Chlorella vs Spirulina: What’s the Difference?
Chlorella and spirulina are two different types of algae superfoods. And while chlorella and spirulina are similar enough to be "cousins," they each have properties that make their nutrient profiles unique.
15 October, 2019 by
Chlorella vs Spirulina: What’s the Difference?
Brandi Black, RHN

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes 

Chlorella and spirulina are both popular, ancient types of algae that are made into supplements. While they sound similar and are both ‘superfoods’ packed with important nutrients, they actually have key differences. Before we dive into the differences, let’s look at what chlorella and spirulina actually are.

What is Chlorella?

Chlorella is a solid green-colored alga grown in freshwater. It’s actually a single-celled microorganism that’s spherical in shape. Not only is it full of chlorophyll, which gives it its green color, but it’s also packed with nutrients like active vitamin B12 and iron.

A picture of chlorella powder

Chlorella has very stiff and strong cell walls. Because of this, chlorella supplements must be processed to allow our bodies to digest and absorb them properly. The best method for optimal digestion is pulverizing the chlorella cell wall, which is the method Sun Chlorella uses to produce high-quality, easily digestible chlorella.  

What is Spirulina?

Like chlorella, spirulina is a type of algae that’s classified as a micro-organism. Unlike chlorella, spirulina is a blue-green colored alga that’s multi-celled rather than single-celled and is a type of cyanobacteria. Spirulina gets its name from its shape because it’s spiral-shaped. Spirulina is often added to foods because it contains a variety of nutrients.

Chlorella vs Spirulina

While both can be good options for your health, chlorella has a few advantages over spirulina. Listed below are the main reasons chlorella may be the right choice for you when comparing these two supplements.

Chlorella Contains a True Nucleus

The nucleus is the most important, most central part of any cell. It's essentially the heart or the brain of the cell and makes sure everything happens as it's supposed to. When it comes to chlorella vs. spirulina, the little green algae chlorella contains a true nucleus, while the blue-green algae spirulina does not, and this is a major difference when it comes to promoting your cellular health.

A very important component called Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF) is found within chlorella's nucleus. Chlorella Growth Factor is entirely unique to chlorella and cannot be found in any other food on the planet. The nucleic acids, RNA, and DNA are other important components in the nucleus that support cellular health.  

A picture of a woman relaxed

Nucleic acids help promote cellular health, and they also increase energy production (which takes place in your cells) and support immune health. CGF can promote healthy aging because the healthier your cells are, the healthier your body feels from the inside out.

The Bottom Line: Having a true nucleus, chlorella is richer in nucleic acids than spirulina and better supports your body's cellular health.

Chlorella is One of the Only Plant Sources of Active B12 (a Rare Find for Vegans)

For vegans, vegetarians, and anyone who follows a primarily plant-based diet, listen up! Since Active B12 is mostly found in animal products, those on a plant-based diet need to ensure their source of B12 is serving their body correctly. Taking an all-purpose vitamin is not actually giving you everything you need. The good news? Chlorella contains active B12, a good absorbable form of B12, while spirulina contains inactive B12, a poorly absorbed form. It's important for your body to be able to absorb the nutrient so it can receive the full nutrient benefits.

In fact, inactive B12 (the form of B12 found in some plant foods) has been shown to not only be poorly absorbed but prevent your body from using active B12 from other food sources. This means consuming too many foods that contain inactive B12 may lead to B12 deficiencies, even if you have food sources of active B12, such as chicken or beef, in your diet.

A study showed that 9g of chlorella taken each day over the course of 60 days was enough to support normal MMA and homocysteine blood serum levels, which are markers of B12 deficiency. [1]

The Bottom Line: Chlorella is one of the rare plant sources to contain active B12, a form that the body can easily absorb. Spirulina does NOT contain active B12, and the inactive B12 is poorly absorbed.

