Chlorella and spirulina are popular health supplements that may contribute to longevity by reducing oxidative stress while providing numerous benefits. But which one is healthier? Let’s examine the benefits of these nutrient dense superfoods, and discover which one might be the best for you.
Chlorella and spirulina are both types of algae that thrive in warm, nutrient rich aquatic environments.
Both chlorella and spirulina are high in antioxidants and may help fight the effects of oxidative stress on the body.
You can use chlorella supplements to boost your levels of essential vitamins and minerals due to its impressive nutrient profile.
The use of spirulina as a food source dates back to the Aztecs in approximately 1300 AD.
Chlorella vs spirulina: are they different?
Chlorella and spirulina are both types of algae — also known as cyanobacteria — that contain vital nutrients for the human body. While they both have highly impressive nutrient profiles, there are some key differences between these two superfoods.
Chlorella contains more nutrients
Chlorella has a more robust nutrient profile in comparison to spirulina. The table below shows their different nutrient contributions.
A ½ ounce (14 gram) serving contains:
|Calories||57 calories||40 calories|
|Protein||8 grams||8 grams|
|Carbs||3.5 grams||3.5 grams|
|Fat||1.5 grams||1 gram|
|Vitamin A||143% of the Daily Value (DV)||1.5% of the DV|
|Riboflavin (B2)||35% of the DV||30% of the DV|
|Thiamine (B1)||16% of the DV||22% of the DV|
|Folate||3.5% of the DV||3.5% of the DV|
|Magnesium||11% of the DV||7% of the DV|
|Iron||101% of the DV||22% of the DV|
|Zinc||66% of the DV||2% of the DV|
|Copper||0% of the DV||42% of the DV|
|Phosphorus||12% of the DV||1.5% of the DV|
Spirulina may contain more protein
Both spirulina and chlorella contain high amounts of protein. However, recent studies have found that there are certain strains of spirulina which could contain as much as 10% more protein than chlorella.
The full spectrum essential amino acid profile of both chlorella and spirulina means that the body can use the protein effectively. Spirulina was even utilized by the Aztecs as a food source as far back as 1300 AD.
Chlorella has higher Omega 3s
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for all over wellness and optimal functioning. They are especially regarded for their anti-inflammatory and brain functioning properties. The omega 3 fatty acid contents of chlorella are higher than spirulina, giving it an edge over the competition. However, you would need to eat a lot of chlorella to get a material amount of omega 3 compared with other sources like chia seeds, walnuts, and salmon.
Chlorella is harder to produce than spirulina
Chlorella requires additional processing in order to be metabolized by the human body. It has a tough cell wall that needs to be pulverized to enable digestion. You may notice that on many chlorella supplements you’ll see the words, “cracked cell-wall”, or “open cell”.
If the cell wall remains indigestible, chlorella can be dangerous as it increases sensitivity to light. In Japan in the 1970s, chlorella had a massive boom that was abruptly ended because of its capacity to increase photosensitivity after ingestion. Consumers were reporting skin blisters after exposure to direct sunlight. Thankfully, chlorella on the market today is safe — having been through the cell wall cracking process in order to be sold.
How are chlorella and spirulina similar?
Both types are a form of algae that thrive in warm, nutrient rich aquatic environments. Chlorella is a green algae and freshwater native, while spirulina is a blue-green algae, sometimes referred to as the superfood of the sea — growing in both fresh and saltwater. They are both prebiotics and provide nutrients that the healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome can feed on. Consumption of one or both types has numerous health benefits.
Blood sugar control
Both may help with maintaining healthy blood glucose levels. There have been numerous human and animal studies which show promising results for blood sugar management.
The exact mechanisms for this are still largely unknown, however it’s suspected that taking spirulina and chlorella supplements may increase insulin sensitivity. The promising study results may have implications for those with insulin resistance that can potentially lead to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Both chlorella and spirulina affect blood lipid composition and blood pressure. This gives them the potential ability to improve your heart health. They contain heart healthy polyunsaturated fats which help reduce bad cholesterol and trigliceride levels in your blood — lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Oxidative stress has been related to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Both spirulina and chlorella are high in antioxidants which have been shown to assist in healthy aging and help in the fight against chronic diseases.
