Spirulina is an organism that grows in both fresh and salt water.
I don’t like using the term super food, though it could certainly be applied to Spirulina. Though not technically an herb (actually a cyanobacteria), it boasts its fair share of health promoting properties.
This tiny alga is packed with nutrients. A single tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains:
- Protein: 4 grams
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 11% of the RDA
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 4% of the RDA
- Copper: 21% of the RDA
- Iron: 11% of the RDA
- It also contains decent amounts of magnesium, potassium and manganese and small amounts of almost every other nutrient that you need.
In addition, the same amount holds only 20 calories and 1.7 grams of digestible carbs. Gram for gram, spirulina may be the single most nutritious food on the planet.
A tablespoon (7 grams) of spirulina provides a small amount of fat — around 1 gram — including both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in an approximately 1.5–1.0 ratio.
The quality of the protein in spirulina is considered excellent — comparable to eggs. It gives all the essential amino acids that you need.
It is often claimed that spirulina contains vitamin B12, but this is false. It has pseudovitamin B12, which has not been shown to be effective in humans.
What is it?
Spirulina is a natural “algae” (cyanbacteria) powder that is incredibly high in protein and a good source of antioxidants, B-vitamins and other nutrients. When harvested correctly from non-contaminated ponds and bodies of water, it is one of the most potent nutrient sources available. It is largely made up of protein and essential amino acids, and is typically recommended to vegetarians for its high natural iron content. It is often touted for its high B-12 content, though there is a lot of debate about if this particular form is a complete and absorbable form of B-12 and I don’t recommend it completely in place of animal products.
The high concentration of protein and iron also makes it ideal during pregnancy, after surgery, or anytime the immune system
Powerful Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Oxidative damage can harm your DNA and cells. This damage can drive chronic inflammation, which contributes to cancer and other diseases.
Spirulina is a fantastic source of antioxidants, which can protect against oxidative damage. Its main active component is called phycocyanin. This antioxidant substance also gives spirulina its unique blue-green color.
Phycocyanin can fight free radicals and inhibit production of inflammatory signaling molecules, providing impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Phycocyanin is the main active compound in spirulina. It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Improves Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is characterized by inflammation in your nasal passageways. It is triggered by environmental allergens, such as pollen, animal hair or even wheat dust.
Spirulina is a popular alternative treatment for symptoms of allergic rhinitis, and there is evidence that it can be effective.
In one study in 127 people with allergic rhinitis, 2 grams per day dramatically reduced symptoms like nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching. Spirulina supplements are very effective against allergic rhinitis, reducing various symptoms.
May Be Effective Against Anemia
There are many different forms of anemia. The most common one is characterized by a reduction in hemoglobin or red blood cells in your blood.
Anemia is fairly common in older adults, leading to prolonged feelings of weakness and fatigue.
In a study in 40 older people with a history of anemia, spirulina supplements increased the hemoglobin content of red blood cells and improved immune function.
One study suggests that spirulina can reduce anemia in older adults, though more research is needed.
May Improve Muscle Strength and Endurance
Exercise-induced oxidative damage is a major contributor to muscle fatigue.
Certain plant foods have antioxidant properties that can help athletes and physically active individuals minimize this damage.
Spirulina appears beneficial, as some studies pointed to improved muscle strength and endurance. In two studies, spirulina enhanced endurance, significantly increasing the time it took for people to become fatigued.
Spirulina may provide multiple exercise benefits, including enhanced endurance and increased muscle strength.
It may improve your levels of blood lipids, suppress oxidation, reduce blood pressure and lower blood sugar.
While more research is needed before any strong claims can be made, spirulina may be one of the few superfoods worthy of the title.
needs a boost.
Though it does taste like pond scum, Spirulina has some great health-boosting qualities:
- Spirulina is 65% protein and amino acids including the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which has gotten a lot of attention for its anti-inflammatory properties, especially when taken with other quality Omega-3 supplements likeFermented Cod Liver Oil. (I suspect that the benefits of GLA in Spirulina are even more than what the studies have found since these studies often use vegetable oils for their GLA source, and the other inflammatory compounds in vegetable oils can interfere with the anti-inflammatory ability.) It contains all essential amino acids. GLA is difficult to find in a food source and normally has to be created by the body. Spirulina is one of the few foods with a natural GLA content.
- Spirulina contains Omega 3-,6 and 9s and is especially high in Omega-3s.
- Spirulina is extremely high in Chlorophyll, which helps remove toxins from the blood and boost the immune system.
- Spirulina has a very high concentration of bio-available iron and is excellent during pregnancy and for those with anemia and will not cause constipation. The proteins and nutrients in Spirulina are very bioavailable and easy to absorb.
- Spirulina is a great source of other nutrients including (according to Wikipedia): “Spirulina contains vitamins B-1(thiamine), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3(nicotinamide), B-6 (pyridoxine), B-9 (folic acid), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin E. It is also a source of potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc. Spirulina contains many pigments which may be beneficial and bioavailable”.
- This Spirulina was tested by an independent laboratory and found to have an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) of over 24,000 which is 4x the ORAC score of blueberries. The ORAC score is generally used to measure antioxidant ability and concentration in different foods.
- Spirulina is also incredibly high in calcium with over 26 times the calcium in milk, making it excellent for children, the elderly and during pregnancy.
- Some research has suggested that Spirulina may be helpful for those with allergies and allergic reactions.
- Spirulina’s phosphorus content makes it helpful as part of a tooth remineralization regimen.
- Emerging evidence suggests that it binds with radioactive isotopes and may be useful for radioactivity exposure or radiation therapy.
- The protein in Spirulina is highly usable and has a net protein utilization rate of between 50-61%
- Spirulina can bind with heavy metals in the body and help remove them.
- Spirulina can increase fat burning during exercise.
How to Consume Spirulina
When choosing Spirulina, make sure to choose one that is organic, as others can be contaminated or have nitrate compounds as additives.
It does taste like pond water though, so many people prefer to take it as capsule supplements.
You can also mix into water and drink straight, though many people have trouble with this. The phosphorous makes it useful for the tooth remineralizing regimen, and it is best taken with an Omega-3 source like fermented cod liver oil. It’s anti-inflammatory properties have been helpful to some with joint pain or other types of inflammation.
Cautions About Spirulina
Those with PKU should consult with a doctor before taking, as it does contain that amino acid. Those on any type of anti-coagulation medicine should consult with a doctor before beginning (or stopping) taking Spirulina. Some people with autoimmune disease do not do well with Spirulina. If you are pregnant, nursing or have any medical condition, check with your doctor first!