What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a blue-green algae, gaining the attention of many for its impressive nutritional profile. It is loaded with many beneficial nutrients and antioxidants that can promote overall health if included as a part of the diet. It is usually cultivated from lakes or farmed in ponds. It has a unique bitter taste and is generally mixed with other foods, like yogurt, for consumption. Spirulina was used as an energy booster by Aztecs and also used to treat many ailments. Recent research has also supported the proposed benefits of spirulina. Continue reading to know how spirulina can benefit you in multiple ways.
How Is Spirulina Good For You?
This blue-green algae has an intense earthy taste and smell, and it can be good for you in various ways.
Studies confirm that spirulina can activate macrophages, natural killer cells, and other B and T cells – all of which possess antioxidant properties. More interestingly, research shows that algae exert beneficial effects on the neurological health (1). There also is evidence that shows how spirulina can help in the prevention of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and even asthma (2).
What Are The Health Benefits Of Spirulina?
1. Prevents Arsenic Poisoning
Chronic arsenic poisoning is a problem most countries face – especially the US in the west, and Bangladesh and India in the east. But studies showed how spirulina extracts helped reverse arsenic poisoning (3). And as per Bangladeshi researchers, a lack of specific treatment has lead to the evaluation of alternative treatments like blue-green algae. In yet another study, patients affected by chronic arsenic poisoning saw a 47% decrease in the heavy metal in their body post the intake of spirulina.
2. Helps Battle Cancer
The antioxidants in spirulina prevent oxidative stress, which is one primary cause of cancer. Even laboratory tests have shown that blue-green algae have the ability to prevent DNA mutations (4). Further studies support the chemopreventive role of spirulina (5). Spirulina also increases the production of antibodies, certain infection-fighting proteins, and other cells that improve immunity and prevent cancer.
3. Spirulina Aids Diabetes Treatment
There have been cases where spirulina had outperformed diabetes drugs like Metformin (6). In a study on 25 patients with type 2 diabetes, spirulina ingestion led to drastic improvements in the symptoms (7). Other studies on diabetic animals showed that a combination of spirulina and other herbal extracts decreased the blood glucose and triglyceride levels. And not just that, spirulina was also found to be effective in improving the lipid profiles of patients with type 2 diabetes.
Did You Know?
The name spirulina is derived from the Latin word for ‘helix’ or ‘spiral’, and it denotes the physical structure of the organism.
4. Boosts Brain Health
Spirulina can decrease inflammation in the brain. This means that it can be an effective complementary treatment for Parkinson’s disease, which is caused by swelling and inflammation in the brain. The blue-green algae can also prevent memory loss by reducing oxidative stress in the brain. Spirulina has also been found to improve neuronal density through the formation of new neurons (the process is called neurogenesis). Some sources suggest that it can also aid the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
5. Enhances Heart Health
The blue-green algae can lower bad cholesterol levels, and this invariably improves heart health. At the same time, spirulina can also increase the good cholesterol, which is again required for a healthy heart. Studies showed that 4.5 grams of spirulina a day could lower blood pressure levels – which could be attributed to an increased production of nitric oxide that helps the blood vessels to relax and dilate (8).
Spirulina supplementation was also found to prevent atherosclerosis and the resultant stroke (9).
“Spirulina intake can cause the reduction of hypercholesterolemia atherosclerosis, associated with a decrease in levels of serum total cholesterol, triglycerides, and bad cholesterol.”
– Cheong SH and Co., Department of Food and Nutrition, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, South Korea.
6. Strengthens The Immune System
Several animal studies have shown that spirulina can be an effective immunomodulator (10). It has a unique ability to fight infection and enhance cellular functioning.
7. Aids Weight Loss
Spirulina is dense in protein, and foods rich in this nutrient can promote weight loss through certain mechanisms. Consuming protein contributes to fat burning and the development of lean tissue. Protein also curbs hunger, which is another way one can aim to lose weight (11). Spirulina is also low in calories, which is another plus for anyone looking to lose weight.
8. Improves Digestive Health
The protein in spirulina supports healthy digestion. The body reassembles the amino acids that spirulina provides into digestive enzymes, and this further helps digestion.
9. Spirulina Fights Inflammation
The main active component of spirulina is phycocyanin, which has been found to prevent the production of inflammatory signaling molecules – and this means the blue-green algae helps fight inflammation (12).
