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What You Need to Know About Algae, Bacteria, and Your Health

By now, you may have heard of the powerhouses that are spirulina and chlorella. These trendy superfoods are often called “blue-green algae” and used interchangeably in context; however, there are notable key differences between the two that you should know about. For starters, only one of these are actually a type of algae, meanwhile the other is actually a form of bacteria. Can you guess which is which?! Keep reading to find out!

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”What is Algae?”][/ultimate_heading]

Seaweed, giant kelp, and pond moss are all examples of algae — protists with plant-like characteristics, that are capable of performing photosynthesis (the process of using sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water). Unlike terrestrial plants, algae lack vascular tissue and do not possess roots, stems, leaves, or flowers.

Algae notably play an important role in maintaining the oxygen supply on our planet. As primary producers, algae are also the foundation of the food chain in various aquatic environments (including saltwater, freshwater, wet soil, and on moist rocks) that in turn help feed the entire ecosystem.

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”The History Behind Algae as a Superfood”][/ultimate_heading]

Algae is one of the most nutrient dense, high protein, plant-based, sustainable, safe, and organic foods in the world. It’s been shown to:

  • quickly and safely satisfy hunger
  • supplement many daily nutritional needs
  • improve energy, focus and even athletic performance
  • provide natural detoxification and chelation
  • improve cardiovascular, neurological, immune, and mental health
  • boost longevity and wellness

For all of these reasons, humans have been consuming algae as both food and medicine throughout history.

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”What is chlorella?”][/ultimate_heading]

Chlorella is a “true” plant, and is easily the most cultivated algae today since it is widely used as a supplement or a food source. It’s also commonly found in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. There are actually over 30 different species within the Chlorella family, but two types — Chlorella vulgaris and Chlorella pyrenoidosa — are most commonly used in research (1).

In terms of it’s biology, chlorella has a hard cell wall that humans cannot digest. That’s why it must be consumed as a supplement (in capsule, tablet, powder and extract form) in order to reap its health benefits.

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Key Benefits of Chlorella”][/ultimate_heading]
  • It is a complete protein, meaning that it has all the essential amino acids the body needs in order to produce feel-good neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin), and help your muscles grow. To put this into perspective, chlorella algae powder has a higher protein content by weight than almost any other food( 60% protein by mass compared to meat, eggs, and beans, are typically between 20%-40% protein). (2)
  • Chlorella has the highest amount of chlorophyll found in any known plant. Chlorophyll, of course, is what makes plants appear green; but more importantly, it acts as an antioxidant that helps detoxify the liver and digestive tract.
  • It can be a good source of iron, as well as vitamin C, which also helps you absorb iron.
  • It contains Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF), which is a potent phytonutrient comprised of amino acids, beta glucans, nucleic acids, peptides, and polysaccharides. Together, these micronutrients work together to help regenerate cells at a faster rate (3).
  • It has been shown to help combat oxidative stress damage, which can make signs of aging more apparent.
(Source: Gizmodo)
[ultimate_heading main_heading=”What is Cyanobacteria?”][/ultimate_heading]

Cyanobacteria are a type of bacteria that are aquatic and photosynthetic, meaning that they live in water and produce their own food. Their name derives from phycocyanin, the pigment which they use to capture light for photosynthesis. This pigment is typically bluish-green in color (with wavelengths from 450 nm to 660 nm), but reddish-brown variations also exist.

Another fun fact: cyanobacteria are more than 3.5 billion years old and are responsible for creating atmospheric oxygen at the very beginning of life on Earth! The oxygen atmosphere that we depend on was generated by cyanobacteria during the Archaean and Proterozoic Eras. Prior to these time periods,  the atmosphere had a very different chemistry that would be unsuitable for life as we know it today.

Source: Research Gate
[ultimate_heading main_heading=”What is Spirulina?”][/ultimate_heading]

Spirulina is a member of the cyanobacteria family and has a spiral-like appearance (hence the name that derives from the Latin word “helix”, meaning spiral). It is extremely digestible and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Spirulina is also rich in vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and perhaps most importantly for those who are malnourished — protein. In fact, Spirulina consists of 70% protein content, yielding 20 times more protein per unit area than soybeans, 40 times more than corn, and over 200 times more than beef (4).