There is some evidence that implies chlorella and spirulina have the ability to reduce heavy metal toxicity in the liver, kidneys and brain. Too much metal in our bodies — from polluted air or toxic work environments like mines and chemical factories — can be poisonous. Chlorella and spirulina may have the ability to bind to toxins and remove them as waste products in a process called chelation. This process may assist with the removal of heavy metals and other toxins from your bloodstream.
Which one should you choose?
The Chlorella vs. Spirulina debate can make it hard to decide which one is right for you. Because of the similar price point of both superfoods, you need to focus on the nutrient profiles and decide from there. Chlorella contains higher amounts of essential nutrients — especially vitamin A (as ß-carotene), iron, and zinc.
If you know your diet is low in essential nutrients such as iron, then perhaps choosing chlorella would be more advantageous due to its superior source of iron. However, if you have a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet, then there’s no need for the extra supplementation and you’ll be fine with spirulina.
Are chlorella and spirulina different from chlorophyll?
Do you remember learning about chlorophyll in biology class? It’s the molecule and pigment found in plants and is responsible for giving them their bright green color. Its primary purpose is photosynthesis — turning sunlight into energy.
Chlorophyll is a type of phytonutrient — a class of plant-based compounds found in many fruits, vegetables and even edible flowers. Phytonutrients have numerous potential benefits to human health including:
- Reducing inflammation
- Fighting oxidative stress
- Immune enhancing
Both spirulina and chlorella contain chlorophyll, but chlorella — which is classified as a pure green algae — has a much higher amount. This means you’ll be getting more of the beneficial phytonutrient and its health-giving properties.
Can you use chlorella and spirulina together?
Yes, you can absolutely use chlorella and spirulina together. The synergy of their nutrients and actions are a perfect combination, and using them together can enhance the benefits of these two superfoods.
The benefits from chlorella and spirulina could be particularly helpful for those following a vegan, vegetarian or mostly plant-based diet.
Used as part of an antioxidant-rich, wholefoods diet, chlorella and spirulina supplements can increase your levels of immune-boosting vitamins — helping you to stay vital, healthy and energized.
What is the best form of chlorella to take?
Chlorella products come in a variety of forms — tablets, powder and even chlorella gummies. The best form for you depends on your lifestyle and tastes. Chlorella powder doesn’t taste bad, but it doesn't exactly taste good either. Mixed in with a smoothie you won’t notice it too much. However if you are always on the go, perhaps tablets or gummies will be the better option.
Which is better for weight loss? Chlorella or Spirulina?
More research is needed to ascertain the benefits of chlorella and spirulina for weight loss. However, one study of two groups of obese individuals on a 12-week calorie restricted diet showed that the group given 2 g of spirulina per day had significant improvements to weight and waist circumference compared with the control group.
How much chlorella and spirulina should I take every day?
You can take fairly high doses of chlorella and spirulina daily. Most manufacturers recommend no more than 10 grams of chlorella and 10 grams of spirulina. Follow the dosage recommendations given by your health care consultants, and if in doubt stick to the guidelines given on your supplement packaging.
- Food Hygiene and Safety Science. Causal substances of photosensitivity dermatitis due to chlorella ingestion.
- Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology. Spirulina versicolor improves insulin sensitivity and attenuates hyperglycemia-mediated oxidative stress in fructose-fed rats.
- European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. Spirulina maxima improves insulin sensitivity, lipid profile, and total antioxidant status in obese patients with well-treated hypertension: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study.
- Nutrition Journal. Impact of daily chlorella consumption on serum lipid and carotenoid profiles in mildly hypercholesterolemic adilts: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.
- Journal of Allied Phycology. Quantitative evaluation of chlorella vulgaris for removal of toxic metals from body.
Show all references
- Open Heart. Effect of spirulina on weight loss and blood lipids: a review.
- MOJ Food Processing and Technology. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an overview.
- MDPI. Edible Microalgae and Their Bioactive Compounds in the Prevention and Treatment of Metabolic Alterations.