Chlorella vs Spirulina: What's the Difference?
Jan 12, 2021

Chlorella and Spirulina Powder,Spirulina and Chlorella Powder

What is Chlorella?

Chlorella is also a nutrient-dense alga, but it’s part of the green algae family and grows in freshwater. There are actually over 30 different types of this alga, but you’ll see Chlorella vulgaris and Chlorella pyrenoidosa most commonly in research (Rosenberg, 2014).

Unlike spirulina, chlorella has to be taken as a supplement. Due to its hard cell walls and high fiber content, humans cannot digest it as whole food. That’s why the chlorella supplements you’ll see—which come as powders, tablets, extracts, or capsules—are in “broken cell wall” or “cracked cell wall” form.

Chlorella vs Spirulina powder

What is Spirulina?

Spirulina is a type of cyanobacteria that belongs to the blue-green algae family. Although it has fallen in and out of favor over the last few decades, it actually has a long history as a superfood and dietary supplement. Ancient Aztecs would reportedly consume this organism that comes with a noteworthy list of potential health benefits.

Spirulina supplements are made from arthrospira or Arthrospira maxima and Arthrospira platensis, two kinds of microalgae. You may also see this on supplement containers as Spirulina maxima and Spirulina platensis. You’ll most commonly see this supplement in two forms: spirulina powder and tablets. The powder is commonly used in smoothies to boost their nutritional profile.

Chlorella vs. spirulina

Like we said, there’s a lot these algae superfoods have in common—but that doesn’t help make your buying decision any easier. Here are a couple of minor differences between the algae you may want to consider. But don’t get caught up in decision paralysis; both have amazing nutrient profiles.

Differences between chlorella and spirulina

Cell Structure

One of the key differences between chlorella and spirulina lies in their cell structures. Chlorella is a single-celled algae. In contrast, spirulina contains multiple cells.

Class and Color

Chlorella belongs to trebouxiophyceae, a class of green algae in the division Chlorophyta. Its pure green color signifies that it’s richer in chlorophyll (hence the name, chlorella) than spirulina. Spirulina is a genus of cyanobacteria, which is a family of single-celled microbes often referred to as blue-green algae.


Although it’s not recommended that you pluck spirulina from a body of water yourself and eat it, it technically can be eaten at the time of harvest so long as the body of water isn’t contaminated with toxic metals and harmful bacteria. Spirulina lacks cellulose walls, which makes it easy to digest. However, a hard cellulose wall protects chlorella, making it indigestible to humans until it goes through a special process to crack the outer shell and turn it into a dietary supplement.

Where They Grow

Spirulina can be found in both fresh water and salt water. On the other hand, chlorella is typically considered a fresh-water algae. Most chlorella is grown in Asia in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The largest concentrations of spirulina can be found in Africa, Asia, South America, and Hawaii.

Chlorella vs. Spirulina

Key Similarities: Their Health Benefits

Although they have their differences, chlorella and spirulina benefits led to them being touted as superfoods. And rightly so: They’re akin to the richest and most nutrient-dense sources on the planet for a number of similar reasons. Some of them include the following.

Can Lower “Bad” Cholesterol

High levels of LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, can lead to a build-up of cholesterol in your arteries. Having too much cholesterol in your blood raises your risk of coronary artery disease. Studies have shown that chlorella and spirulina can lower total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride fats, which can elevate your risk of stroke.

A study of 25 people with type 2 diabetes showed that taking 2 grams of spirulina a day substantially lowered LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL or “good” cholesterol. In a study of 97 people with various diseases, including hypertension, researchers found that taking 10 grams of chlorella daily lowered serum cholesterol levels, which are the measurements of certain elements in the blood, such as HDL and LDL.

Could Improve Blood Sugar Levels

Some research links both spirulina and chlorella to lower blood sugar levels. In a study of 25 people with type 2 diabetes who took 2 grams of spirulina per day, researchers found that the subjects experienced a substantial reduction in blood sugar levels. Another study showed that chlorella supplements both improved blood sugar control and increased insulin sensitivity—which doctors consider healthy—in patients with non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis or “fatty liver” disease.

Good Sources of Protein and Amino Acids

Both are considered “complete protein” sources, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. This makes chlorella and spirulina attractive plant-based protein options for vegetarians and vegans. Amino acids are often referred to as the building blocks of life because the body uses them to help break down food, maintain energy, repair tissue, and perform many other bodily functions.

Chlorella vs Spirulina

May Enhance Endurance

Muscle fatigue is often pinned on the oxidative damage that happens during exercise. Some plants have antioxidant properties that can help minimize this damage. In one study of 16 physically active adults, spirulina upped endurance and warded off fatigue. In another study, researchers gave a group of young adults 6 grams of chlorella or a placebo daily for four weeks. At the study’s conclusion, the group that took the chlorella showed a dramatic improved ability to flood their lungs with oxygen, which is a measure of endurance. The placebo group experienced no changes.

Rich in Antioxidants, Nutrients, and Anti-inflammatory Properties

Oxidative damage can lead to chronic inflammation, which can cause cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants such as chlorophyll, vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein—all of which chlorella and spirulina contain—aid the immune system, and can help combat inflammation and ward off disease.

Both may improve heart health

Studies have shown that chlorella and spirulina have the potential to improve heart health by affecting your blood lipid composition and blood pressure levels.

In one controlled 4-week study, 63 participants who were given 5 grams of chlorella daily showed a 10% reduction in total triglycerides, compared with a placebo group (35).

Furthermore, those participants also experienced a 11% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol and a 4% increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.

In another study, people with high blood pressure who took chlorella supplements daily for 12 weeks had significantly lower blood pressure readings, compared with the placebo group.Similarly to chlorella, spirulina may benefit your cholesterol profile and blood pressure.

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