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The Real Health Benefits of Chlorella

In the world of nutrition, green food tends to reign supreme. You already know that kale, spinach, and green tea are bona fide nutritional powerhouses. So now it might be time to expand your green eating beyond the leaves. Chlorella is a green microalgae that when dried into a powder, can be added to foods for a big nutritional boost. The powder can also be pressed into a tablet for an easy-to-pop supplement. (So, Are Sea Veggies the Superfood Missing from Your Kitchen?)

The Health Benefits of Chlorella

The algae contains an active form of vitamin B12, a nutrient that helps your body build red blood cells. In a recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, vegetarians and vegans who were deficient in the vitamin improved their values by an average of 21 percent after eating 9 g of chlorella every day for 60 days. (Did you know you can get a vitamin B12 injection?)

Chlorella also contains carotenoids, plant pigments that have been linked to heart health. One study published in Nutrition Journal found people who consumed 5g of chlorella per day for four weeks reduced their level of triglycerides, bad fats lurking in the bloodstream, by 10 percent. The researchers say this may be because chlorella could inhibit intestinal absorption of fats. They also saw an uptick in levels of lutein and zeaxanthin (good for eye health) by 90 percent and their levels of alpha-carotene (an antioxidant that has previously been linked to a longer life) by 164 percent.

Best yet, chlorella may also have immune-boosting benefits. In another study from Nutrition Journal, people who ate chlorella had increased activity in natural killer cells, which are a type of white blood cell that wards off infection.

How to Eat Chlorella

Selva Wohlgemuth, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Happy Belly Nutrition, recommends adding a 1/2 teaspoon chlorella powder into a fruit smoothie. "Pineapple, berries, and citrus fruits mask the earthy/grassy flavor of the algae really well," says Wohlgemuth.

For a nutrient-dense dessert, whisk 1/4 teaspoon chlorella with a tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest. Stir that mixture into a cup of coconut milk, to be used to make chia seed pudding, Wohlgemuth suggests. You can also add it to homemade guacamole.

Another option: Work chlorella into homemade nut milk. Blend 1 cup soaked cashews (discard soaking water) with 3 cups water, 1 tablespoon chlorella, maple syrup to taste, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt.

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