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Algae supplements: What are they?

Selection of powdered algae in wooden bowls on white bench
What are algae supplements? What do they contain exactly? And what are the benefits of taking them? We reveal all in this article…
You may have heard of Vitamin C, Vitamin D and cod liver oil supplements, but what about algae supplements? They happen to be a thing and they’re actually growing in popularity within the supplement world.1

Are they really made from algae?

Yes, they are. Algae supplements tend to be made from either chlorella or spirulina, which are two different types of algae with equally-impressive nutritional and health-related benefits.2

About chlorella

Chlorella is a freshwater type of algae that comes from Taiwan and Japan.3 It’s actually being widely referred to as a superfood because of the fact it contains so much good stuff. Chlorella ingredients list:
  • Protein
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Iron
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Minerals

About spirulina

Like chlorella, spirulina is an algae, albeit a blue-green algae, that’s also classed as having superfood status. It grows in mineral-rich alkaline lakes and can be found in abundance in Mexico, Central Africa and East Africa.4 Spirulina ingredients list (for one tablespoon):5
  • 2g of protein
  • 67g of carbohydrate
  • 54g of fat
  • 8mg of calcium
  • 2mg of iron
  • 14mg of magnesium
  • 8mg of phosphorous
  • 95mg of potassium
  • 73mg of sodium
  • 7mg of Vitamin C
  • And it contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and vitamins B-6, A and K too.

What is algae?

Algae has been around for some two billion years and more. Some people refer to it as a plant and some people refer to it as a protist, a group of organisms that aren’t animals, plants, fungi or bacteria. It’s the red and green algae that’s more closely related to land plants.6 Spirulina is a cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that’s found in fresh or salt water and sits in the bacteria camp.

While chlorella is a eukaryotic plant that lives in ocean and only needs carbon dioxide, water, sunlight and small amounts of minerals to live and grow.

Why should you take algae supplements?

Because algae supplements contain a massive dose of vitamins and minerals that can work in numerous ways, energising your body, protecting your immune system and fighting off diseases.7

Chlorella vs. spirulina nutrients list

  • Chlorella contains more: Calories (115 calories in 28g), Omega 3 fatty acids, provitamin A, riboflavin, magnesium and zinc.
  • Spirulina contains more: Riboflavin, thiamine, iron and copper and less calories (81 calories in 28g).8

The health benefits of taking algae supplements

Algae supplements are renowned for their levels of Omega 3 (essential fats) levels, which can help in many health-related areas, including:
  • Cardiovascular function
  • Nervous system function
  • Immunity
  • Memory and concentration
  • Mood
  • Blood sugar control
They’re also high in antioxidants – that can neutralise free radicals in your body and prevent cell and tissue damage.10

What is algae Omega 3?

It’s another way of saying algae supplements which, as we mentioned above, are packed full of Omega 3 fatty acids, including the essential fatty acids, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). Both of these basic fats aren’t produced naturally by our bodies and are only found in either algae or fish.

Traditionally, Omega 3 supplements have been sourced from fish or krill oils, which is increasingly being seen as unsustainable and problematic due to toxicity from heavy metals and pesticides. In contrast, algae oil Omega 3 DHA and EPA are produced by microalgae, not by fish, which is viewed as being more of a sustainable option.11

Can anybody take algae oil Omega-3 supplements?

Like all supplements, algae oil supplements can be used to boost your Omega 3 levels, and various other vitamin and nutrient levels, if you aren’t getting adequate levels of what you need from your daily diet. They should be taken in accordance with the recommended guidance. People with autoimmune diseases, such as Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, and those who are taking immunosuppressive medication should avoid taking them, as they can stimulate the immune system.

Those with clotting disorders or who are taking anti-clotting medication should avoid taking blue-green algae too, as it may increase the risk of bleeding.12 Some chlorella supplements may also contain iodine, which is worth bearing in mind if you already have high iodine levels.13 Most algae oil Omega 3 supplements are suitable for vegans. Always do your research before taking any new supplements, algae supplements included, to make sure you’re taking what’s best for you and your body.
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