October 11, 2021

Chlorella vs. Spirulina: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Blue-green alga is a very niche ingredient. You may be surprised to know that blue-green algae, also known as chlorella or spirulina and which appear and taste the same, is actually a very niche ingredient. Both are rich in antioxidants and extremely nutrient-dense. They are available in all forms, including green drinks mixes to gummies. The similarities between chlorella & spirulina are not there. Both algae have different nutrient profiles. Which is better? We’ll tell you the truth.

The History of Chlorella

Cyanobacteria is a form of early life on Earth. It is also known as blue-green alga. It is 3,500 million years old.

Spirulina is a staple food in Mexico and Africa, since around 1300 AD. Gaia Herbs is a top herbal supplement brand. According to Gaia, the Aztecs took Arthrospira from Lake Texcoco to make a dry cake called tecuitlatl. According to the brand, spirulina use in Chad is most likely to have started during the Kanem Empire (9th Century AD). Spirulina is still an important part the Chadian economy. According to the Gaia herbs website, “It is still harvested, processed by hand into cakes, known locally as dihe. These are consumable in a sauce for fish and meat called la souce.” The dihe is an important part their local economy and gives the women who harvest and process it a degree of autonomy.

The discovery of Chlorella was quite recent. Although it is believed that it has been around for billions of year, sources suggest that the microscope wasn’t invented until after the 19th century. The discovery of Chlorella was by Dr. Beijerinck, a Dutch microbiologist.

The Processing of Chlorella

It is not as popular as spirulina because of its cell wall problems. Algae is grown in ponds and harvested using filters. Then it goes through the drying process. The drying process can be through indoors or in the sun. It is now ready to be eaten. The grounded algae is then use in capsules and other fine applications.

Although the process of harvesting and packaging chlorella is similar, there is one key step that makes things different. While spirulina can be harvested and packaged in a safe and bioavailable form (natural dried form), it must have its cell walls cracked and pulverized. It may be noticeable that all chlorella products purchased have clearly stated “open-cell” and “cracked cells” on the labels. This is because it can’t be eaten if it’s not done properly. It was sold at first without this part of manufacturing. This hindered its potential to become mainstream.

Consuming chlorella can make you more sensitive to sunlight than if it were to crack its cell walls. On its website, Yaeyama Chlorella, a retailer, notes that it was popular in Japan in the 1970s. However, the boom ended due to photosensitivity incidents. Photosensitivity incidents are blisters that occur after exposure to sunlight. Chlorophyll is not broken down by stomach acids because chlorella has a tough cell walls. There is a possibility that chlorophyll could react with sunlight, causing blisters.

This is no problem since all chlorella cells have been broken down during processing. This explains why spirulina is steadily growing in popularity, while chlorella is still behind.

The Nutritional Profiles

Both chlorella and Spirulina contain protein, as well as many antioxidants like carotenoids or phenolic compounds. However, they have very similar nutritional profiles. In many ways, chlorella is better than spirulina.

One-ounce of chlorella contains nearly 300% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), of vitamin A. Spirulina only has 3%. Additionally, chlorella contains 202% of the RDA iron to spirulina’s 44%; 133% to 4% of your daily zinc; 25% of the RDA phosphorous versus 3%; and 250% of the RDA for iron.

Spirulina has a higher level of vitamin B1 than chlorella, and does contain copper. Both are close to equal in protein, folate, carbs and magnesium. Both contain all nine essential amino acid, which is rare for vegetarian food sources. Chlorella contains even more omega-3.

The Detoxifying Abilities- Chlorella

Both spirulina and chlorella can be used to help with chelating due to their antioxidants. This means that they can bind to heavy metals and remove them from our bodies, especially our blood. Both algae have been shown to be effective in detoxifying aluminum and cadmium.

This topic doesn’t require either/or thinking. According to one study, “Spirulina or chlorella are useful when taking in high amounts for heavy metal detox. They are very effective in binding toxins to the body and removing them from the body. This can help reduce side effects of detoxification. The typical daily intake of spirulina and chlorella to detox heavy metals is around 20-30 grams. The combination of both can be useful if you wish.

Blue Spirulina: Algae Made Pretty

While the health benefits of chlorella and spirulina are undeniable, it is hard to deny that they are not visually appealing. Its vibrant green color is not like matcha or deep and rich as kale and spinach.

Blue spirulina is an antioxidant extractive from spirulina. It is “unicorn food” in its purest form, and has allowed natural food producers to first color food blue. It is an extractive, which means it has some of the same benefits as blue-green spirulina but it’s not nearly as nutritious.

Which Is Better?

Both spirulina and chlorella are rich in protein, amino acids and antioxidants. They are also effective chelators. They also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Blue spirulina is more appealing than chlorella, but it has the blue-green algae benefits and a clear advantage in terms of visual appeal. It has more nutrients, including iron, omega-3 and zinc. These are essential nutrients that we all need in our daily diets. Copper, which is rare, is the only thing spirulina has an advantage over chlorella.

As a nutritionist, I recommend chlorella. The two are comparable in price and offer a greater value for money. Spirulina, however, is more readily available and I have not heard of anyone making chlorella gummies. If that’s your only choice of algae, then go for it. Blue-green algae are consumable in any quantity, but they are both well-worth it, considering how nutritious they are.