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Chlorella – A Superfood for You and the Planet

March 29, 2021 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

Chlorella, single-cell freshwater green microalgae, has been highly sought after for hundreds of years and is considered “more precious than algae.” You may not think about it as a superfood, but it is an amazing, nourishing food. Take time to learn more about it. It is truly unique and packed with many good things!

Many types of microalgae and chlorella exist, but the species Chlorella vulgaris, first identified in 1890, is of particular interest for its many benefits. This simple green algae plant has been used as a food source for humans and animals, especially in Japan, due to its high protein and nutrient content.

Rich in Nutrients and Antioxidants

Chlorella grows rapidly during intense photosynthesis which produces a compound called chlorella growth factor (CGF). CGF is a mixture of nucleic acids that support RNA/DNA functions that affect growth, cellular repair and purification, detoxification, production of proteins, antioxidants, and enzymes. Chlorella is the only microalgae to contain chlorella growth factor, which makes it “more precious than algae.”

Chlorella contains about 58 percent protein, which is higher than many other plant protein sources like soybeans. Chlorella contains all of the essential amino acids. It is considered a rich source of the amino acid arginine, which aids in the production of friendly nitric oxide (NO). This ubiquitous signaling molecule affects many things in your body including blood vessel, endothelial lining, and vascular regulation and natural vaso-dilation and immune and respiratory function.

Chlorella contains small amounts of beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids found in plants like a-linolenic and linoleic acid. These fats are involved with inflammation management, the immune system, skin, brain and nerves, cell membranes, blood sugar processing, and more.

Chlorella naturally contains several vitamins and other nutrients such as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, vitamins C, D2, E, and K1, along with biotin, carotenes, lutein, calcium, magnesium, iron, and selenium. It also contains higher amounts of folate and iron that are more readily utilized than what is found in spinach.

Chlorella vulgaris contains the highest percentages of total flavonoid and phenolic antioxidant compounds compared to other chlorella species. This rich source of antioxidants help buffer against cell stress and free radicals. The abundance of all these nutrients, antioxidants, and chlorella growth factor makes it a powerhouse for overall nutritional health. Imagine finding another food like this.

Potent Antioxidant Support

Chlorella’s benefits were heralded in a 2013 clinical trial that evaluated antioxidant levels in healthy cigarette smokers. Individuals given chlorella vulgaris extract for six weeks experienced significantly improved overall antioxidant status and substantially less oxidative stress compared to the control group. Levels of glutathione, super oxide dismutase, vitamins C and E, and other antioxidants were found to increase in the participants given chlorella. (Antioxidants help recycle other antioxidants and work in a synergistic manner. The addition of chlorella helped protect the other antioxidants so they could work longer before being completely used up.)

Cell studies demonstrated chlorella’s antioxidant support improves management of TNF alpha, interleukin-6 (IL-6), prostaglandin E2, undesirable nitric oxide, and lower levels of lipopolysaccharides (LPS). LPS refers to toxins produced and shed by bacteria or other germs that trigger inflammation.