Spirulina is also a good source of GLA, or gamma-linolenic acid, which also contributes to the anti-inflammatory properties of the algae. It was also found to be effective against arthritis. In one study, treatment with spirulina had protected against cartilage destruction and also reduced other inflammatory markers (13).
10. Might Help Deal With HIV
11. Helps Treat Candida
There are several studies that show how spirulina can be an effective antimicrobial agent (15). Spirulina also encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, which can prevent candida from thriving. Its immune-boosting properties can also help the body eliminate candida.
12. Aids Acne Treatment
The antioxidants in spirulina help the body fight free radicals and flush out toxins, which can have a direct impact on skin health as well. The blue-green algae also improve skin metabolism. This promotes the quicker elimination of dead skin cells and the growth of new skin cells. Faster skin metabolism can also prevent acne scarring.
Did You Know?
Spirulina is also called ‘food of the future’ for its ability to synthesize high-quality concentrated food better and more efficiently than any other algae.
13. Delays Skin Aging
Make a paste by mixing some spirulina with water and apply it on your face. Keep it on for 20 minutes and wash off. This will make your skin amazingly soft and smooth as well as prevent signs of aging like wrinkles. This mask can also aid skin lightening and help treat skin pigmentation.
14. Boosts Hair Growth
External use of spirulina can accelerate hair growth. Besides consumption, this algae is used as an ingredient in shampoos and conditioning treatments.
The proteins in spirulina can also reduce hair fall and hair thinning.
These are the benefits of spirulina. We spoke of a few nutrients in the algae. But it has got several more that you must know of.
What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Spirulina?
|Spirulina（dried）Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,213 kJ (290 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||3.6 g|
|Aspartic acid||5.793 g|
|Glutamic acid||8.386 g|
|Vitamin equiv.||29 μg (4%)|
|beta-carotene||342 μg (3%)|
|lutein and zeaxanthin||0 μg|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||2.38 mg (207%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||3.67 mg (306%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||12.82 mg (85%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||3.48 mg (70%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.364 mg (28%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||94 μg (24%)|
|Vitamin B12||0 μg (0%)|
|Choline||66 mg (13%)|
|Vitamin C||10.1 mg (12%)|
|Vitamin D||0 IU (0%)|
|Vitamin E||5 mg (33%)|
|Vitamin K||25.5 μg (24%)|
|Calcium||120 mg (12%)|
|Iron||28.5 mg (219%)|
|Magnesium||195 mg (55%)|
|Manganese||1.9 mg (90%)|
|Phosphorus||118 mg (17%)|
|Potassium||1363 mg (29%)|
|Sodium||1048 mg (70%)|
|Zinc||2 mg (21%)|
All good. But how can you consume spirulina?
How To Consume Spirulina
You can either take the powder. Here, we have discussed the dosage and the method of consumption for each.
The dosage of the powder is half to 1 teaspoon daily. This can equate to 1.8 to 3 grams of the powder.
Similar to the tablets, if you are just starting to take spirulina, start with a pinch and gradually build-up to the right dose.
- Do not take spirulina if you have phenylketonuria (a condition where one cannot process the amino acid phenylalanine) and autoimmune diseases (15).
- If you find any kind of discomfort or wheezing after taking spirulina, discontinue usage and consult your doctor without any delay.
- Spirulina should not be given to children unless medically advised.
- Pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid the consumption of spirulina as there is no quality research on the safety of spirulina in this regard.
What Are The Side Effects Of Spirulina?
Although spirulina is generally safe for consumption, some side effects are observed in a few individuals following the consumption of spirulina. They include:
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal discomfort
- Trouble sleeping
- Allergic reactions
If you observe any of these side effects after the consumption of spirulina, stop intake and consult your doctor.
How To Store Spirulina?
- Spirulina should be stored in an airtight container and can be used for six months.
- It should be kept away from direct sunlight and moisture.
- It can be preserved in a freezer for one year.
- If you observe a strong odor, it indicates the spirulina has expired and should be discarded.
Spirulina is a blue-green alga, a freshwater plant, known for its rich nutrition profile. Known for its intense earthy taste and flavor, the benefits of spirulina are what make it one of the most researched superfoods. It not only helps strengthen your immune system but also improves your cardiac and brain health. Replete with anti-oxidants, it is known to help aid in the treatment of diabetes and cancer as well. Phycocyanin, the main active plant compound in spirulina, is known to help fight inflammations and infections. You can either take spirulina tablets or half to one teaspoon of spirulina powder per day to include its many benefits in your health and wellness routine.