As I continue with my superfood obsession, I’ve decided to write an article on one of my favorite health supplements – Spirulina. I’ve personally been taking spirulina for the past three years. Although I haven’t been as consistent as I’d like with this supplement, I have experienced increased stamina and overall sustained energy throughout the day (probably from the high B-complex vitamin content). My typical morning vitamin routine consists of a multi-vitamin and one serving of Hawaiian Spirulina.
Spirulina presents many potential health benefits, enough so for it to be considered as a superfood. This ancient food has been used for centuries and around the world by the Aztecs, Asian cultures, and tribes in Africa. Spirulina is believed to be one of the oldest organisms on earth, surviving for around 3 billion years. Today, spirulina can be found around the world in freshwater lakes, ponds, and streams and is still harvested in Lake Texcoco in Mexico, and Lake Chad, Africa. This bacteria thrives in warm climates and in alkaline water but has also been found in regions with extreme temperatures.
Spirulina is a part of the cyanobacterium family which means it is technically not an algae, although commonly referred to as one. It is extremely nutritious and is generally safe for consumption by humans and animals.
“Spirulina consumption significantly improved the symptoms and physical findings compared with placebo, including nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching”
Spirulina Nutrient Content
According to a study done by the University of Maryland Medical Center, spirulina is extremely high in protein and contains all the essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are amino acids that aren’t available in the human body but are needed for cell and tissue repair. It’s important that we get these amino acids into our diet on a daily basis.
Although it doesn’t contain all the vitamins needed daily, spirulina is a rich source of B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin A. According to the USDA, spirulina is also extremely high in potassium, magnesium, and iron. The high mineral content virtually trumps all other nutrient sources thought to be the standard. It also has high levels of calcium and phosphorus which are comparable to the amounts found in milk (calcium) and seeds (phosphorus).
- Potassium – 380% more than bananas
- Magnesium – 246% more than spinach
- Iron – 1,051% more than spinach
All estimates done based on a 100 gram serving
For the full nutrient profile visit the USDA Nutrient Database
Learn about the one superfood you’re NOT eating – The Moringa Tree
Potential Health Benefits
Before we get into the health benefits there is something truly remarkable about this bacteria, it’s extremely easy to digest. Spirulina is comprised of mucopolysaccharides which is easy for the body to break down. This is huge because it also increases the bioavailability of the nutrients and the speed at which it gets into the blood stream. This means that your body is able to utilize a high percentage of the nutrients and it assimilates into the blood stream quickly.
Many people claim extraordinary health benefits associated with spirulina. These benefits include strengthened immune system, improved eye health, improved digestion, anti-rhinitis, anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant properties, and anti-fatigue properties.
Immune System Health
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, early studies suggest spirulina aids the body in antibody production which helps to fight off infections thus boosting the immune system. Spirulina also promotes cell regeneration which helps the body to recover from injury and wounds to heal quicker.
Vitamin A helps to keep eyes healthy and is commonly associated with carrots. However, spirulina contains roughly 10x the amount of vitamin A per serving in comparison to carrots. High levels of zeaxanthin are also present in spirulina which helps to reduce the risk of cataracts and age related eye disorders.
Studies have found that spirulina helps to boost the growth of probiotics which helps to regulate the digestive system and decrease the amount of “bad” bacteria in the digestive system. It also breaks down easily which helps to alleviate stress on the digestive system. Spirulina also contains chlorophyll which helps to stabilize the secretion of digestive acids to help break down food.
A study done by Petros D. Karkos
Spirulina contains high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is one the most powerful anti-inflammatory agents. It is also known to ease PMS symptoms making it especially beneficial to women.
According to an article published in Nutrition and Cancer Journal in 1995 (I know, a little dated), 44 people in Africa were given spirulina as part of a study and 43 were given a placebo. In this particular region, mouth cancer is prevalent due to the chewing of the paan tobacco; a stimulant made from combining betel leaf and areca nut. In this study, 45% of the people given spirulina experienced decreased mouth legions (precursor to leukoplakia), whereas only 7% of the individuals given a placebo experienced a decrease in mouth legions.
Because of the high vitamin B content, individuals who consume spirulina regularly generally experience an increase of energy. B-vitamins help to convert food energy into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is what cells use for energy. By consuming B-vitamins along with food, you are providing your body with everything it needs to supply cellular energy.
Spirulina can be consumed raw, in tablet, or in powder form. Because of the possibility of contaminants and toxins, it is highly advised that you do not consume spirulina found in the wild. There are DIY videos and instructions on starting your own spirulina colonization but even then sterility may be a problem. For the easiest and safest access to spirulina it is suggested that you buy from a reputable company.
I have been taking spirulina for a few years now and I’ve only tried one brand. Although here in Hawaii, I can find this same spirulina supplement at stores like Costco or Whole Foods, I prefer to buy it off of amazon because it is usually a lot cheaper ($20 compared to $30).
Here are some tablet options:
Although I’ve never tried the powder form, many people enjoy using it as well. Especially if you are one who does not consume pills or tablets well. Here are some recommended powders:
- Hawaiian Spirulina Powder
- Organic Spirulina Powder
- California Grown Spirulina Powder (with recipe book)
Spirulina Powders w/ Other Ingredients
- Lean Green Superfood Powder | Greens Powder w/ Organic Spirulina, Wheatgrass, Chlorella
- Organic Green Superfood Powder
*It is advised that you consult your physician before using any supplemental products.
There is no doubt that spirulina can have amazing health benefits. Many individuals swear that the consistent use of spirulina has helped them combat chronic health issues which even with modern medicine can be difficult to treat. Although lab tests have shown the potential health benefits of this tiny bacteria, professionals believe there is still more clinical tests needed before this can ultimately be a proven alternative medicine. Nevertheless, cultures have been using this superfood for centuries and will no doubt continue to do so. From my personal experience I can say that spirulina has become a regular part of my diet and will continue as such.
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Do you take a spirulina supplement? What has your experience been? Leave a comment below!
Author: Brennan Young
Thank you for stopping by! I started The-Urban-Farmer.com to share my love for creative gardening, healthy living, and home DIY’s. If you enjoy the content on this site, I encourage you to follow The-Urban-farmer.com via social media (below). I’d also love to hear from you so feel free to contact me!