Chlorella is a Better Source of Chlorophyll

Chlorella is a superior source of chlorophyll when compared to spirulina.

A picture of a plant sprouting towards to the camera

Chlorella's deep green hue is a sign that it's rich in chlorophyll, which gives all green plant foods their healthy green color. In fact, chlorella is one of the best sources of chlorophyll. Sun Chlorella contains 63 mg of chlorophyll per 3 grams, while spirulina contains only 33 mg per 3 grams.

The Bottom Line: Chlorella is one of the best sources of chlorophyll on the planet. Chlorella helps support your body’s natural detoxification process and may also help support gut health.  

What to Look For in a High-Quality Chlorella Supplement

To be on the safe side, always make sure your chlorella supplement is third-party tested, which ensures quality control and product safety and that it's free from high levels of contaminants. All Sun Chlorella® supplements are regularly third-party tested for heavy metals and other contaminants.

Even with equal third-party testing, not all chlorella supplements are created equal.

A Pulverized Cell Wall Chlorella is far superior to a Cracked or Broken Cell Wall Chlorella

Chlorella has a thick outer shell that we have difficulty digesting, but this is what houses all of its beneficial nutrients. Therefore, chlorella should undergo processing to fully access the nutrients, thereby producing a digestible nutritional supplement.

How the chlorella cell wall is processed is another key difference many people miss when it comes to whether or not a chlorella supplement is of high quality. The processing method will determine how much your body can actually digest and absorb chlorella's powerful nutrition and benefits.

A picture of the Chlorella factory

Pulverization breaks down much of chlorella's cell wall, dramatically improving the bioavailability of the nutrients ( to be no less than 80% available).

Think of it this way, imagine the chlorella cell wall is the shell of a walnut.

Your body can't digest the walnut shell, but if you crack or break the shell into pieces, you can access a few (but not all) of the nutrients inside. But if you pulverize a walnut shell, all of the walnut pieces become available for you to digest. This is exactly how pulverization works with chlorella's "shell," too.

It's not enough to have a "cracked cell" or "broken cell" chlorella; instead, using a pulverization method to break down chlorella's cell wall ensures you're getting the most nutrition possible from your chlorella supplement.

The Bottom Line: If you're going to take a chlorella supplement: pulverization is the best way to access the nutrients chlorella fully has to offer.

Where to Find Chlorella With a Pulverized Cell Wall

Sun Chlorella® supplements are the only chlorella that is pulverized using a unique method called DYNO®-Mill technology, which maximizes the digestibility of chlorella's nutrition. Unlike other common chlorella processing methods, it preserves chlorella's delicate nutrients by avoiding high heat and chemicals, which can damage chlorella nutrients.

A picture of chlorella tablets and powder in different containers

You can choose from two varieties of pulverized cell wall chlorella: Sun Chlorella tablets and Sun Chlorella powder, which can be purchased here.

Chlorella vs. Spirulina Takeaways 

In summary, Sun Chlorella is always a great choice when it comes to receiving the most nutritional value for your dollar. In fact, the nucleic acids, unbeatable chlorophyll content, and highly absorbable active B12 found in chlorella make it a superior nutritional supplement. Spirulina still offers some nutrition as a health supplement—as long as it's grown in safe conditions and tested for contaminants, but it doesn’t offer as many nutrients as chlorella. 

Give your body the best possible superfood with Sun Chlorella.

Ready to Find Your Chlorella?

Find your best chlorella that fits your lifestyle. Sun Chlorella offers easy-to-take small tablets, larger tablets, and powder form.

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[1] Merchant RE, Phillips TW, Udani J. Nutritional Supplementation with Chlorella pyrenoidosa Lowers Serum Methylmalonic Acid in Vegans and Vegetarians with a Suspected Vitamin B₁₂ Deficiency. J Med Food. 2015 Dec;18(12):1357-62. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2015.0056. Epub 2015 Oct 20. PMID: 26485478.


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