Whether it be to improve health, detoxify the body of heavy metals, or to simply boost mineral and electrolyte consumption; algae-based products — such as spirulina and chlorella — have become a supplemental staple in the lives of many health-conscious consumers. And although each provide numerous benefits on their own, the spirulina and chlorella benefits when taken together are even greater. In this post we’ll be going over 14 of those benefits that you’ll enjoy when taking spirulina and chlorella together.
What Is Spirulina?
Originating in freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers and ponds, Spirulina is a consumable cyanobacteria that grows in the form of algae.
Historically, it has been consumed as a food item, and more recently, in supplemental form to aid with health and contribute to daily nutritional needs.
Known for its nutritionally-dense profile, spirulina can be considered one of the most complete food items that exists.
Spirulina supplements can come in a variety of consumable formats:
- As a pill, tablet or capsule
- In powder form as an ingredient or drink additive
- In liquid form as an extract
- Processed into various snacks, such as crisps and bars
Consumption of spirulina as a food item dates all the way back to the 1600s when it was used by the Aztecs and other Mesoamericans.
What Is Chlorella?
Chlorella is a single-celled green algae that also grows in freshwater bodies.
Unlike spirulina though, the cellular walls of chlorella are indigestible to humans, so it must be broken down, processed, and taken in supplement form in order to reap the nutritional benefits.
The supplemental forms in which you can find chlorella are similar to that of spirulina:
- As a pill or tablet
- As a dissolvable powder
- As a liquid extract
- Included in various products, such as teas and snacks
What Are The Differences Between Spirulina and Chlorella?
Although they’re both freshwater algae, spirulina and chlorella benefits can differ when taken on their own, and for a variety of reasons.
For one, chlorella contains more iron per serving and has a higher percentage of its fat calories from omega-3 fatty acids, but spirulina is higher in protein and potassium.
Another area where the spirulina and chlorella benefits differ is when it comes to vitamin B12. Chlorella contains significant amounts of B12 per serving, whereas spirulina only contains trace amounts of a form of B12 that is ineffective in humans [source].
Spirulina and Chlorella Benefits When Taken Together
The primary spirulina and chlorella benefits you’ll enjoy when taken together are the protein and potassium that spirulina is packed with, as well as the iron and omega-3 content of chlorella.
That said, let’s dig in a little deeper to uncover more of these benefits.
1. High in protein
One major benefit of including spirulina into your diet is that it is relatively high in protein per serving.
Protein serves many functions in the body, but it’s main responsibility is in repairing muscle tissue that has been broken down from physical activities, such as exercise and sports.
A single tablespoon serving (7 g) of spirulina powder may only contain 20 calories, but many of those calories are from protein because that same serving size packs 4 g of protein.
In addition, chlorella contains 3 g of protein per 5 g serving, meaning that when combined, spirulina and chlorella can help you meet your daily protein needs.
2. Contains all essential amino acids
Spirulina and chlorella may be great sources of protein, but what may be even more impressive is that those proteins contain a complete profile of essential amino acids [source].
Proteins are compounds that consist of amino acids. Any protein source that does not contain all nine essential amino acids is considered an incomplete protein.
Most plant-based sources of protein contain incomplete proteins on their own. This can be problematic for those following vegan or vegetarian diets and are not combining different plant-based protein sources to get complete proteins.
Thanks to the amino acid content of the protein in chlorella, pairing it with spirulina can provide plant-based dieters with a complete protein source.
3. High in fiber
Fiber is another benefit you’ll enjoy when taking spirulina and chlorella together.
In short, fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by the body into sugar. According to the Mayo Clinic, a high-fiber diet can provide the following benefits:
- Normalized bowel movements
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Help in controlling blood sugar
- May aid in weight loss
Spirulina and chlorella both come packed with fiber that can help you meet your daily goals.
4. Excellent source of iron
Iron is an essential mineral that is mostly responsible for delivering oxygen throughout the body. A diet lacking in iron can lead to several health ailments, such as anemia, shortness of breath, and brittle nails [source].
The National Institutes of Health recommends that adult women between the ages of 19 and 50 consume 18 mg of iron per day. Men in a similar age range only require 8 mg per day [source].
Spirulina and chlorella benefits those in need of iron when taken together. A single 2-tsp serving of chlorella powder comes with 12 mg of iron, whereas a 1-tbsp serving of powdered spirulina packs 2 mg of iron.
Combining them can provide adult men with all of the iron they need for a day and can help adult women reach their daily target.
5. Contains potassium
Another benefit to be reaped from combining spirulina and chlorella is the potassium content each.
Potassium is a mineral and essential electrolyte that is partially responsible for controlling the electrical pulses in the body, along with a variety of other bodily functions, such as hydration and central nervous system function.
When supplemented, potassium has been shown to reduce the blood pressure readings in patients with normal sodium intake [source].
The potassium content of each freshwater algae can contribute to your daily needs.
