Chlorella is freshwater green algae, a natural food supplement that offers a host of health benefits that truly make it a superfood. Chlorella has been around since the early days of our planet, and has probably remained unchanged over the ages. However, this single-celled alga was not identified until the close of the 19th century. It took a few more decades to realize its true potential.
When World War I initiated the scramble for alternative food sources, Chlorella, with its very attractive nutrient profile, became the ideal candidate. Japan spearheaded its commercial production. Chlorella was not well accepted in the beginning, but once its benefits became known, and the product became available in powder, tablet, and liquid forms, popularity steadily increased. People have since reported several unforeseen health and beauty benefits of this amazing natural supplement.
1. Chlorella is a natural, wholesome food
Today, the Chlorella you can get your hands on has probably come from either Japan or Taiwan where mainly two species, Chlorella vulgaris and Chlorella pyrenoidosa, are cultivated and processed in high-tech factories to ensure safety and efficacy. Depending on the type of product, it may contain varying amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrate, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
The general nutritional profile of dried Chlorella is 45% protein. 20% carbohydrate, 20% fat, and 5% fiber, with minerals zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous completing it. Chlorella is rich in vitamins A, C, D, E and several B-complex vitamins too.
Earlier products had low digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients due to the tough outer coat of Chlorella cells. But modern processing techniques break down the cell walls, ensuring over 80% absorption of the nutrients into the body. This makes Chlorella products equivalent to boiled rice in digestibility.
2. Chlorella is the most concentrated antioxidant food
We hear a lot about antioxidants these days. They are molecules that bind with highly reactive free radicals that can do severe damage to the cells in our body. Many free radicals are formed during the normal metabolic processes, and the body has regular mechanism to neutralize them. For instance, vitamins C and E and Beta carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, have excellent antioxidant properties and help render free radicals out of service by bonding with them.
But when environmental pollutants and UV radiation add to the free radical load, our body finds it difficult to cope. When allowed to roam freely, these highly reactive molecules wreak havoc in our body, causing disorders and damaging the DNA of cells that can potentially trigger cancerous growths. Antioxidant foods and supplements may help reduce such cellular damage.
Chlorella is rich in vitamins, but the antioxidant arsenal of chlorella is not limited to these. It has several polyphenolic acids that are equally good in mopping up the free radicals. Chlorella also activates glutathione, the most potent resident antioxidant in our body. Not only that, it adds its own store of glutathione to it. This is especially beneficial in counteracting glutathione depletion in older people.
3. Chlorella is excellent for detoxification
Toxins from the environment enter our food and water and eventually make their way into our body. When these toxic substances accumulate in the body, it may cause many disorders, including cancer. Chlorella can flush out these toxins and cleanse our system.
Chlorella has been found to be particularly useful in removing heavy metals like cadmium, mercury, and lead. As a matter of fact, a Japanese study showed that chlorella helped victims of cadmium poisoning to detoxify at seven times the usual rate.
It is the tough, indigestible, outer shell of the algae that is credited with the detoxification effect. It is made up of a fibrous mucopolysaccharide. Chlorella supplements are processed in such a way that they contain algae with their shell broken down to make their nutrients available. When chlorella is taken regularly, the fibrous shell binds with the heavy metals and other toxins and carries them out of the body. People who start taking chlorella supplements often experience frequent bowel movements in the first few weeks. This is due to the detoxification process taking place in the guts.
Chlorella’s cleansing effect is not limited to the gastrointestinal tract. It acts as a blood purifier and liver cleanser too. The extremely high chlorophyll content of this algae increases the hemoglobin in the blood. Incidentally, the molecular structure and composition of chlorophyll and hemoglobin are very similar to each other, the only difference being in the heme part of hemoglobin which contains iron whereas chlorophyll has magnesium in its place.
With the increase in hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood increases, improving the circulation of blood and elimination of waste from various tissues and organs, including the liver.
4. Chlorella increases our immune function
This sea superpower has been found to be an immune stimulant in several studies. In a South Korean clinical trial, taking chlorella supplements for a short period has been shown to increase immunological parameters.
When people were given just 5 gram of chlorella per day for 8 weeks, researchers found a 10% increase in their Natural Killer Cell activity compared to those who were given placebo. Their gamma-interferon levels showed a significant increase, indicating better immunity against viral and bacterial infections. There was a similar increase in interleukin-1beta too.
For people taking vitamin pills for immunity boost, chlorella offers a healthier alternative because it is always better to derive vitamins from food than taking synthetic products. The algae is rich in almost all the vitamins as well as minerals like zinc which play a significant role in regulating immune function.
5. Chlorella is a digestive aid
Regular intake of chlorella relieves digestive problems such as bloating, stomach cramps and irregularity. Being an excellent digestive cleanser, it relieves bad breath and smelly stools. Chlorella extract contains many digestive enzymes, the most important among them being pepsin and chlorophyllase.
Food stagnating in the digestive tract causes inflammation of the intestinal lining, reabsorption of toxic substances, and proliferation of harmful microbes, making way for many problems. Chlorella improves the peristaltic function of the gut for faster movement of food, preventing stagnation and diverticulitis. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action brings relief to people who suffer from ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease.
Chlorella has excellent probiotic action, providing a regular supply of nutrients to beneficial bacteria in the intestines. These microbes break down soluble fiber and make many nutrients and vitamins available to our body.
