What is spirulina?
Arthrospira platensis (the type of Spirulina we consume) is a type of cyanobacteria AKA blue-green algae. Cyanobacteria are nutrient rich single celled bacteria and are the true engines of photosynthesis, powering this ability even within green plants!
Spirulina grows in both saltwater and freshwater and is cultivated for use as a dietary supplement as well as whole food.
What nutrients are in spirulina?
Per single serving, many nutritionists consider spirulina to be one of the most nutrient-dense substances on earth.
One tablespoon (7 grams) of spirulina contains:
- 4 grams of protein (4% of daily value)
- 11% of daily value of vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- 15% of daily value of vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 4% of daily value of vitamin B3 (niacin)
- 21% of your daily supply of copper
- 11% of your daily supply of iron
Spirulina also contains key minerals such as magnesium, potassium, manganese, as well as trace amounts of almost every other mineral your body needs to function properly.
Even better, spirulina contains key fatty acid (omega-3 and omega-6) as well as a complete amino acid profile, making it a great source of vegan protein. This is why people mix Spirulina with smoothies, pasta, water, in fact, just about any food they like, and its benefits shine through.
What are the benefits of spirulina?
Spirulina has many benefits due to its dense nutrient profile and plenty of trace minerals.
Researchers in a 2007 study noted that after 1 week of taking a spirulina supplement, ordinary people (not elite athletes who were already healthy) noticed less fatigue during workouts. The supplement worked by allowing people to utilize energy better during workouts, probably due to the protein and B-vitamins in spirulina, both of which help maintain energy levels in the body, particularly during times of exercise. it was also noted for lowering mental fatigue in some subjects.
Spirulina, as a powder, is easily absorbed by your body, which means the nutrients are readily available for use. The supplement was taken as a powder three times a day.
Lowering Blood Pressure
Scientists looked at 230 test subjects from five different studies to look at the effects of spirulina on blood pressure.
Doses of the superfood ranged from 1 to 8 grams per day over 2 to 12 weeks.
Spirulina contains phycocyanin, an antioxidant and substance that can indirectly increase nitric oxide in the walls of arteries, which makes them more flexible resulting in reduced blood pressure as well as improved blood flow.
Over the course of the studies, the scientist concluded that consuming more than 2 grams of spirulina a day for 12 weeks or more can lower systolic blood pressure, by as much as 4.6 points.
Researchers examined 5 studies in which spirulina was used as a possible weight loss supplement. Subjects consumed between 1 and 4.5 grams of spirulina daily over the course of 6 to 12 weeks.
The average weight loss of the subjects was close to 4 pounds. It appears that 2 grams of spirulina per day was the optimal amount, and people with higher BMIs tended to lose more weight.
Taiwanese researchers studied spirulina in animals as a virus inhibitor. They exposed influenza viruses to various strengths of spirulina. The algae tended to reduce the spread of the virus in test tubes.
Then, they introduced a deadly form of influenza into the noses of mice. Some mice were given spirulina 6 hours after the flu, and some a few days later.
The higher the dose of spirulina, the greater the survival rate of the mice. Comparing to humans the amounts of spirulina given to the mice equate to anywhere from 0.4g to 2.0g per day which would make it a tiny part of a balanced diet.
Researchers suspected that the compound phycocyanobilin in spirulina inhibited the replication of viruses, which was further demonstrated in laboratory tests.
Rich in Antioxidants
Spirulina is a great source of antioxidants, which can protect against damage to your body’s cells. Phycocyanin is the main antioxidant in spirulina, which has been observed to help fight against inflammation and boost your body’s natural immunity. Phycocyanin is also the compound that gives spirulina its beautiful blue-green color.
Spirulina is a type of cyanobacteria that is often referred to as blue-green algae that is nutrient dense and incredibly healthy.
It may improve your energy levels, suppress oxidation (antioxidant benefits), reduce blood pressure, provide support for weight management and your immune system.
While more research is needed before any strong claims can be made, spirulina may be one of the few superfoods worthy of the title.
If you want to give spirulina a try, it’s widely available online and in health food stores