Unlike most plants, Spirulina is able to withstand extreme temperature variations and still thrive.  Spirulina is also an incredibly sustainable food source that, according to the World Health Organization, has the potential to end world hunger and malnutrition.  Even NASA and The European Space Agency have begun researching the benefits of incorporating it into astronauts’ diets both in spaceships and on Mars (5).

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”The Key Differences Between Algae and Cyanobacteria”][/ultimate_heading]

Algae are eukaryotic (typically multi-cellular, but can also be single-celled) organisms that contain a nucleus, mitochondria, and chloroplasts within each cell. They also have a sensor that is similar to the one in the human eye, which helps them detect and identify light sources that they can use to produce energy.

Cyanobacteria are prokaryotic (unicellular) organisms and are the only form of oxygenic photosynthetic bacteria known to date. Unlike algae, cyanobacteria lack a nucleus, mitochondria and chloroplasts; instead they have chlorophylls dispersed throughout their cytoplasm and perform photosynthesis by using water as an electron donor to generate oxygen.

Cyanobacteria are often called “blue-green algae” because they live in water and make their own food, but this name is actually a little misleading because it does not reflect any real relationship between the cyanobacteria and other organisms called algae. Cyanobacteria are not directly related to eukaryotes, but they do share extremely similar  characteristics to chloroplasts that are found in eukaryotic algae. (6)

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”The Key Similarities Between Spirulina and Chlorella”][/ultimate_heading]

Many health professionals consider both forms of cyanobacteria to be wonderfully healthy and effective superfood supplements. When combined, they provide vital amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. More specifically, they:

  • Are great sources of protein.
  • Are extremely nutrient dense, and therefore have antioxidant effects.
  • Can help regulate and improve your mood, cognitive function, as well as the functionality of your nervous system, reproductive system, and immune system.
  • Can help lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and prevent heart disease.
  • Can help with anti-aging by maintaining the appearance of smoother, hydrated skin.
[ultimate_heading main_heading=”The Key Differences Between Spirulina and Chlorella”][/ultimate_heading]

Though these two superfoods do look, smell and even taste similar, here’s a quick recap of their differences:

  • Structure: Chlorella is a true single-cell algae with a nucleus. Spirulina is a multi-celled form of bacteria with no nucleus, and it is much bigger than chlorella in size.
  • Color: Chlorella is a green due to chlorophyll; however, there are red and brown variations of algae that exist. Spirulina is a type of cyanobacteria, and is bluish-green in color.
  • Where they grow: Spirulina grows naturally in warm, mineral-rich alkaline lakes, rivers, ponds. and saltwater. Chlorella are only found in freshwater.
  • Digestibility: Spirulina can be consumed easily because they do not have cellulose in their cell wall, but chlorella needs to be broken down into pill or powder form before the body can consume it and reap health benefits.
  • Nutrient Density: Both are high in protein, but spirulina still has a higher protein content (about 60 to 70% of its dry weight.) Both superfoods are also packed with minerals, antioxidants and iron. Chlorella is actually one of the few plant sources of vitamin B-12, as confirmed by a 2002 study. According to the FDA, Spirulina contains significant amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
  • Detoxification: Chlorella is recognized as one of the most effective detoxifiers of chemicals and heavy metals. It has unique properties in its cell walls that make it bind to heavy metals and other contaminants in the gastrointestinal tract, which prevents them from being absorbed into the body’s tissues. Spirulina conversely does not have a tough cell wall, but has been shown to still aid in eliminating heavy metals and toxins from the body.
Source: Bio2go
[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Products We Think You’ll Love”][/ultimate_heading]

ENERGYbits makes plant-based nutrition tablets to support your health and well-being naturally and sustainably. They offer a few different variations of their tablets for different purposes:

  • ENERGYbits (100% Spirulina) make for an easy, healthy, high-protein snack before physical activity. They are also ideal for people who do not have access to healthy food while at work.
  • RECOVERYbits (100% Chlorella) contain 40 different micronutrients and chlorophyll to help you detox and slow down aging. These tablets are like recovery gold for athletes and people that need to boost their immune system.
  • VITALITYbits (50% Spirulina/50% Chlorella) give you the best of both superfoods and are your answer for raw energy and optimized health! With over 40 micronutrients and plenty of protein, VITALITYbits will stop your cravings, improve your focus and give you a steady stream of physical energy throughout the day.