Many people report symptoms of indigestion such as gas and diarrhea when they start taking chlorella. This is due to detoxing and the effect of extra fiber load. These problems usually subside within a week or two.
6. Chlorella is cancer protective
Chlorella protects you from cancer in many ways. To start with, it flushes out toxins and heavy metals from the body. With its high antioxidant power, it protects the cells from free radicals that cause DNA damage. Another important action of chlorella is strengthening of our immune system. By enhancing the action of T cells, it makes the body more capable of identifying and destroying damaged cells that can otherwise divide and form tumors.
When chlorella supplementation is used adjuvant to conventional cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, it reduces their side effects. Since these treatments destroy the lining of the guts and make digestion difficult, chlorella provides a steady nutrient supply that is easily absorbed.
7. Get healthy, youthful skin with chlorella
Your skin cells need to renew themselves continuously to stay in good shape, but it takes a lot of resources. Rich in amino acids, lipids, and several minerals, chlorella supplementation can provide the nutrients required for skin regeneration.
Being in constant contact with environmental pollutants, skin is prone to free radical damage that causes premature aging. Exposure to UV radiation from the sun is another risk factor. Besides having antioxidants beta-carotene and lutein in abundance, chlorella contains a number of phenolic compounds such as chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and trans-cinnamic acid that are excellent free-radical scavengers.
Every time the cell divides, there’s the risk of telomeres shortening and DNA damage. Shortened telomeres are markers of aging. Chlorella is a rapidly dividing algal cell, and contains Chlorella Growth Factor and nucleic acids that aid cellular reproduction and skin regeneration. In laboratory tests, chlorella has been shown to prevent free radical damage and telomere shortening, thus ensuring healthy and young skin.
Topical application of chlorella may help treat skin ulcers and trichomoniasis. It had been used to treat skin rashes caused by radiation exposure following the Chernobyl disaster in erstwhile USSR.
8. Chlorella promotes weight loss
If you’re trying to lose weight, chlorella supplements can help with this task. As you know very well, many weight loss diets start with a detox phase, and for good reason. Accumulation of toxins in the body is one reason why many people have large amounts of fat deposits. Storing away toxins in fat tissue is one survival mechanism of our body. By taking them out of circulation, they are prevented from causing harm to us. Chlorella is the most potent, natural detoxification agent available. This effect can be felt in the very first days of starting his supplement.
High protein diet has been known to aid weight loss, but taking too much animal protein may put you at risk of atherosclerosis since it comes with high amounts of fat and cholesterol. Chlorella has the ideal protein to fat ratio for weight loss, while providing most of the essential micronutrients.
The chlorophyll content of chlorella helps increase hemoglobin and red blood cell count, improving blood oxygen levels and circulation. This results in higher energy levels and metabolic rate. People often report that they feel more energetic and tend to become more active once they start taking chlorella supplements. This may also contribute to weight loss.
9. Chlorella can help control blood sugar and cholesterol
Since chlorella accelerates the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract, it is quite obvious that it can reduce the absorption of dietary cholesterol and fats into the bloodstream. According to a study published in theJournal of Medicinal Food, chlorella was found to reduce not only cholesterol, but blood sugar levels as well, when 8 grams are taken daily in divided doses.
Blood glucose lowering effect of chlorella has been an interesting discovery, especially since it is observed only after cholesterol levels normalized. Since chlorella has been found to prevent hypoglycemia too, the mode of action could be improvement of insulin sensitivity.
10. Chlorella keeps your brain sharp
Chlorella is an excellent source of vitamin B12, important for keeping the brain functioning well. Deficiency of this vitamin is linked to depression, memory loss, and brain shrinkage. As we age, the body’s ability to absorb this vitamin decreases, putting older people at greater risk of B12 deficiency.
Chlorella is not only a rich vegan source of B12, but it is present in a bioavailable form that facilitates its rapid absorption. It is a good source of magnesium too, a mineral important for brain health. It increases memory and learning in both young children and older people. Vegetables and fruit are the traditional dietary sources of magnesium, but the mineral in chlorella is better absorbed.
11. Keep your eyes bright with chlorella
If carrots are thought to be good for eyesight because of its Beta-carotene content, chlorella is several fold better. It is rich in not only Beta-carotene but also in lutein, another important pigment for eye health. Lutein gets concentrated in the lens, retina and the macular region of the eye and protects the eye from damage due to UV radiation.
High lutein content in the eye is associated with lesser risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a progressive disease that can cause blindness. Green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens and spinach are the usual dietary sources of lutein, but with regular chlorella supplements, you can have both Beta-carotene and lutein in one shot.
12. Chlorella improves oral health
Chlorophyll is often included in several oral hygiene products for its cleansing power. Including greens in the diet is known to improve oral health and reduce foul breath, but no greens contain as much chlorophyll as chlorella. Whether you chew your chlorella supplement or allow it to work its magic from the inside, you can be assured of better gums and teeth.
Chlorella supplementation is generally safe for children and adults. It is particularly useful during pregnancy and lactation since it increases immunoglobulin A that transfers mother’s immunity to the child. Also, lower levels of toxic dioxins are found in the breast milk of mothers who take chlorella. A similar decrease is observed in the cord blood too. Chlorella supplementation has been shown to promote physical growth and cognitive development in young children.
As far as supplements go, chlorella is one to consider! However, as in the case of any dietary supplement, one should start with a very low dosage and watch out for allergic reactions.