Much like matcha, chlorella is something that is often hyped in health-food circles and touted for its amazing health benefits. But what is it really, and is it as great as everyone says it is?
What Is Chlorella?
You will recognize chlorella as a green powdery substance that looks a lot like matcha or other healthy green powders. It is a single-celled green algae that, when dried, is rich in protein and many other nutrients, including anti-inflammatory peptides, vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium, and B complex. You will most often find it in health-food stores in either powdered or capsule form, often times combined with other green algae like spirulina or with other nutrient-rich supplement foods like barley grass or wheat grass.
Why Is Chlorella So Healthy?
Chlorella is considered to be a health food due to its high content of nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties. These anti-inflammatory properties are due in part to the aforementioned peptides, but also to the presence of chlorophyll in the algae, which gives it its distinguishing dark green color. Chlorophyll is known for its beneficial effects on hemoglobin, immunity, and overall alkalinity.
Chlorella also contains high concentrations of minerals, much like dark leafy greens. Minerals sourced from food are more easily absorbed than synthetic mineral supplements, and can be beneficial for balancing blood sugar, supporting cardiovascular health, decreasing muscle cramps, and reducing chronic pain (to name a few).
Chlorella can also work wonders on the digestive tract. It aids in the production and sustenance of healthy gut flora, working against harmful bacteria and yeast overgrowth. A 2010 study even found that chlorella can inhibit inflammatory reactions that are perpetuated by gram-negative bacteria, which are usually drug-resistant and really nasty to deal with.
Should You Eat Chlorella?
There really isn’t any reason not to add chlorella into the mix if you’re seeking to find more ways to get minerals, greens, and vitamins in your diet. The only potential interactions that chlorella could have are with prescription immunosuppressants and blood thinners. If you take either of these types of prescriptions, you should check with your doctor about potential interactions before you start eating chlorella, but other than that, it’s a green superfood that offers a nice punch of nutrition for a relatively small price.
I’m not one of those nutritionists who touts any and all health remedies either. In my years-long struggle to find something to help ease my fatigue, adrenal issues, and fibromyalgia pain, chlorella played a big role in helping me eat my way back to health. When I first tried it, I was desperate. I had gone Paleo and cut out all forms of sugar, but being as sick and tired as I was, it was hard to eat large amounts of greens and I was skeptical of most supplements. I added some chlorella to my green smoothies each day, or occasionally took it in capsule form, and after a few months of dedication to this plan, my energy levels were night and day what they were before. While I can’t credit chlorella alone for my positive health transformation, I am sure it played a role, and I have encouraged many other clients to consider trying this single-celled superfood as well.
What Can You Do With Chlorella?
If you’re not keen on swallowing pills, there are plenty of things you can do with chlorella powder besides tossing it into your green smoothie. Much like matcha, it’s versatile in that it can be added to baked goods, puddings, salads, juices, and so much more. Even if you don’t take it every day, adding chlorella to your Paleo pantry can have a big payoff, and you might even enjoy experimenting with it the next time you want to add a blast of green goodness to a snack or a meal.
Aimee McNew, MNT, Certified Nutritionist