I first heard about spirulina when one of my favourite You Tubers added a heaping teaspoon to her smoothie. From what I remember, she said it was good for her skin but I thought that since its green and from the sea, it must have a lot of other health benefits as well, so I started adding it to my smoothies too.
And then I heard about chlorella – same green powder and also algae. I was confused.
Which one should I use and what’s the difference between the two? Here’s the breakdown.
Spirulina is a type of alga called cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that grows in tropical climates. It’s described as a complete food because it’s made of 70% easy-to-digest vegetable protein, 20% carbohydrates (most of which are complex) and 7% fat which contains omega 3, 6 and 9s.
The other 3% is made up of micronutrients. Despite claims that are made by certain companies, spirulina does not contain any biologically active B12.
Spirulina is a good, highly absorbable and gentle-on-the-system source of iron that is often recommended for vegetarians and vegans.
It also contains an antioxidant called phycocyanin that has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
There are some cautions with spirulina that you should be aware of. People with PKU (a genetic disorder where the body can’t break down an amino acid called phenylalanine) should consult their health practitioners before taking spirulina as it contains this particular amino acid.
Also, those taking anticoagulation medication and pregnant and nursing women should consult with their healthcare provider before taking spirulina.
Chlorella is also an alga and also considered a complete food!
It’s comprised of 45% protein which is all amino acids, 20% fats which contain a number of omega 3s and 25% carbohydrates.
The remaining 10% is micronutrients; 7% more than spirulina. It also contains large amounts of active vitamin B12.
Because chlorella has a tough unique cell wall, it is nicknamed “the strong green magnet” because of its ability to bind and bring out heavy metal toxins from your body.
Highest in Chlorophyll
Chlorella also contains 3 to 5% chlorophyll, the highest of all microalgae and more than any leafy green vegetable. The high levels of chlorophyll help to cleanse the bowels and the liver, clearing out toxins from the blood.
And if that’s not enough, chlorella is also high in beta-carotene, has almost 10 times more chlorophyll than spirulina, is more iron-rich and has more omega 3 beneficial fatty acids.
Chlorella contains moderate levels of iodine so if you have an iodine-sensitive thyroid condition, it might be best to avoid taking it.
Chlorella can also increase immune function so those with autoimmune disease should check with their health practitioner before taking it.
The jury is still out if chlorella is safe for pregnant and nursing women. A quick check with your health care practitioner is a good idea.
How to take them
So now that you know the differences between spirulina and chlorella, the choice is yours which one suits your needs best. There are a few different ways you can take them.
Powdered form – Both come in a powder that you can easily add to smoothies, sprinkle on salads or shake on top of a soup. Chlorella and spirulina lose nutrients if heated so don’t add them while you’re cooking, only after.
Tablet form – If the slightly fishy taste and the smell are too strong for your taste buds, you can always take chlorella and spirulina in tablet form. That way you can bypass your senses and still get the same health benefits!
Combined tablet – If you can’t decide between chlorella and spirulina, why not take a combined form that you can find at your local health food store? An organic source is always best if you can!