower than chlorella but is known for its ability to thrive in harsh environments, such as alkaline lakes. Its saltwater habitat presents unique challenges for cultivation.
Omega Fatty Acid Content
Another notable difference between chlorella and spirulina is their omega fatty acid content. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fats that play crucial roles in the body. While both chlorella and spirulina contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the ratio differs.
Chlorella is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and potential health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and supporting brain health. Spirulina, on the other hand, contains more omega-6 fatty acids. While omega-6 fatty acids are also essential, it’s important to maintain a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 intake, as an excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids may promote inflammation in the body.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
As shown in the section above, chlorella and spirulina differ in their vitamin and mineral content. Chlorella is particularly rich in vitamin A, riboflavin (B2), thiamine (B1), iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. These nutrients play vital roles in various bodily functions, including immune health, energy production, and maintaining healthy bones.
Spirulina, on the other hand, is higher in riboflavin (B2), thiamine (B1), and copper. Riboflavin is involved in energy metabolism, while thiamine is crucial for maintaining a healthy nervous system. Copper is an essential mineral that plays a role in antioxidant defense and iron metabolism.
The Potential Health Benefits of Chlorella and Spirulina
Key-takeaway: There are multiple studies that show various health benefits of both, due to their high polyphenol, antioxidant, and other phytonutrients content. Regular consumption can reduce risk of chronic diseases, improve aerobic performance, detox your body, improve your immune system and even support gut health. However, generally doses larger than 1g/day (for each) will be required.
High-Quality Source of Protein
Chlorella and spirulina stand out as exceptional sources of protein, rich in all essential amino acids, the fundamental building blocks of proteins (1,2). Protein holds paramount importance in various physiological functions, including muscle growth, tissue repair, immune system support, and the synthesis of critical enzymes and hormones (3).
For individuals adhering to vegetarian or plant-based diets, chlorella and spirulina emerge as invaluable sources of protein. By incorporating these microalgae into daily meals or utilizing them as dietary supplements, one can effectively meet their daily protein requirements (4).
Chlorella and spirulina are renowned for their potential detoxifying properties (5). The high chlorophyll content in chlorella enables it to effectively bind to heavy metals and toxins, facilitating their elimination from the body. Similarly, spirulina possesses notable detoxification capabilities and has been subject to research investigating its role in supporting liver health (6).
Incorporating chlorella and spirulina into one’s dietary regimen can play a significant role in bolstering the body’s natural detoxification processes, thereby promoting overall well-being (7).
Cardiovascular Health and Arterial Stiffness
Scientific research suggests that both chlorella and spirulina possess promising potential to enhance cardiovascular health and mitigate arterial stiffness (8). Numerous studies have reported that regular supplementation with these algae can lead to significant reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two critical risk factors for cardiovascular disease (9). Additionally, the antioxidant properties inherent in chlorella and spirulina may offer protection against oxidative stress-induced damage to blood vessels (10).
Anemia, characterized by a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin, results in diminished oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Chlorella and spirulina have emerged as subjects of interest in the management of anemia, particularly in individuals with iron deficiency (11). These microalgae serve as rich sources of iron and other essential nutrients vital for red blood cell production, offering promising natural remedies for anemia (12).
Immune Function Enhancement
The immune system plays a pivotal role in protecting the body against infections and diseases. Chlorella and spirulina have demonstrated immunomodulatory effects, effectively aiding in the regulation and strengthening of immune function (13). Research studies have showcased the ability of these microalgae to enhance antibody production, stimulate immune cell activity, and improve overall immune response (14).
Oxidative Stress and Antioxidant Activity
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s antioxidant defenses. Chlorella and spirulina, with their rich antioxidant content, have been studied for their potential to combat oxidative stress. These algae contain various antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and phycocyanin, which can neutralize ROS and protect cells from damage.
Antioxidants play a crucial role in maintaining overall health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. They help neutralize harmful free radicals and protect cells from damage. Studies in rats have shown that chlorella might enhance muscle repair and recovery caused by oxidative damage.
Regular consumption of chlorella and spirulina may contribute to a healthier immune system and improved cellular function.
How to Consume Spirulina and Chlorella
There are several ways to incorporate spirulina and chlorella into your diet. The most common form is in powder form, which can be added to various recipes and beverages.
- Smoothies: Add a teaspoon or two of chlorella or spirulina powder to your favorite smoothie recipe for an added nutrient boost.
- Baked Goods: Incorporate chlorella or spirulina powder into your homemade baked goods, such as muffins or energy bars, for a vibrant green color and added nutritional benefits.
- Salads and Dressings: Sprinkle chlorella or spirulina powder onto salads or mix it into homemade dressings for an extra nutritional punch.
- Capsules or Tablets: If you prefer a more convenient option, you can find chlorella and spirulina in capsule or tablet form. Follow the recommended dosage instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- Recipes: Explore recipes specifically designed to incorporate chlorella or spirulina, such as energy balls, protein bars, or smoothie bowls.
Another convenient option is to take them as part of a greens powder. Superfood blends tend to include both chlorella and spirulina together with other vegetables, fruits and adaptogens to provide a comprehensive boost to your health, gut, and immune system.
While chlorella and spirulina are generally safe for most people, there are a few precautions to keep in mind:
- Allergies: Some individuals may be allergic to algae. If you have a known allergy to seafood or other types of algae, it’s best to avoid chlorella and spirulina or consult with a healthcare professional before use.
- Medication Interactions: Chlorella and spirulina may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners. If you are taking any medications or have a medical condition, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating these supplements into your routine.
- Quality and Purity: When purchasing chlorella or spirulina supplements, opt for reputable brands that prioritize quality and purity. Look for products that have been tested by third-party organizations to ensure they meet safety standards.
- Dosage: Follow the recommended dosage instructions provided by the manufacturer. It’s important not to exceed the recommended dosage, as excessive intake may lead to digestive issues or other adverse effects.
Some people are concerned if you can take spirulina while pregnant, but both algae have been proven to be safe for pregnant women and children.
Conclusion: Chlorella vs Spirulina, You Should Take Both
Chlorella and spirulina are nutrient-dense superfoods that offer a wide array of potential health benefits. While chlorella is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, spirulina shines in its content of riboflavin, thiamine, and copper. Both algae are rich sources of protein and antioxidants and may support detoxification, heart health, and blood sugar management.
This brings us to the question: “Should I take spirulina or chlorella?”
The answer to that is: “Both”.
In fact, you should take both in conjunction with other superfoods like spinach, kale, berries, rhodiola etc. Instead of buying chlorella powder or spirulina tablets, you should buy greens superfood mixes that contain both, like SuperGreen Tonik. This way you will enjoy the health benefits of multiple vegetables and amplify the positive effects.
Just make sure that they have at least 1g of each, as this is the minimum effective dose for both chlorella and spirulina (and many manufacturers don’t have enough).
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