Spirulina is frequently marketed around the world as a type of superfood, and it is one that most health enthusiasts have latched onto. A lot of people decide not to eat spirulina when they find out where it comes from because in its natural algae form it can be found in many freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds. Spirulina is full of nutrients, which have actually led to it being a popular dietary supplement among both enthusiasts and medical professionals.
There are two different species of spirulina, Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima. The type of spirulina that we consume refers to the dried biomass of Arthrospira platensisspecifically. Most people believe that spirulina is simply a standard type of algae, but it was actually reclassified in the 1960s and moved to the prokaryote kingdom, so it is now known as a type of cyanobacteria.
As a food type, spirulina really is a nutrient rich dietary supplement. It is frequently the subject of a large number of scientific studies, including a study to find out whether or not it would be an appropriate dietary supplement during a long-term space flight, or during the Mars missions. A lot of studies are also linking spirulina to a number of ailments, including cancer, showing that the consumption of spirulina can directly affect the problem. With regards to oral cancer specifically, it has been proven to get rid of precancerous lesions.
The Origin of Spirulina
Most people like to believe that the superfoods that they consume are a newly discovered commodity, as we live in a world where it is completely normal to replace something old with something new. This gives a large portion of humanity a desire to always have the newest type of most products, for example, how many people do you know that upgrade their phone simply because a new model becomes available?
The reality is that no superfood is a newly discovered wonder. Spirulina was actually a nutritious food source for both the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican groups until around the end of the 16thcentury, although this date is disputed. The Aztecs called spirulina ‘tecuitlatl’, and they harvested it from Lake Texcoco before using it to make a specific type of cake, as was noted by one of the soldiers of Hernán Cortés(1).
We now require scientific evidence to see that a superfood is worth eating, yet in the 16thcentury people did not have access to this type of evidence. Instead, they ate spirulina simply because it was worth eating. They noticed that it fulfilled their needs, giving them energy due to the massive amount of protein that it contains.
Health Benefits of Spirulina
There are a large number of health benefits that a person can experience upon consuming spirulina. These benefits are not immediately noticeable, as spirulina needs to be taken over a large period of time. Most people consume 1 – 2 teaspoons of spirulina powder on a daily basis.
One of the best things about spirulina as a food source is the notably high amount of protein that it contains, as spirulina is around 65% protein. This number is incredibly high for a type of protein that comes from a natural plant, opposed to an animal. This has successfully made spirulina an incredibly popular choice for people that follow strict vegetarian and vegan diets, as it allows them to make sure that they consume their daily recommended amount of protein.
The nutritional factors that are associated with spirulina have also made it a common source of much needed nutrients for women who are pregnant. A lot of surgeons also recommend that their patients take a spirulina supplement before and after their operation, as spirulina can help the body fight off a variety of different infections.
Spirulina features a really high concentration of chlorophyll, a substance that when consumed, can help our bodies flush out the toxins that are present in our bloodstream. This means that it can promote a natural detox within the body, without the need for specialist treatment.
Most people will notice that spirulina is a rather unique color that is a mixture of both blue and green. This is because of the main active component of spirulina, phycocyanin. This component has the ability to eliminate free radicals in our body, as well as providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects(2). Getting rid of as many free radicals as possible is important, as their presence is linked to everything from aging to Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Downside of Spirulina
The fantastic thing about the majority of superfoods that are readily available is that there are rarely any contraindications involved in taking them. If you are on a type of medication that suppresses your immune system or affects the way that your body clots blood, then you should consult a medical professional before introducing any new supplement to your diet.
Some people do experience a small number of side effects when they initially start taking a spirulina supplement. This is nothing to worry about. The majority of people that do experience side effects end up with a slight fever, this fever occurs due to the spike in your metabolism that raises the temperature of your body.
Lastly it can be noted that the taste of Spirulina is not to everyone’s liking.
Nutritional Value of Spirulina
In every 100g of spirulina, you can find:
This means that spirulina has an incredibly high protein content, especially when you compare it with other protein sources that are not animal based. It is highly recommended that vegetarians and vegans consume a spirulina supplement regularly, to boost their overall protein intake.
It also means that a daily spirulina supplement can make us reach our recommended daily amount of a lot of different vitamins and minerals. Due to this you should never take more than 1 – 2 teaspoons of spirulina powder a day, and always follow the instructions if you take spirulina in a tablet form.
5 Best Health Benefits of Spirulina
Spirulina can be used to help fight allergies.
Millions of people around the world suffer from allergies, they are frequent and they can be debilitating. Some people have allergies to pollen, and other people have allergies to dust mites. Spirulina cannot be used to completely get rid of an allergy, but it can be used to get rid of the symptoms that you suffer with due to your allergy.
One study found that spirulina actually stops the whole release of histamine in animals, histamine is directly responsible for the natural symptoms of allergic rhinitis(4). Studies that have been done on human participants have found that the consumption of spirulina gets rid of standard allergy symptoms, including sneezing and nasal congestion(5).
This means that the millions of people who are suffering from their allergies could take a daily spirulina supplement, making the symptoms of that their allergies present disappear.
