It’s common knowledge that incorporating vegetables into your diet is essential to maintaining your overall health. However, this doesn’t mean we should stick to the basic vegetables that are found in your local produce aisle.
If you’re looking to shake things up a bit, then perhaps give sea vegetables a try. Over the past few years, they’ve certainly been growing in popularity. Algae and seaweed are getting a lot of attention due to their vitamin and mineral content, however, there are some other varieties of sea veggies that deserve a spot on your plate.
One of these lesser-known sea vegetables is chlorella. Chlorella is a variation of green algae found in freshwater. It’s full of antioxidants and offers consumers many other health benefits.
Benefits of chlorella
Rich in vitamins and minerals
As mentioned above, chlorella is rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals that help combat free-radical-driven oxidative stress. “Chlorella, with its bright green color, is a source of antioxidants including vitamin K, vitamin C, and phytochemicals such as lutein,” says Julie Stefanski, RDN, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
On top of that, chlorella also has high mineral content in iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and a lot of B vitamins, which are usually difficult to get on a plant-based diet.
According to a staff physician at Lifeforce Leah Johansen, M.D., chlorella is a veggie with anti-inflammatory properties that helps our bodies balance inflammatory response. This is essential for optimal immune resilience and cardiometabolic health, among other things.
Source of plant-based protein
Beans and soy aren’t the only sources of plant-based protein out there! Chlorella and other sea veggies can offer some, too.
“Chlorella is frequently promoted as a vegan source of protein, but it’s important to look at the quantity of protein you’ll receive from a supplement,” clarifies Stefanski. You should be careful to aim for about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.
Possible immune system support
“This microalga containing alpha-glucans, similar to beta-glucans found in mushroom species, has immune-modulating effects,” says Johansen.
More studies are needed to decisively declare the full effect that chlorella has on immune health. However, one small study suggests that after eight weeks of consuming five grams of chlorella, study participants showed higher markers of immune activity.
Despite the popularity of juice cleanses and detox diets, a healthy body should be able to detoxify itself. Chlorella can help this process because it binds to heavy metals found in the body. That said, because of chlorella’s ability to bind to heavy metals, it could potentially have a more significant impact on the environment.
“Chlorella’s ability to bind to heavy metals makes it a possible source of environmental contaminants, so it’s important to choose a reputable company which controls the sourcing of the algae and manufacturing process,” cautions Stefanski. Organic chlorella is recommended to ensure you’re consuming a high-quality ingredient.
According to Johansen, “some species [of chlorella] contain significant amounts of astaxanthin, the red pigment in the carotenoids found in algae and pink-red color in salmon.” This is significant as astaxanthin is an antioxidant that’s known to support longevity.
How to get more chlorella
You can often find chlorella in powder or capsule form. The powder variation of organic chlorella is easy to throw into your morning smoothie or lunchtime pasta pesto.