I love popping into my neighborhood juice shop because they always seem to be adding something buzzy to their blender. Collagen, moringa, lion’s mane…they know what’s up. Recently, I started seeing a new add-in option on the menu: chlorella. It’s an ingredient I’ve started seeing in new bottled beverages, too.
Chlorella is a deep emerald green-colored freshwater algae. Though they look similar, chlorella is not the same as spirulina, which is another type of algae. (Think of them as cousins with overlapping traits.) Because my chlorella knowledge pretty much stopped there, I decided to call up registered dietitian Toby Amidor, RD, to learn more about it—and if chlorella benefits were worth paying extra to add to my smoothie or even buying in supplement form.
Amidor says chlorella is something she’s seeing pop up more and more too. “Similar to the buzz surrounding spirulina, people seem to be interested in [chlorella] more now,” she says. “But you need to be careful of where you buy it from,” she says. This, Amidor, explains is because supplements are widely unregulated by the U.S. government so it can be difficult to know if what you’re spending your money on is actually what you think it is. Here, Amidor gives some tips for what to keep in mind when buying chlorella and also touches on its many benefits.
7 chlorella benefits
1. Chlorella is a complete plant-based protein
“Chlorella is mostly comprised of protein, although the exact percentage differs, depending on the source,” Amidor explains. Chlorella is known as a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids must be consumed through food because we can’t make them on our own.
Despite mostly consisting of protein, Amidor says chlorella still shouldn’t be thought of as a go-to protein source. Two tablespoons of chlorella has three grams; not nothing, but not a whole lot either. (You want to aim to get about 75 grams of protein a day, depending on how active you are.) “Think of it as an extra benefit to whatever you’re adding the chlorella to, not a primary source [of protein],” Amidor says.
2. Chlorella has brain-boosting vitamin B-12
One two-teaspoon serving of chlorella has 15 microunits of vitamin B-12, a whopping 250 percent of the daily recommended total. Since vitamin B12 is most commonly found in meat, fish, and eggs, this is especially beneficial for vegans and vegetarians. Vitamin B-12 is important for brain health and could even help improve your mood.
3. It has some vitamin C
One of the more minor chlorella benefits includes its small vitamin C content. While one serving of chlorella only has one milligram of vitamin C (2 percent of what’s recommended for the day), every little bit counts—especially during the winter months. Amidor says this is another one of chlorella’s perks you can think of as a fringe benefit, but not a primary reason to seek it out specifically.