The importance of nutrition, and its impact on our health, has led consumers to seek out high-quality nutritional supplements. Gummy dietary supplements filled with artificial colors, synthetic chemicals, and questionable fillers and preservatives might still be found on the shelves of supplement aisles everywhere, but it’s possible to find supplements made from high quality ingredients with labels that you can actually read.
Are you sure you want to be ingesting vitamin D made from sheep’s wool? We don’t, and you probably don’t either. Why not try something that looks, tastes, and acts more like food?
The reality is that a product that seems too good to be true probably is, and that includes all of the quick-fix health claims you read on the bottles of so many supplements. We recommend going back to the basics and following your taste buds by eating real food. It’s been proven that our bodies metabolize and absorb nutrients that come from real food sources more efficiently and effectively than traditional vitamins, and it makes sense. After all, we’re naturally designed to eat real food, not take supplements. Of course, it’s not enough to just eat any old food, as much as we love pizza - it’s important to take in a diet rich in plants, fruits, and vegetables that offers the nutrition your body craves.
While you’re undoubtedly familiar with strawberries, spinach, and all of the other healthy options in the produce aisle, you might be a little less familiar with chlorella, a freshwater algae and nutritional superstar. Chlorella is 50 to 60 percent protein and is a complete protein source, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as vitamin B12, iron, vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, calcium, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids. Are you impressed yet? This superfood can be ingested daily, and it offers up a list of health benefits that you’ll have to see to believe. Luckily, we’re about to answer the question “What does chlorella do for your body?”
What is Chlorella?
Scientists are increasingly understanding the tremendous nutritional value of algae, much of which contains vitamins and minerals that can help keep us healthy. Chlorella is a single-celled, freshwater green algae that includes more than 30 different species. The algae is commonly included in nutritional supplements and holistic medicine, but it cannot be digested whole because of its hard cell wall. That’s why you typically find chlorella in supplemental form. Chlorella is considered a good source of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, as well as fiber, chlorophyll, vitamins, and minerals.
By the Digits
- 30+: Number of species of chlorella (1).
- 20 hours: Amount of time it takes for a chlorella cell to multiply into two new cells, allowing for a rapid rate or reproduction (2).
- 30%: Percentage of chlorella that is fiber (3).
- 10x: Chlorella has 10x the amount of chlorophyll than alfalfa, making it the highest known source of chlorophyll (4).
- 50 - 60%: Percentage of chlorella that is protein (3).
It’s no wonder that we chose chlorella to include in GEM. This algae packs a serious nutritional punch and offers many incredible health benefits to boot.
Antioxidants are substances in the body that help slow or prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals, and chlorella is full of them. The algae contains chlorophyll, vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, all of which are considered to be antioxidants. Although we need free radicals in order to do important jobs like fight infections, an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants over a prolonged period of time can result in a condition called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including heart disease, arthritis, respiratory diseases, emphysema, cancer, stroke, immune deficiency, Parkinson’s disease, and other inflammatory and ischemic conditions (5). Ensuring that we have enough antioxidants can help prevent oxidative stress and premature aging and support immune function.
Control Blood Pressure
Nearly 45 percent of American adults, or about 108 million people, struggle with high blood pressure, and many are unaware of their condition (6). High blood pressure leads to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, but there are promising signs that show that chlorella can help when taken daily. Chlorella is believed to promote heart and kidney health, both of which contribute to normal blood pressure levels. One study showed that people with elevated blood pressure who took chlorella daily for 12 weeks showed lower blood pressure readings at the conclusion of the study than those who had taken a placebo (7). It is believed the chlorella affects blood pressure because several of its nutrients, including arginine, potassium, calcium, and omega-3s, have been shown to reduce arterial stiffness, which can impact blood pressure.
Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Healthy individuals, as well as those considered at high risk of lifestyle-related diseases, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, were found to have lower fasting blood sugar levels after taking chlorella daily for 12 weeks (8). Chlorella may improve blood sugar control and increase insulin sensitivity, which can help people manage their blood sugar levels. At this time, chlorella is not recommended as treatment for diabetes or other blood sugar-related conditions, but the supplement may help when combined with other treatments.
Increase Aerobic Endurance
If you love to get a great workout in, chlorella may be capable of helping you take your fitness to the next level by improving your aerobic endurance. One study showed that young adults who took chlorella supplements daily for four weeks showed a significant increase in their peak oxygen uptake, a measurement of the ability of the lungs to saturate with oxygen (9). Peak oxygen uptake is one marker of aerobic endurance, and the group supplementing with chlorella tablets showed a marked improvement, while the placebo group did not experience an increase in endurance. An easier time at spin class? Sign us up!
High cholesterol is a major health issue in the United States, and an estimated 95 million American adults have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL (high), while 29 million have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL (very high), which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Chlorella has been shown to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with slightly elevated cholesterol and/or high blood pressure (10). It’s believed that chlorella encourages lower blood lipid levels as a result of its components, including niacin, fiber, carotenoids, and antioxidants, all of which naturally help to lower cholesterol.
Inflammation is the result of a response by our body’s immune system, and sometimes, it can become chronic. Chlorella may help reduce inflammation, as many of its components, including the antioxidants chlorophyll, vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, may help to reduce inflammation, particularly among people with chronic respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (11).
The immune system is one of the body’s most impressive systems, responsible for fighting off disease and infection and keeping us healthy. The immune system is made up of many different microorganisms, tissues, organs, and more, all of which work together to prevent us from getting sick. Chlorella may help support healthy immune function by improving antibody production and increasing immune activity. One study showed that men who took chlorella daily produced more antibodies when taking the substance than a placebo, and antibodies are responsible for protecting us against foreign invaders (12). Supplementing your daily diet with chlorella may help support healthy immune activity.
Support Heart Health
Like spirulina, another ingredient in GEM, chlorella is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fats that we must receive in the food we eat, because they cannot be produced by the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for proper cell growth and brain function, and their intake has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, reduced inflammation, improved bone health, and a lower risk of certain cancers. Ingesting chlorella is unlikely to provide all of the omega-3 fatty acids you need to reduce your risk of heart disease on its own, but it can be a valuable supplement to boost your intake.
Detoxification from Heavy Metals
Heavy metals can build up in human tissue when people are exposed to them through pollution or some jobs, like mining. While some heavy metals, like iron and copper, are needed in our bodies in small amounts, others, like cadmium and lead, can be toxic and cause illness when present. Chlorella may help to remove heavy metals and harmful chemicals from the body, producing a detoxifying effect and reducing the side effects of heavy metal toxicity (13). It is also possible that chlorella has this effect on other chemicals, like dioxin, which is a hormone disruptor that sometimes enters the food supply through contaminated animals.
Interested in incorporating chlorella in your daily diet? You don’t want to trust just any source. Quality matters when it comes to ingredients. To get the most health benefits of chlorella, nutritionists recommend doing your research and purchasing from honest and reputable companies.
- Chlorella Makes You Have to Use the Bathroom: While this isn’t completely true, chlorella has been shown to promote the growth of a friendly bacteria called probiotic. Probiotics help to regulate bowel movements and promote a healthy gut.
- Chlorella Shouldn’t Be Used as a Detox: Chlorella has actually been shown to decrease heavy metal toxins that build up in the liver. It helps detox by binding to heavy metals.