ENERGYbits tablets are organic, keto and vegan! Unlike energy drinks, protein bars, and other sports nutrition products, these tablets use entirely natural products as opposed to sugar and artificial ingredients.

Use coupon code “Biohacked” at checkout to save 20% off of your order!

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Final Note: Cautions to be Weary of”][/ultimate_heading]

Though generally considered safe, chlorella and spirulina each have their own potential risks and side effects to consider.

Possible side effects of consuming chlorella include:

  • Allergic reactions,
  • Skin sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity)
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Oral blisters
  • Liver damage
  • Diarrhea
  • An increase in Vitamin K will likely increase clotting, which may not be ideal if you have a clotting disorder
  • Nausea
  • Green discoloration of the stools
  • Stomach cramps
  • Iodine levels are moderate and have negative impacts if you have a thyroid condition

According to the EPA, “Continuous sublethal or low-level exposures to cyanotoxins can potentially lead to the development of gastrointestinal, neurological, and liver disorders.”

Possible side effects of consuming chlorella include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Green discoloration of the stools

Disclaimer: We like to help people live healthier, and in doing so, we may provide information about specific health products in order to help the public make educated health decisions for themselves. Please note that we may earn a commission if you click on the links in this article. With that being said, we only promote the products we truly believe in! We appreciate your support of Biohacked and the biohacking community.

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”References”][/ultimate_heading]
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Why the Diet of the Animals You Eat Matters

You are what your food eats.
We all know the saying, “You are what you eat.” But if you eat animal products, you are what the animals eat too. When it comes to meat, for example, there can be some pretty significant differences in the quality of the meat depending on how the animal was fed throughout its entire livelihood.

According to Michael Pollan, “The diet of the animals we eat has a bearing on the nutritional quality, and healthfulness, of the food itself, whether it is meat or milk or eggs…some of our food animals, such as cows and sheep, are ruminants that evolved to eat grass; if they eat too many seeds they become sick, which is why grain-fed cattle have to be given antibiotics. Even animals that do well on grain, such as chickens and pigs, are much healthier when they have access to green plants, and so, it turns out, are their meat and eggs. For most of our food animals, a diet of grass means much healthier fats (more omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA; fewer omega-6s and saturated fat) in their meat, milk, and eggs, as well as appreciably higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants.”

Grass-fed beef is often considered healthier for you than conventional grain-fed beef for multiple reasons.

  1. Grass-fed cows get more nutritious food than grain-fed cows. This is because they have the freedom to roam and graze on a wide variety of (often wild) grasses, sedges, rushes, shrubs and herbs, each with its own nutrient profile. Comparatively, grain-fed cattle are fattened up with feeds that are typically made of soy or corn, which fatten cows more quickly than grass does on its own.  The grain that’s used is usually genetically modified. It’s also often grown with fertilizers and pesticides to keep bugs away. Note: A cow’s body is designed to metabolize corn, so these animals can be very susceptible to contracting bacteria, parasites and illnesses. To offset this, the cattle are pumped with antibiotics – sometimes daily — which is then consumed by humans that purchase the cow meat in grocery stores (1, 2, 3).
  2. 100% grass-fed beef contains more calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, beta-carotene and iron than grain-fed beef. It also has higher levels of B vitamins – specifically thiamine (B1) and riboflavin (B2), as well as the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
  3. Grass-fed beef is leaner than grain-fed beef and has less fat per serving. This means that you’ll consume fewer calories per serving of grass-fed beef than when you eat grain-fed beef.
  4. The composition of fatty acids in grass-fed and grain-fed meat is also different:
    • Monounsaturated fat: there’s a lot less of it in grass-fed beef than in grain-fed beef.
    • Omega-3s and 6s: Grass-fed has higher levels of omega-3s than conventional beef (as much as five times higher!), and contains an ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
    • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA): Grass-fed beef is one of the best sources of Conjugated Lineolic Acid, or CLA. CLA exerts potent antioxidant activity and studies have documented CLA’s ability to help prevent diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  5. Grain-fed cows are typically raised in confined animal feeding operation lots, also known as feedlots. This practice could be viewed as animal cruelty since the animals aren’t free to roam and live as nature intended.

