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Health & Wellness

Evidence Based Fact Checked

Chlorella vs Spirulina: What’s The Difference? (+Benefits)

Written by Shelby Torrese

Reviewed by Liz Brown

What’s the difference between these incredible, edible algaes? This comparison breaks down everything you need to know, plus how to get each in your diet effectively!

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If you’ve seen your local juice shop advertising algae drinks, you’ve probably stumbled across spirulina and chlorella. They’re both nutrient-dense algaes that have grown in popularity over the last decade (and have been making their way into beverages everywhere!) While they’re both uniquely good for you, people tend to want to know: Who wins in the battle of chlorella vs spirulina?

I’ll cut to the chase right now. As with most healthy foods and supplements, they’re both superfoods in their own right. Chlorella benefits and spirulina benefits are both equally great, they just vary in types of health benefits. So instead of taking on a chlorella vs spirulina mindset, I always suggest that they be taken together. Two benefits are better than one, after all!

If for some reason you only have room for one algae in your life, or are set on picking a favorite, I’ll help you get to the bottom of which one is for you. 

Glass of chlorella on a wooden serving plate.

What Is Chlorella?

Chlorella is a crazy nutritious freshwater algae. I know, I know, could it sound less appetizing? But here’s the thing, you can easily mask it in smoothies, yogurt, coconut lemon or lime water, and much more. It’s not digestible as is, though, so don’t go and try to wild-catch your own. 😂 

One thing that sets chlorella apart in the chlorella vs spirulina debate, is that chlorella must be taken as a supplement in order to get all of the amazing chlorella benefits. It can be found in capsule form, powders, tinctures, and extracts. I personally take mine in a unique powdered blend of other greens, but we’ll get to that in a bit!

As its vibrant green color suggests, chlorella is packed with powerful macro and micronutrients, such as proteins, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides, as well as vitamins and minerals. These all play an important dietary role in human health. In addition to the chlorella benefits listed below, chlorella is great for fighting oxidative stress, and even cancer. [4

Chlorella Benefits

Spirulina powder in a bowl and spoon.

What Is Spirulina?

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that gets to boast the superfood stamp of approval for its insanely high nutritional content and other health benefits. In just one tablespoon of spirulina you’ll get a healthy dose of protein, calcium, vitamins A, K and C, B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and B6, as well as minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. [5] This is why it’s such a common protein shake add-on!

Just like chlorella, spirulina can be found in capsule form, powders, tinctures, and extracts. My favorite way to take spirulina is in a unique blend of greens due to its relatively high price-point, but again, I’ll get to that. 😉

Onto spirulina benefits! Like chlorella, spirulina is high in antioxidants, but it also has high anti-inflammatory properties. This means spirulina benefits may include increased joint movement, a healthy digestive system, and healthy weight.

Spirulina Benefits

Chlorella powder and chlorella pills

Difference Between Chlorella vs Spirulina

Before getting into the differences in chlorella vs spirulina, I first want to remind you that they are both amazing, nutrient-dense superfoods. They vary slightly in a few composition and nutrition features, but it would be really tough to say one is better than the other. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Both provide amazing benefits in their own unique way. 

1. Availability

The biggest difference in the two is that spirulina can be eaten and digested as is, as a whole food, whereas chlorella needs to be broken down or “cracked” in order to be consumed. [7] Sometimes supplements will say their chlorella has “broken cell walls”, which just indicates that it is ready for consumption. This isn’t an important note to look for though, because all chlorella supplements should be ready to consume. To put it simply, spirulina could technically be ingested in the wild (though, not advised) and chlorella would need to be broken down first.

2. Protein & calories

As mentioned before, spirulina wins when it comes to protein content. One of the greatest spirulina benefits, in my opinion, is the protein per calorie count. For every 58 calories, chlorella has 5 grams of protein, whereas for every 30 calories, spirulina has 6 grams of protein! [10] So for nearly the same amount of calories, spirulina would rock 12 grams of protein for every 5 that chlorella contains. That’s a significant difference, especially for vegans who struggle to find high plant-based proteins.

3. Good fats

Spirulina is higher in essential fatty acids, or “good fat”, such as gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). GLA has shown to improve and prevent certain cellular and neurotransmitter functions, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. [8] Very small amounts of GLA is accessible in foods, which is why spirulina tends to be celebrated for its GLA content. [9]

Skinny Greens superfood powder with chlorella and spirulina, so you don't have to choose between chlorella vs spirulina

Chlorella vs Spirulina: Which Is Healthier?

To break it all down, spirulina benefits and chlorella benefits are equally great. They each offer amazing nutrient profiles, antioxidant properties, and even though they differ in calorie count, they each pack a plant-based protein punch. I know what you reeeeally want to know is, FINALLY, what my favorite greens powder is. 

SkinnyFit Skinny Greens is my favorite unique blend of greens because it contains both spirulina and chlorella, along with 34 other amazing superfoods and adaptogens in ONE scoop. They all work together to provide the most benefits out of any green powder I’ve tried, AND you get the most bang for your buck. Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t always cheap, which is why I love SkinnyFit for making health supplements that are easy on the wallet $ and so unbelievably tasty. That being said, have I mentioned that Skinny Greens comes in a delicious green apple flavor?!

When it comes down to it, I hate to choose between chlorella vs spirulina, because they’re both terrific supplements for so many reasons. That’s why I always suggest Skinny Greens for getting in the most powerful superfoods possible. It’s affordable, delicious, and it works! Give it a try and let me know what you think. 💕

About The Author

Shelby Torrese

Nutrition, Movement & Meditation Coach

Shelby Torrese is a wellness enthusiast (and matcha fanatic!) from Miami, FL. She attributes her love of movement to her mom, a personal trainer, and her love of food to her dad, a farmer. She studied creative writing in college while getting her yoga certification, and went on to pursue fitness and nutrition in grad school. Her go-to advice is, “Balance,” and she is a firm believer that the ocean can cure just about everything.

  • Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher
  • NASM Certified Nutrition Coach
  • M.S. in Human Performance

 

Reviewed By

Liz Brown

Fitness & Nutrition Expert (CPT., FNS.)

Liz is a health & wellness expert, writer, and editor with over a decade of experience in the fitness & nutrition industry. She emphasizes research and simplifies complex topics to help make healthy living simple and sustainable. When she isn't researching and writing, she's creating delicious recipes, DIYs, and sharing her home projects on her blog and social media (@lizlovery)

  • NASM Certified Personal Trainer(since 2012)
  • NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist (since 2014)
  • Credentialed Coach Practitioner, Coach Training Academy
  • B.A. Liberal Studies (Health & Nutrition Sciences)

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