Spirulina has the potential to fight cancer, although further research is ongoing.
Cancer is a terrifying thought, as it is responsible for a large number of human deaths. We all hope for a miracle cure. Yet, in reality, what we can find is a large number of superfoods that can help our bodies, either by preventing cancer or by helping during the overall treatment of cancer. Spirulina is definitely one of them.
One study found that people who chewed tobacco and had a daily dose of spirulina had a highly reduced number of precancerous lesions when compared to the placebo group that did not take a daily dose of spirulina(6). A number of other studies have also directly linked spirulina to precancerous lesions, including one that was done on a number of Indians who all took 1g of spirulina a day for an entire year(7). The study actually found that after the people had stopped taking their daily supplement of spirulina, the 45% of participants who were all experiencing complete regression again had lesions over the following year.
Spirulina can boost your immune system.
A number of studies have successfully proven that the consumption of spirulina has the ability to boost the immunity of our bodies, and the bodies of different species of animals. This consumption can also prevent the overall development of actual viral infections(8).
Spirulina contains a number of potent types of nutrients, including polysaccharides. These directly affect the ability that spirulina has to boost the immune system. Another one of these nutrients, phycocyanin, is the antioxidant that gives spirulina its unique color. It also increases the number of white blood cells that are present in your body, and these cells are directly responsible for producing the antibodies that protect your body from harmful bacteria.
Spirulina can be used to improve your cognitive function.
We have all heard of superfoods that claim to boost your cognitive function, and the vast majority of them have absolutely no scientific evidence to back this statement. Spirulina is different, as it does have the scientific evidence that it needs(9). This specific study actually involves 549 children, each of whom took 2g of spirulina a day for several months. It was found that their overall academic performance was raised by 10% during the time period.
There is a small chance that this increase was due to something else, for example, a placebo effect. But, it is theorized that the rise in academic performance was caused by L-tryptophan, an amino acid that can be found in spirulina. This specific amino acid has also been linked to preventing memory loss, due to the ability that spirulina has to reduce standard oxidative damage.
Spirulina can protect your brain.
Protecting your brain is important, as your brain is literally your lifeline. Without your brain, you would cease to exist. The antioxidants that are present in spirulina have the ability to eliminate free radicals and reduce inflammation(10). It is believed that this is why the regular consumption of spirulina adds an additional layer of protection to your brain. It has actually been linked to protecting the brain from diseases as dangerous and degenerative as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease(11).
How do you use Spirulina?
Spirulina can generally be purchased in one of two different forms, either as a supplement or as a powder. Taking the supplement is a rather simple task, as you just have to follow the instructions that come with your specific brand of spirulina supplement. Most of the time you will have to take just one capsule a day, depending on whether or not the capsule contains additional materials.
There is a lot that you can do with spirulina powder, the only real limit is your own imagination. It can be mixed with water, or added to a healthy smoothie, or even hidden in soup. It can also be added to a number of different dishes, including a standard stir fry.
If you find that you do not like the taste of spirulina powder, then you should go with the supplement. Spirulina has a flavor that the majority of people like, but some people do not.
What should you think about when you buy Spirulina?
It is highly advisable to try spirulina in a powdered form before moving on to purchase a daily supplement. This is simply because you can do a lot more with spirulina powder, and it can be easier to add to your diet on a daily basis. Spirulina contains a wide range of different nutrients and minerals, so it is a beneficial addition for almost everyone.
You should always thoroughly research the brand that you are looking to purchase your spirulina powder from beforehand, making sure that the brand is reputable. Unfortunately, a lot of companies jump on the bandwagon whenever they realize just how special a superfood is, which can leave a few products on the market that simply aren’t up to scratch. You should avoid spirulina products that claim to aid weight loss, as they will more than likely contain caffeine.
As a rule of thumb, avoid a product that says that it ‘includes’ spirulina. Instead, look for products that advertise themselves as consisting of 100% spirulina. You should also look for products that are organic, as that allows you to ensure that the correct standards were met during the cultivation of your product.
Is Spirulina Really a Superfood?
The term superfood is often met with skepticism, and it simply shouldn’t be. Spirulina is a superfood because of so many different factors, including the nutritional value that it can offer to anyone that consumes it.
We could all use an immune system boost, and a little bit more brain power would never be a bad thing. Spirulina can offer us all of that and more. It can also get rid of the symptoms that are associated with a number of modern allergies, meaning that you no longer have to rely on medication that is full of chemicals to be able to breathe through your own nose.
Spirulina is also an amazing product to have around in winter, where most of us could do with something to boost our immune systems while colds are flying around left right and center. The potent phycocyanin in spirulina can grant us the immunity that we need, enabling our own antibodies to fight off illnesses that we otherwise would not have been able to.
Spirulina is not a modern superfood; it is a superfood that has been around for centuries. The Aztecs consumed it to gain strength, as did the Africans. It was a superfood that was popular on different sides of the world, with people who understood how it actually made them feel. They listened to their bodies. As more research is done into spirulina, we will all learn just how much more it has to offer us.