- Chlorella is a microalgae, similar to spirulina, that has been studied recently for its potential health benefits.
- Some evidence suggests that chlorella may be effective in detoxing the body from heavy metals, but more research is needed.
- If you feel as though you have been exposed to high levels of heavy metals, seek medical care.
Chlorella is a freshwater microalgae. It is a single-celled organism and has been around for centuries.
It is grown mostly in Asian countries, with almost all of the chlorella for consumption grown, harvested, and distributed from Japan.
It has been more recently studied in the scientific literature for its proposed health benefits. It has an impressive nutrition profile, and just under 4 grams of chlorella can provide 2 grams of protein, almost 100% daily value of vitamin C, and 6.3 milligrams of iron.
To put that in perspective, men need 8 grams of iron per day and women need 18 grams of iron per day, so just a few grams of chlorella can help provide almost 100% of iron per day for men.
Chlorella’s nutritional benefits have also been studied to see if it can help rid the body of heavy metals.
Some examples of heavy metals that could cause negative health effects if ingested or inhaled in especially large or even small amounts are lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic.
For example, mercury is a common heavy metal that could be seen in higher levels in some fish and seafood products like swordfish, shark, and mackerel.
How Does Chlorella Work As A Heavy Metal Detox
A heavy metal detox aims to remove the above said heavy metals that may be built up in the body from environmental or food sources.
Foods like chlorella may help bind heavy metals and promote heavy metal excretion in stool; this is how it is thought to detox the heavy metals from the body. Remember, much more studies are needed, and it is not 100% proven to help with heavy metal detoxification.
If you feel you may have been exposed to high levels of heavy metals, seek medical attention immediately, as this can be dangerous for your health.
Most studies on this topic have been done in animal models. For example, a study looked at mice given methylmercury and a version of chlorella powder for three weeks.
They found lower blood levels of mercury after seven days and significantly lower mercury levels in the brain and kidney compared to the placebo.
There was also an increase in mercury levels found in the urine and feces of these mice, suggesting that is the route that the heavy metals are leaving the body.
Also, one human study showed a decrease in mercury levels in patients with titanium dental implants after supplementation of chlorella and other supplements after 90 days, compared to untreated controls.
Are There Chlorella Detox Symptoms?
Some proposed side effects include green-colored stools and gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, gas, stomach cramps, or fatigue.
These are also some possible side effects when taking chlorella in general.
Not All Chlorella Is Created Equal
Something to note about chlorella is that not all chlorella is created equal. Sources state that humans cannot digest the cellulose cell wall of chlorella.
Consumers will often see “cracked wall chlorella” or “chlorella cracked cell wall” on the ingredients label of their chlorella supplement.
This is the preferred kind to look for when purchasing chlorella.
Chlorella Vs Spirulina
Chlorella and spirulina are both microalgae with a green or blue-green color. Some key differences between the two are notable to point out.
Remember that there is not one that is necessarily healthier than the other, it really comes down to which one would be best for your health goals.
Spirulina can be found in both freshwater and in saltwater in regions of Central Africa or Mexico. Chlorella is found and cultivated mostly in Japan.
Per one ounce serving, chlorella is higher than spirulina in most vitamins and minerals. Some notable ones are vitamin A, magnesium, zinc, riboflavin, and iron.
Chlorella is also a great source of iron, and while spirulina does have some iron, chlorella is much higher.
Spirulina is higher than chlorella in thiamine (vitamin B1) and copper. Chlorella does not contain any copper.
Lastly, comparing their nutritional value, chlorella is higher in calories than spirulina.
Let’s look at some similarities. They are both sources of protein, suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
They are both functional foods, which means they both have some health benefits besides just their nutritional value.
How To Take Chlorella
Chlorella can be taken in tablet form or powder form.
The powder can be mixed with water, juice, or coconut water. Be aware that the nutritional content will change based on what you mix the chlorella powder with. Mixing it with plain water will not add any extra calories or sugar.
Though some may not like the taste of it in plain water, as it has more of an earthy taste. A popular way to consume chlorella is by adding the powder to a smoothie. It will also give it a bright green color!
Tablets may be an easier way to take chlorella for some people, and they can be taken at any time of day. More than a couple of tablets a day are usually needed, it could be anywhere from 3 to 10 tablets per day based on the recommendations from the company.
The optimal dosage has not been defined, though anywhere from 3-10 grams daily appears generally safe.
More studies are needed on chlorella to determine an optimal dose and duration of weeks or months to take the supplement.
Chlorella And Greens Powders
Another popular way to take chlorella is in green powders.
Taking chlorella in a green powder could be a preferred way of taking it for some consumers as you will get chlorella, other vitamins and minerals, and additional health-boosting compounds like adaptogens, probiotics, or digestive enzymes.
While chlorella and greens powders are nutritionally dense and packed with vitamins and minerals, they should not replace a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables. Nutrition supplements are meant to support a healthy lifestyle if they are right for you.
All green powders have a different nutrition profile and are not created equal, ranging from 10 to even up to 70 ingredients.
Prospective consumers should research reputable, transparent brands before committing to a green powder to see which is right for your health goals.
Another thing to keep an eye out for in green powders is proprietary blends. While you may have never heard of this term, you probably have seen a proprietary blend on a nutrition supplement label.
A proprietary blend is a mixture of ingredients in a certain product in which the actual weight, amount, or potency is not disclosed to consumers.
Supergreen Tonik, for example, does not use proprietary blends and is transparent to consumers disclosing exactly how much of each ingredient is in their product.
There is 1000mg of chlorella cracked cell wall powder in Supergreen Tonik, which is already broken down and easier to digest.
While some research looks okay so far, there must be much more before we can conclude that chlorella can be used fully to help detox heavy metals from the body.
However, chlorella does have quite the nutritional profile and can be a source of some vitamins and minerals in the diet.
Before starting any nutrition supplement like chlorella and green powders, talk to your doctor. It is important to be a smart consumer! Even though they are natural and nutritionally dense, they may interact with some medications or cause some medical or autoimmune conditions to worsen or flare up.
Nicole is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian / Nutritionist. She completed her bachelors degree in Food and Nutrition with a concentration in Dietetics. She is passionate about taking evidence-based nutrition research and transforming it into an easy to read format for everybody to understand.
She has experience working in a variety of different settings such as acute care, long term care, school nutrition education and community nutrition. Nicole has spent most of her career working as a Clinical Dietitian in hospitals, providing nutrition education to those managing chronic diseases.