Article at a glance:
- Chlorella and Spirulina look and taste almost the same but differ in many ways.
- Their nutritional profiles show how unique they are from one another and what could work better for your health goals.
- Taking chlorella and Spirulina together daily is safe and may be the best option for supplementing your daily diet.
You’ll often find fruits and vegetables in the list of superfoods recommended to be included in your diet. Yet, you’ll be surprised that chlorella and spirulina are two of the most nutrient-dense superfoods on the planet. What’s even more fascinating is they have an extensive history as a food source because humans have long discovered their tremendous health benefits.
Taking spirulina or chlorella as a dietary supplement has been widely advised to promote human health. To decide which one to take, let’s break down some chlorella vs spirulina information.
Spirulina vs Chlorella: How Do They Compare?
It’s worth noting that you’ll find several similarities between the two, but there are key differences between spirulina and chlorella that still make them unique from one another.
Chlorella vs Spirulina Background
Although they’re both algae, chlorella and spirulina have characteristics unique to one another. For instance, chlorella’s pigment comes solely from chlorophyll. Conversely, Spirulina is also rich in the pigment-protein complex phycocyanin that gives it its blue-green color.
History as a Food Source
Spirulina is a cyanobacterium (blue-green algae) believed to have evolved at least 3.5 billion years ago. Its earliest record as food goes back to the Aztec civilization when Spanish invaders occupied Mexico in the 16th century. Spirulina was collected from a lake in the then-capital Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City. At the time, spirulina was consumed by Aztec messengers to improve their stamina when going on marathons.
Meanwhile, the earliest record of chlorella is from 1890, thanks to Dutch microbiologist Martinus W. Beijerinck. However, it was only post-World War II that the potential of chlorella as a nutritious food source was further studied. The Stanford Research Institute studied chlorella pyrenoidosa and found that it can convert 25% of solar energy into an edible plant dense in nutrients, especially protein.
This is where spirulina and chlorella are notably different, especially as supplements. After spirulina is cultivated, it is harvested, filtered, pressed, and dried. It also doesn’t require outdoor drying before being prepared as a supplement.
As for chlorella, while most of the process is similar to spirulina, it requires one important step. Chlorella cell walls are composed of cellulose, so they must be broken down to be safely consumed as a supplement. So, apart from only taking reputable chlorella products, look for supplements labeled with “broken cell” or “cracked cell” to ensure it’s completely safe. It’s also important to note that breaking chlorella cell walls with high heat could significantly reduce its potency.
Chlorella vs Spirulina Nutritional Value
Most vitamins and minerals found in spirulina are also present in chlorella. They’re both rich in protein and antioxidants, but specific components are available in higher amounts in chlorella than Spirulina, and vice versa. These differences can help you better determine which one or if both fit your needs.
Chlorella vs Spirulina Nutrients
Chlorella vs Spirulina Vitamins
Chlorella vs Spirulina Minerals
As you can see, while chlorella has higher calories than spirulina, the carbohydrates, protein, and fat content are almost the same.
The difference, however, is more remarkable when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Several compounds are more abundant in chlorella, including:
- Vitamin A
From the data above, spirulina can be a substantial source of the following minerals:
Essential Amino Acids of Chlorella and Spirulina
Spirulina supplements and chlorella supplements are great sources of the nine essential amino acids. These protein-building blocks aren’t naturally produced by the human body, but they play important roles in various body functions.
Available data on the nutritional profiles of both supplements show they have fairly the same amount of the following:
- Histidine has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Leucine helps regulate blood sugar levels and muscle and bone repair.
- Lysine helps produce carnitine which can lower cholesterol.
- Methionine may improve skin and hair elasticity.
- Phenylalanine converts into tyrosine needed for the biosynthesis of dopamine and norepinephrine hormones.
Spirulina has notably higher contents of the following essential amino acids:
- Isoleucine helps boost the immune system.
- Threonine helps stop fat buildup in the liver.
- Tryptophan is involved in the production of melatonin, serotonin, and niacin.
- Valine can function as an energy source.
Fatty Acids in Chlorella and Spirulina
When taken as supplements, chlorella and spirulina have almost the same amount of fat. They’re both rich in polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that may help reduce bad cholesterol, thus, improving risk factors for heart disease.
Which superfood has more omega-3 fatty acids? Chlorella wins this one. As one of the important “good fats,” it may help lower triglycerides. While a certain amount of triglycerides is considered healthy, an excess amount could lead to health conditions like diabetes. A study also found omega-3 fatty acids may have a powerful antioxidant effect against complications from type 2 diabetes.
Chlorella is a rich source of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body can convert into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These may help reduce inflammation to fight chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease.
Meanwhile, spirulina has more omega-6 fatty acids, which are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly linoleic acid. It’s considered a great alternative to saturated fat due to its anti-inflammatory benefits and may help reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Spirulina is also a rich source of omega-6 gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that has immense anti-inflammatory effects. An earlier animal clinical study found that supplementary GLA can be an excellent antihypertensive agent.
Chlorella and Spirulina as Powerful Antioxidants
The presence of vitamins C and E in both chlorella and spirulina indicates their antioxidant effects. Moreover, pigments like chlorophyll, carotenoids, and phycocyanin in plants and algae are also potent antioxidants. These pigments are rich in spirulina and chlorella except for phycocyanin, which is only present in the spirulina.
Phycocyanin has been widely researched for its anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies also suggest it could provide anticancer benefits, as it may help block the tumor cell cycle and induce apoptosis in tumor cells.
