Green Foods: What Are the Benefits of Chlorella and Spirulina?

Reviewed by Mgr. Kristýna Dvořáková
Green Foods: What Are the Benefits of Chlorella and Spirulina?
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Detoxification of the body, regulation of acidity, and a huge help in weight loss are the most common claims associated with so‑called green foods, particularly chlorella and spirulina.

But what real effects can we expect from green foods, and are they worth eating?

Chlorella and spirulina are nutritionally rich foods

We are talking about green foods that are normally sold in the form of small, dried compressed tablets. Chlorella (an algae found in freshwater) and spirulina (a cyanobacteria from tropical lakes) are popular food supplements that we see more and more often on the shelves of health food stores.

But what's in them? The following table shows the most important nutrients in 10g of dried food (equivalent to 1 larger serving):

Protein (about 4‑6g)Protein (about 5‑6g)
Vitamin B1 (16% DDD)Vitamin B1 (16% DDD)
Vitamin B2 (36% DDD)Vitamin B2 (22% DDD)
Vitamin B6 (45% DDD)Vitamin B6 (6% DDD)
Vitamin B12 (approx. 600‑700% DDD)Iron (16% DDD)
Iron (6‑40% DDD)Magnesium (5% DDD)

High content of essential elements

Although both green foods contain a high amount of protein (40‑60% of the total), it is obvious that they cannot be used as an ideal source of protein, as one packet would only last about three days. For athletes, one dose of protein should contain about 20‑40g of protein, which translates to a serving of about 60g of chlorella or spirulina—more than 200 commonly available tablets costing over 100‑200 CZK.

Chlorella, in particular, is a rich source of well‑absorbed vitamin B12. While spirulina also contains vitamin B12, part of it is not a fully usable form (pseudovitamin B12). However, some studies show that spirulina can still increase vitamin B12 levels. Therefore, these green foods are very suitable for people with vitamin B12 deficiencies, vegetarians, and vegans.

And where do these "miracle effects" come from?

There is nothing in the list of substances mentioned above that we cannot find in other nutritionally valuable foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, meat). So why are they included in the so‑called superfoods? The answer lies in other substances found in green foods that typically have antioxidant effects.

  • In spirulina, this substance is C‑Phycocyanin (up to 20% of the dry weight)
  • In chlorella, it is chlorophyll (about 1.3% of the dry weight).

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Benefits of chlorella and spirulina on our body

1. Detoxification of the body from heavy metals

The body has its own detoxification systems to remove various foreign substances, including heavy metals. However, studies on mice have shown that chlorella and especially spirulina also have the ability to remove heavy metals from the body, mainly due to their bioaccumulation abilities.

If you are exposed to arsenic, cadmium, or mercury (either from industrial production or polluted water), chlorella and spirulina can be beneficial. Fortunately, this problem likely does not affect most people in the Czech and Slovak Republics. Adding chlorella and spirulina to an overall healthy lifestyle can support the body's natural detoxification processes.

2. Supporting immune system function

The consumption of green foods may also be of interest to people with weakened immunity or during flu epidemics. Chlorella and spirulina both have effects that support immune function (due to the higher production of Immunoglobulin‑A in both chlorella and spirulina) and thus may help to avoid unpleasant illnesses.

Such effects can be achieved even in the short term, so taking chlorella and spirulina for a few weeks during an epidemic can be beneficial.

3. Protection of the cardiovascular system

Looking at the most common causes of death in the Czech Republic, it is clear that we should protect the cardiovascular system (blood vessels and heart) diligently. The good news is that both chlorella and spirulina can help us in this regard.

In fact, eating green foods can help with lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels and optimising the ratio of 'good' to 'bad' cholesterol in the blood.

However, green foods alone are not all‑powerful; promoting cardiovascular health requires overall lifestyle modification.

4. Lowering blood sugar levels as a prevention against type 2 diabetes

Lowering blood sugar and insulin levels is a good preventive measure against developing type 2 diabetes. According to some studies, green foods seem to help us in this respect. Effectiveness is achieved at doses of about 5‑10 g of green foods per day (equivalent to about 20‑40 tablets).

However, the most important factor is still our lifestyle, especially the choice of appropriate or inappropriate foods, coupled with sufficient physical activity.

5. Promoting sports endurance

Spirulina has also shown in several studies that it can positively affect sports performance. It appears that higher doses for at least a few weeks (about 6‑8 g, 25‑30 tablets per day) are needed to support endurance activity and performance to failure.

If you have physical tests coming up and want to support your performance with spirulina, don't hesitate to take regular high doses.

They will not help with fat burning

Studies indicate that the effect of green foods on weight loss is either small or nonexistent. Even spirulina and chlorella cannot act as "magic diet pills," so we should still rely primarily on appropriate dietary modifications and regular exercise.

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Does it make sense to take chlorella and spirulina?

  • From the above, it is clear that green foods are among the most nutritionally valuable food sources, making them suitable for athletes or people with reduced immunity. 
  • However, neither of these green foods should be expected to provide a sudden and immediate boost in health or performance. Instead, they should offer support and assistance on the road to a healthy lifestyle.
  • We know of many other similarly healthy foods or "superfoods," such as garlic, ginger, colourful fruits and vegetables, and fermented and fermented foods.
  • If you want a cheaper alternative to the popular green foods, you can grow green barley at home and regularly add it to smoothies or vegetable salads.

What dosage is really effective?

It's important to remember to take a sufficient dosage, as commonly available products are not standardised extracts but only dried material in compressed form. For effective doses, it is often necessary to take higher amounts than those normally recommended on the packaging.

So think before you buy whether you are willing to pay for the commonly used effective doses (5‑10g per day or 20‑40 tablets). If you plan to take only 3 tablets per day (0.75g), green foods will have virtually no effect on your health.

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Bottom line

Chlorella and spirulina are among the green foods that can help with iron and B vitamin supplementation (chlorella is also a rich source of highly absorbable vitamin B12). In addition to vitamins and minerals, green foods contain antioxidant substances that can have other positive effects on the body. Green foods help improve overall health, protect the cardiovascular system, boost immunity, and act as a prevention against the development of type 2 diabetes. If we are in contact with heavy metals, taking chlorella and spirulina can protect us from possible intoxication.

Spirulina can also play an interesting role in sports performance, benefiting runners, cyclists, rowers, and swimmers by supporting fat metabolism and protecting muscle mass from damage. Chlorella and spirulina enrich the diet and healthy lifestyle, though their relatively high price for regular use in effective doses can be a disadvantage. Therefore, cheaper alternatives such as green barley, garlic, ginger, colourful fruits and vegetables, or fermented foods may be preferred.

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