According to the National Institutes of Health:
Phosphorus is a component of bones, teeth, DNA, and RNA. In the form of phospholipids, phosphorus is also a component of cell membrane structure and of the body’s key energy source, ATP.National Institutes of Health [source]
Failing to meet the RDA of phosphorus can result in hypophosphatemia — a condition that can cause muscle weakness, fatigue, bone pain, and more.
Thanks to the phosphorus content of spirulina, combining it with chlorella can help contribute to your daily needs.
7. Rich in B vitamins
B vitamins are a category of water-soluble vitamins that are partially responsible for cell metabolism.
When taken together, spirulina and chlorella benefits those who may be in need of B vitamins, as a combined serving of each contains:
- Pantothenic acid
Copper is an essential mineral that plays a role in maintaining your metabolism. It also contributes to bone health and central nervous system function.
According to the National Institutes of Health, it is recommend that adult women consume 1,100 mcg of copper per day, whereas men require 1,400 mcg per day [source].
Thanks to the copper content in spirulina and the mineral-rich nature of algae in general, you’ll have an easier time reaching your daily needs when combining spirulina and chlorella together.
9. Plant-based source of B12
One of the biggest challenges one may face when pursuing a vegan or vegetarian diet is finding food sources that contain vitamin B12.
Produced by bacteria, vitamin B12 serves many functions in the body, such as aiding in brain health, nerve health, and keeping blood cells healthy.
Vitamin B12 is found most commonly in animal-based products, such as meat and dairy, and is often fortified in processed foods. This means that following a plant-based whole foods diet could potentially lead to a B12 deficiency.
For this, vegans and vegetarians tend to rely on B12 supplements. However, a single 5 g serving of chlorella powder will provide you with 250% of the B12 you need for the day!
Although research has recently confirmed that chlorella does indeed deliver vitamin B12, the B12 content found in spirulina is psuedovitamin B12 and has not been shown to be effective in humans.
10. High in Vitamin A
There’s no question that the spirulina and chlorella benefits are plentiful, but one of the more impressive feats would be the vitamin A content.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for vision, immune system function, and organ health [source].
A lack of vitamin A in the diet can lead to ailments such as dry skin, night blindness, and infertility [source].
Spirulina does have trace amounts of vitamin A, but it’s a negligible amount. Chlorella, on the other hands, packs 60% of the RDA in just a single 2-tsp serving.
11. Contains Vitamin E
Much like vitamin A, vitamin E is also a fat-soluble vitamin. However, it functions as an antioxidant in the body, helping it rid itself of free radials and other harmful compounds.
Vitamin E also plays a role in immune health [source].
Chlorella has been shown to contain numerous essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E. In addition, spirulina can provide you with 0.35 mg of vitamin E per 1-tbsp serving.
Calcium is another essential mineral and electrolyte that your body uses to regulate a variety of functions, such as its electrical pulses, water balance, central nervous system function, and more.
More specifically, calcium plays a role in building strong bones and maintaining good bone health.
Another benefit you’ll enjoy when combining spirulina and chlorella together is the calcium content in both. A single 2-tsp serving of chlorella alone can provide you with roughly 2% of the RDA.
13. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Another advantage you’ll enjoy when combining spirulina and chlorella is the additional omega-3 fatty acids to be had [source].
Omega-3s are a family of essential fatty acids that your body needs but cannot produce. Adding them to your diet can reduce inflammation in the body [source].
The three most important types are:
- ALA: mainly derived from plant food sources
- DHA: primarily derived from algae animal food sources
- EPA: primarily derived from algae animal food sources
Plant-based sources of DHA and EPA are rare, which could be problematic for anyone following a vegan or vegetarian diet. However, various algae (such as spirulina and chlorella) have been known to contain both DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids [source].
Although both algae do contain omega-3 fatty acids, a higher percentage of chlorella’s fat calories are from omega-3s. This means that when taking spirulina, you can increase your intake of these healthy fats by combining it with chlorella.
The final benefit you’ll be happy to reap when taking spirulina and chlorella together is the modest amount of zinc content.
Zinc is another essential mineral, however, it is mostly known for its affect on the immune system. A deficiency in zinc can lead to increased susceptibility to infection [source].
Thanks to its richness in zinc, chlorella consumption can help you inch closer to reaching your daily needs when combined with spirulina.
As indicated by the mountain of evidence — only a fraction of which we’ve touched on in this post — the spirulina and chlorella benefits can be profound when taken together. It is quite remarkable that such a tiny volume of food can pack as much nutrition as it does.
Algae, such as spirulina and chlorella, are some of the most nutritionally-dense food sources on the plant. In fact, algae has even been discussed by NASA as a potential source of nutrition for the long journeys astronauts may embark on in the future.
On their own, spirulina and chlorella are each nutritional powerhouses in their own regard. However, when combined, the benefits are compounded.