Carotenoids have photoprotective properties that may help increase our defense against harmful UV rays. And they’ve also been researched for their anticancer potential.
A study found dietary supplementation of the carotenoid beta carotene, which is present in both chlorella and spirulina, may help reduce breast cancer risks. Other carotenoids, like lutein, also showed promising effects in hindering the growth of colon cancer cells.
Research on spirulina’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities suggests that it activates antioxidant enzymes in the cells, reduces DNA damage, and scavenges free radicals.
It may reduce the risks of skeletal muscle damage from exercise-induced oxidative stress, making it a great supplement along with an active lifestyle. Spirulina may also regulate cytokine-encoding gene expression to boost the body’s anti-inflammatory and immune responses. Spirulina’s beta carotene and phycocyanin content are believed to be important factors in these functions.
Chlorella vs Spirulina Taste
Green superfoods, in general, often taste slightly bitter; the same goes for chlorella and spirulina supplements. They also often give off an earthy and seaweed-like aftertaste. Don’t let it stop you because it indicates they’re free of artificial flavors and other unnecessary additives.
The taste of Spirulina and chlorella is more prominent if you’re taking powder supplements. But you can avoid the bitter taste by adding them to your daily smoothies, soups, salads, or other foods without affecting their potency. If you still find the taste bothersome, you can choose a different supplement form. Luckily, both chlorella and spirulina are available in tablet and capsule form.
Chlorella vs Spirulina Against Heavy Metals
Both chlorella and spirulina are incredible detoxifiers because they’ve shown abilities to bind with stubborn heavy metals, making it easier for the body to eliminate them.
In various clinical trials, spirulina showed it could relieve toxicities caused by arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
Meanwhile, a study focused on participants with dental fillings and titanium implants for at least 10 years showed that chlorella supplement may boost the detoxification of heavy metals, including mercury, silver, tin, and lead.
But if detox is your main goal for taking supplements, chlorella is the better choice because of chlorophyll’s amazing detoxifying agent. Both chlorella and spirulina have chlorophyll. Spirulina has around 1% chlorophyll content. Chlorella, the big winner here, contains up to 5.5% chlorophyll.
Chlorella vs Spirulina for Weight Loss
The many health benefits of chlorella and spirulina could assist with managing body weight, which is a common risk factor for a number of serious illnesses.
Animal studies have shown that chlorella supplementation may boost glycemic control by reducing insulin resistance in subjects with obesity and diabetes. But these benefits were more evident when combined with aerobic exercises. If you include regular exercise in your weight loss regimen, chlorella can also help in another way. Research showed it has a potential ergogenic effect that may enhance one’s exercise performance and endurance.
A review of spirulina studies also showed that it could benefit weight loss. One study had participants with obesity undergo a 12-week restricted calorie diet combined with 2 grams of chlorella supplementation daily. It resulted in reduced body weight, waist size, body fat, and BMI.
A separate study where participants took 1 gram of spirulina supplement every day reported that participants observed significantly reduced appetite. Researchers also noted body weight reduction and lower total cholesterol.
Which Is Better for Weight Loss, Spirulina or Chlorella?
Chlorella and spirulina studies suggest they can improve one’s overall health, including managing body weight. Chlorella showed the potential to boost lipid metabolism in one animal study.
Several human clinical trials showed daily spirulina supplementation provided tangible results for weight loss, such as body weight reduction, cholesterol levels, and waist circumference. Available evidence suggests spirulina may be a better option for those targeting weight loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Ok To Take Spirulina and Chlorella Together?
Both chlorella and spirulina are wonderful supplements because of the many health benefits they can provide. Based on their nutritional values and effects on detox and weight management, as discussed above, you may already know which of the two is better for your health goals.
That said, chlorella and spirulina have their strengths individually. For instance, chlorella would be a great choice for the best detox supplement.
If your goal is to enhance your body’s antioxidant activity, spirulina may have a slight nutritional advantage due to its rich phycocyanin content — 180 mg per 1g of spirulina. The blue-green pigment is not present in chlorella.
The good news is you don’t have to choose between chlorella and spirulina because taking these supplements together is completely safe.
What Can You Not Take With Chlorella and Spirulina?
Although they’re safe when taken together as supplements, they may counteract the effects of certain medications.
Spirulina and chlorella contain vitamin K, which might alter the efficacy of blood thinners. Because both supplements may enhance the functions of the immune system, it’s suggested to not take them with medications meant to suppress immune functions.
Talk to your doctor before adding chlorella and spirulina to your daily diet, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.
How Much Chlorella and Spirulina Should I Take Daily?
The standard daily dose recommendation for chlorella and spirulina is 3 to 5 grams. The U.S. National Institutes of Health says a daily dose of 10 grams can be safe within six months.
Chlorella vs Spirulina: Which Is Better?
Looking into the nutritional profiles of chlorella and spirulina gives us a better understanding of what could work better for us. They’re both rich in vital vitamins and minerals. They also contain amino acids, fatty acids, and antioxidants beneficial for various body functions.
Chlorella contains more important nutrients that the body needs, such as provitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. So it has a slight nutritional advantage over spirulina. Chlorella’s higher chlorophyll content makes it incredible for detox, as well. However, spirulina could be a better option due to its phycocyanin content if you’re looking for an algae supplement that may enhance your body’s defense against oxidative stress.
But why not go a step further and aim for the best option? You can safely take chlorella and spirulina daily, so there’s no need to choose between the two. Nutrient-wise, they essentially complement one another. And by consuming them together, you don’t have to worry about missing out on any of the health benefits they provide separately.