When possible, look for a label that says “100% grass-fed” and “organic”.
This is really important because there’s no official definition or USDA marketing standard for “grass-fed” meat.  In other words, there’s no way for a consumer to really know just by looking at a label whether or not the cow has only been fed their mother’s milk, grass and other greens throughout their entire lives, or if they’ve only spent a relatively short time eating grass — unless the packaging says “100%” or “grass finished” on it (4).

The USDA standards for “organic” meat are also a little blurry. They specify that meat may not be labeled as organic if it has been treated with hormones or antibiotics; “organic” meat must come from animals that had access to the outdoors, as well as natural, vegetarian feed. However, the feed given to the animal may include a variety of grains, which notably aren’t part of a cow’s natural diet (4). Remember, since cows don’t naturally metabolize grains like corn, they are more likely to develop illnesses and, or require antibiotics — which can subsequently have negative health consequences for the person that consumes this meat.

It may be a bit more difficult to find beef that’s both grass-fed and organic — and more expensive — but making the extra effort can have notable positive health benefits for you and your family long-term.

100% grass-fed, organic products we think you’ll love.


  1. Paleovalley – Inspired by holistic nutrition, Paleovalley offers 100% grass-fed, organic, and non-GMO beef sticks, as well as pasture-raised turkey sticks, with no hidden ingredients. Paleovalley 100% Grass Fed Beef Sticks are notably the only beef sticks in the USA made from 100% grass fed/grass finished beef and organic spices that are naturally fermented. Paleovalley also uses pasture-raised turkey for their turkey sticks, which means that the turkeys have full access to outdoor, pesticide-free pastures with plenty of grass and insects for them to eat. Their turkey is:
    – free of antibiotics, steroids, and hormones
    – gluten-free
    – soy-free
    – dairy-free
    – naturally fermented (this means they have gut-friendly probiotics!)

    (Save 10% on Paleovalley beef and turkey sticks with this link, and this one!)
  1. Thrive Market – This ecommerce website offers a membership for health-conscious consumers that includes:
  • discounted prices on over 6,000 organic and sustainable products
  • carbon-neutral shipping from our zero-waste fulfillment centers
  • access to 500+ Thrive Market products, deals, rewards, and free full-size product gifts that are exclusively available for members

Thrive Market is very adamant on their website that they share these values:

  • Certified Organic
  • BPA Free
  • Grass-Fed
  • Pasture Raised
  • Gluten Free
  • Paleo
  • Dye and Color Additive Free

We highly recommend that you check out Thrive Market’s Organic Beef Jerky — sourced from pasture-raised, grass-fed, organic beef.  Each batch is marinated in organic apple cider vinegar, honey, and savory spices, and then smoked low and slow until it’s deliciously tender. This Paleo snack is also free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, gluten, and soy!

Thrive Market also sells Turkey Jerky, made from free-range, organic turkey that’s marinated in organic apple cider vinegar, honey, and spices, and smoked to perfection. It’s free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, and gluten. This snack is also Paleo-friendly 🙂

  1. US Wellness Meats – Voted Best Online Food/Product Supplier by Paleo Magazine in 2012 & 2013, US Wellness Meats is regarded as a supreme resource for Paleo, Primal, and Real Food.  They provide and deliver more than 300 grass-fed, pastured, wild-caught, and free range products right to your doorstep. They specialize in hard-to-find favorites: sugar-free bacon/sausages/ham, bones, broths, gelatin, pemmican, organ meats, Whole30 Approved and AIP-friendly items, tallow/lard/suet, pet products, and more!

    If you’re based in the United States, and you’re looking for truly grass-fed/grass-finished meat or wild caught fish, take a look at US Wellness Meats. Tell them that we sent you 🙂

Disclaimer: We like to help people live healthier, and in doing so, we may provide information about specific health products in order to help the public make educated health decisions for themselves. Please note that we may earn a commission if you click on the links in this article. With that being said, we only promote the products we truly believe in! We appreciate your support of Biohacked and the biohacking community.