Last Updated on September 13, 2020
Spirulina, or blue-green algae, has long been a popular food supplement. It has been used for centuries as a food source in some cultures.
Otherwise known as “pond scum,” this microalgae can be found growing in oceans, freshwater and salty lakes in tropical or subtropical climates. The Aztecs themselves harvested spirulina, and it is still being harvested and turned into dry cakes in some countries.
This cyanobacteria is packed with nutrients. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one tablespoon or 7 grams of this superfood contains as much as 4.02 grams of protein. In fact, spirulina contains five times the amount of protein compared to meat, 0.17 grams of vitamin B1 (thiamine), 0.90 grams of vitamin B3 (niacin), 0.43 grams of copper, and 2 mg iron.
Aside from these essential nutrients, 7 grams of spirulina also contains 13.6 mg of magnesium, 95.4 mg of potassium, and 8.4 mg of calcium, along with some of the other essential nutrients that your body needs. Adding spirulina to your diet can help you stay healthy.
Nutrient-rich spirulina is loaded with health benefits. Let’s find out what these are.
Spirulina Health Benefits
While it may appear striking to some with its blue-green color, spirulina has been promoted as a superfood. Aside from having a long list of nutrients, it also contains antioxidants and essential fatty acids such as DHA and GLA. Aside from the main health benefits that we’ll be discussing in this article, this humble blue-green algae has numerous other benefits, such as:
- Protecting your liver and kidneys
- Improving your blood quality
- Preventing anemia
- Restoring damaged hair
- Countering malnutrition (when used as a dietary supplement)
1. Spirulina and Diabetes Management
Spirulina may be especially helpful in managing symptoms of diabetes, particularly diabetes mellitus. It may help in lowering blood glucose levels. In a study conducted on diabetic mice, spirulina was administered orally.
As a result, the mice had a decrease in their glucose levels, an increase in insulin, and improved liver enzyme markers. Based on the results of this study, it can be said that spirulina has the potential to be beneficial when it comes to treating type 1 diabetes.
2. Spirulina, the Antioxidant
We’ve all heard about antioxidants. These are substances that help fight the free radicals produced by oxidative stress. These substances can lead to a variety of diseases and can cause symptoms of aging.
Wrinkles, anyone? As you age, your body finds it more difficult to fight off free radicals and their effects, such as clogged arteries leading to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
Spirulina, with its high levels of antioxidants like beta-carotene and tocopherol, then becomes an excellent source of natural antioxidants, not to mention protein, to help combat the effects of free radicals.
3. Heavy Metal Magnet
Did you know that spirulina is a heavy metal magnet? These substances, like arsenic, bind with the heavy metals found in your body, facilitating their removal. A double-blind study where spirulina extract and zinc were administered to patients suffering from chronic arsenic poisoning suggests that spirulina may prove to be useful in treating chronic arsenic poisoning.
Spirulina can also aid in removing toxins from your blood. On top of that, evidence suggests that it may be helpful in protecting you against radiation and its effects.
4. Boosting Your Immunity
Research suggests that spirulina may aid in boosting your immunity. It is also suggested that it can aid in improving your body’s resistance when it comes to viral infections. It may also enhance your body’s anti-inflammatory response.
Want more energy? Aside from boosting your immunity, spirulina when combined with lime can give you that much-needed energy boost. It’s no surprise given its high vitamin and mineral content. Spirulina contains compounds such as polysaccharides and essential fat, which can easily be absorbed by the human body, helping release energy.
Given its potential to promote better gut health by increasing the production of healthy lactobacilli in your body, spirulina enables the production of vitamin B6, which further contributes to energy release.
Of course, you’ll need to pair it with a balanced diet for you to reap the full benefits of this supplement.
5. Weight Loss
Looking to shed a few pounds? Spirulina may be able to help you with that. This superfood contains l-phenylalanine, an amino acid known to suppress appetite. Spirulina may also aid in weight management. One study demonstrates that spirulina may facilitate in BMI and blood pressure improvement in overweight patients.
6. Anti-cancer Properties
Studies suggest that spirulina may have anti-cancer properties. The blue-green algae’s antioxidant and immune modulation characteristics may play a role in preventing cancer. Although most of these studies have been conducted on animals, specifically rats, spirulina has demonstrated cancer-fighting capabilities such as reducing cases of liver tumors and mouth tumors.
7. Combating Allergies
Pollen got you sniffling? While we can’t avoid environmental allergens such as pollen and animal hair, taking spirulina may help in alleviating symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
8. Lowering Blood Pressure
Research has also found that spirulina contains phycocyanin, a pigment that has an antihypertensive effect. Their research suggests that when taken long-term, spirulina, with its phycocyanin, may be able to combat systemic blood pressure.
9. Reducing Cholesterol Levels
Your diet plays a crucial role in your cardiovascular health. Spirulina may help in reducing cholesterol levels. This supplement may have a positive effect on your body’s lipids, helping modulate your body weight and appetite and normalizing your body’s lipid levels.
Spirulina may also improve the BMI, blood pressure, and blood vessel function of individuals who have hypertension.
Spirulina Quality: What You Need to Know
We know you want to reap the numerous health benefits of spirulina without having to worry about contamination issues. With the amount of spirulina products out in the market today, how do you know which one to choose? Here are some things to look out for:
Product Label and Its Composition
It’s always a good practice to check the label. Make sure that what you’re getting is at least 98% spirulina, if you’re looking for tablets. When it comes to powders, check that you’re getting 100% spirulina. Avoid spirulina products that have artificial coloring or preservatives.
When determining spirulina quality, you should engage your senses. Spirulina should have a dark green color. Check for sheen. Ideally, good spirulina should be matte. The presence of sheen may suggest that the product has undergone a process that endows it with a coating to prevent it from breaking apart.
What should good spirulina smell like? While spirulina does have a unique smell, it shouldn’t have a very strong odor. The presence of such suggests that the product may be damaged.
High-quality spirulina products have been tested for contaminants and should be labeled accordingly, showing their origin. If the information on the label is unclear, it’s best to avoid it.
With its numerous health benefits, there’s no reason not to try incorporating spirulina into your diet. Whether you’re looking to address certain health issues or just looking to improve your overall health, spirulina is the perfect health partner for you.