POP Issue #5: Battle of the Algaes - Spirulina vs. Chlorella

We get a lot of questions around spirulina and chlorella from people comparing our Matcha Fuel and Matcha Recovery superfood powders. Fuel contains spirulina and Recovery contains chlorella. Is one better than the other? That’s the question we’ll answer in this edition of the Power of the Plants Series.

I have to start with a confession. I know this is the Power of Plants series. I also know that spirulina is not a plant. It’s actually a cyanobacteria.. and so belongs to the bacteria kingdom (nerd fact). Chlorella is a plant and so should win on a technicality... and if we went on that then this would be a really easy post to write. But technicalities aside, read on to learn about the wealth of benefits both Spirulina and Chlorella have and we’ll see which algae wins in our books.

In some ways, we have to thank these algae for our lives. Billions of years ago, algae transformed the earth’s C02-based atmosphere to an oxygen-rich atmosphere. (gotta throw in the random facts, right?)

Fast forward billions of years, through my 80’s and 90’s childhood to now and it’s interesting to see a shift back to these clean, simple foods from the pre-packaged, processed food generation I grew up in. It’s kind of funny to imagine a childhood where my parents fed me spirulina smoothies... not to say that is the world norm today, but it’s a funny thought and certainly more common today.

What are Spirulina and Chlorella?

Spirulina and chlorella are well-known to be among the most nutritious whole foods on the planet. They have a diversity of nutrients that are found in higher concentrations compared to other food sources.[1] 

spirulina vs. chlorella under the miscroscope

Spirulina is a blue green algae that grows in microscopic spirals. Chlorella is a green algae, so its solid green in colour, and grows in microscopic spheres. 

 

What's the difference when it comes to health benefits?

spirulina graphic

Spirulina is an incredibly nutritious whole food.

Spirulina can help lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol and promote healthy thyroid function by regulating metabolism (how efficiently your body converts food to energy), which is important for weight loss and management.

Spirulina’s rich mineral content can help your body build immunity and fight viruses.

Spirulina's gamma linolenic acid (essential fatty acid) & Omega 3 (essential amino acid) content gives it anti-inflammatory properties. 

What we love: One benefit we particularly like and have tested, is spirulina’s ability to provide long-lasting energy and reduce recovery time for athletes. Spirulina has a preventative effect on skeletal muscle damange, which leads to increased time to exhaustion[1]. This is why spirulina is in our Matcha Fuel preworkout

In fact, one study we read showed that “time to fatigue after the 2-h run was significantly longer after spirulina supplementation”, that carbohydrate oxidation rate increased by 10.3% and fat oxidation rate increased by 10.9% during the run (compared to the placebo trial).[2] The study concluded that spirulina caused a “significant increase” in exercise performance and fat oxidation.

chlorella graphic

Chlorella is also an amazing whole food. It is packed with essential nutrients and full spectrum B vitamins.

Chlorella can boost mood, energy and immunity, making it a great after a workout.

Chlorella’s high chlorophyll content makes it a better choice for detoxification.

Chlorella's higher levels of nucleic acid makes it a good choice when considering anti-aging and immunity boosting.

Chlorella is rejuvenating and restorative according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.[3]

What we love: Chlorella's immune boosting ability and ability to repair cellular, nerve and muscular tissue in the body makes it a great ingredient in our post-workout recovery powder.

Scroll down to the end to see a table of all the info we collected that led us to the above conclusions.

How to incorporate them into your diet

1 teaspoon of spirulina per day is recommended, but it’s a safe natural food and you can take more as per your needs. Spirulina increases alertness, so best not to take within 4 hours of bedtime.

matcha fuel and juice

The easiest way to add these powders to your day is by adding to a juice or smoothie. Try starting your day with a fresh juice and adding 1 tsp of spirulina or shoot back our Matcha Fuel with a little juice or water pre-workout.

matcha fuel balls

If you want to prepare some snacks, try spirulina/chlorella energy balls, which are typically as simple as blending up a mixture of nuts, seeds, dried berries, dates, coconut oil and coconut. Here’s our recipe using our Matcha Fuel, but you can sub spirulina or chlorella or a combination.

Get on Instagram and Pinterest and start searching spirulina and chlorella. You’ll get an abundance of colourful recipes to choose from. Or follow a few of our favourite bloggers: Nutriholist and Nutrition Stripped.

 

Who wins?

All things considered, both spirulina and chlorella are worthwhile additions to your daily routine. Spirulina is richer in protein and healthy fats, but may not provide the B12 supplementation that many believe. Spirulina is great for athletes or anyone that needs that extra nourishment and nutrition due to rigorous exercise, high stress or restricted diet.

Chlorella, on the other hand, may stimulate the immune system better because of the chlorella growth factor and higher levels of nucleic acids and may have more bioavailable B12. Chlorella is cleansing and alkalizing because of its high chlorophyll content.

The winner depends on what you're looking for. I do have to remind you that we're not doctors and do not know your unique health considerations. We do study herbs and plants and spend a lot of time researching so that we can lay out the facts for you and create products that are nutritionally sound. If you want to try the products that led us to writing this post, they are our Matcha Fuel and Matcha Recovery superfood powders.  

What do you think? Would you choose spirulina or chlorella or a combination of both?

 

Spirulina

Chlorella

· A source of complete protein – all essential amino acids are present

· Protein-dense – 50%-70% of dry weight (670% more than tofu)

· Proteins are highly digestible – doesn’t require any cooking to increase the availability of its proteins

· Fatty acids and the best wholefood source of gamma linolenic acid – essential for healthy brain and heart function.

· Contains Vit A, Vit E, B1, B2, B6, B12 – the bioavailability of B12 in Spirulina is controversial.[1]

· Contains iron and more beta-carotene than any other whole food.

· Chlorophyll-rich, but less than chlorella. Has detoxifying ability, removing heavy metals from the body.

· Calcium, phosphorus and potassium levels comparable to milk

· Builds immunity, improves resistance to viral infections

· Anti-inflammatory

· Showing potential to be a cancer preventative agent (more human studies needed)

 

· A source of complete protein, containing 58% protein.

· Contains all essential amino acids

· Reliable source of essential fatty acids.

 · Contains Vit A, Vit C, B1, B2, B5, Bc, B12, E and K.

· A bioavailable source of B12 and contains more iron than spirulina.

· Being a green algae, chlorella has higher levels of chlorophyll, 10 times that of spirulina and higher than any other plant. Therefore, it’s a top detoxifying agent, binding to heavy metals and unwanted chemicals in the body.

· Grows four times its size each day. This is called the Chlorella Growth Factor and sustains our immune system. Source of nucleic acids (twice as much as spirulina), which gives chlorella the ability to repair cellular, nerve and muscular tissue in the body.[2][3]

· Boosts the immune system

· Helps fight infection

· Increase good bacteria in the GI tract

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

[1] Preventive effects of Spirulina platensis on skeletal muscle damage under exercise-induced oxidative stress. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16944194

[2] Ergogenic and antioxidant effects of spirulina supplementation in humans.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20010119

[3] http://tcm.health-info.org/food%20cure/greenalgae.htm

[1] Capelli, B, Cysewski, G. Potential health benefits of spirulina microalgae, https://www.cyanotech.com/pdfs/spirulina/PotentialHealthBenefitsofSpirulina_2010.pdf

[2] http://www.herbalreality.com/herbs/chlorella/

[3] Simple, Rapid and Cost-Effective Method for High Quality Nucleic Acids Extraction from Different Strains of Botryococcus braunii

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0037770

[1] Capelli, B, Cysewski, G. Potential health benefits of spirulina microalgae, https://www.cyanotech.com/pdfs/spirulina/PotentialHealthBenefitsofSpirulina_2010.pdf

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