Spirulina is a nutritional powerhouse. With up to 70% protein by dry weight, it’s one of the world’s highest-quality vegetable protein sources. It also boasts an impressive array of other nutrients, like essential fatty acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.
Spirulina is a blue-green alga that grows naturally in freshwaters. It is often sold in powder or tablet form and used as a dietary supplement.
Spirulina offers many health benefits, including improved cardiovascular function, cognitive capacity, and blood sugar checks. Spirulina may also boost energy levels and help to protect against exercise-induced oxidative stress.
Read on to get a better idea of this superfood, what it can do, how to use it, and more.
What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a unicellular, circular-celled, non-cellulose blue-green algae with high vitamin, mineral, and protein amounts. It is often touted as a superfood due to its many health benefits.
The taste may not appeal to some, especially first-timers. Now, what does spirulina taste like?
Spirulina has a mild, earthy, cheesy taste that is sometimes reminiscent of seaweed. It is often added to smoothies, juices, and other beverages to boost their nutrient content.
Raw and fresh spirulina is the best to consume, as it retains the most nutrients. However, spirulina powder and supplements are available and can be easier to add to your diet.
And, where does spirulina come from? Many countries rear spirulina, including North American regions, with enormous demand. However, Malaysia, India, and China are the leading spirulina exporters.
Nutrients in Spirulina
Spirulina is a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It also contains phycocyanin, a pigment that has several potential health benefits.
Protein: Spirulina is rich in protein, providing about 50-70% of its dry weight. This level is higher than most other plant-based protein sources.
Minerals: Does spirulina have magnesium? Spirulina is rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, manganese, zinc, potassium, sodium, and selenium. Spirulina is an especially significant iron source. The iron in spirulina makes up about 25% of an adult male’s RDI and 11% for a non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding woman.
Antioxidants: Spirulina contains high levels of the antioxidant phycocyanin. This pigment gives spirulina its blue-green coloring. Phycocyanin may help in many ways due to its anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.
People with allergies and sensitivities must be careful while taking supplements. Two of the biggest concern are iodine and gluten. So, is spirulina gluten-free?
Yes, spirulina is gluten-free. People with celiac disease or those that are gluten-sensitive can consume it without having to worry about any adverse effects.
The iodine in spirulina makes it unsuitable for those with sensitivities to this mineral. However, if you have no issue with iodine, spirulina provides about 10% of the RDI for most adults.
- 15% RDI Vit B2
- 4.02g protein
- 4% RDI Vit B3
- Copper at 21% RDI
- 11% RDI Vit B1
What Vitamins Is Spirulina High In?
Spirulina contains many vitamins like A, B2, B5, B3, B6, B9, K, and E. It especially abounds in the B vitamins like B2 and B1. Spirulina is one of the best suppliers of vitamin K, containing about 75 mcg in a 3g serving. As a result, it provides about 94% of the vitamin K RDI.
What about boosted calcium and phosphorus absorption levels? Does spirulina have vitamin D to help with this? Sadly, there’s no vitamin D in spirulina.
Benefits and Uses of Spirulina
Additionally, spirulina can help to improve pregnancy by reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and improving maternal and infant health. The alga may also help acne treatment and psoriasis by reducing inflammation and promoting healing.
Spirulina may help increase testosterone levels, which can boost energy and libido.
Other potential spirulina advantages include:
- Enhancing immune function
- Increasing energy
- Aiding in digestion
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving cholesterol levels
How To Take Spirulina
Are you withholding from food and wondering, “does spirulina break a fast?” Spirulina does not break a fast; it only supplies around 25 calories in a serving. Nonetheless, it’s high in nutrients and can help to increase energy levels and promote weight loss.
The preferred dose is 1-2 grams of spirulina for kids under 10. People older than this can take 3-5 grams daily, though many can extend to 10 grams without issues.
The amount of spirulina you take each day depends on your needs. Minimize or stop intake in case of side effects and speak with a health care professional to determine the best dose for you.
The best time to take spirulina is in the morning, before breakfast. This time allows your body to absorb many of the nutrients it needs for the day.
Find a cool, dark place for storing spirulina. There is no need to refrigerate it.
Who Should Not Take Spirulina
Is spirulina bad for you? There are a few groups of people likely to experience the dangers of spirulina. These include those with phenylketonuria, autoimmune disease, bleeding disorders, and those taking anticoagulant medication.
Those with phenylketonuria cannot metabolize phenylalanine, an amino acid in spirulina. So, taking it can lead to a harmful build-up of phenylalanine in the body.
Autoimmune disease sufferers should avoid spirulina as it can exacerbate symptoms.
Those with bleeding disorders or taking anticoagulant medication should avoid spirulina as it can increase the risk of bleeding.
How Is Spirulina Grown
Spirulina is most often grown in large, shallow ponds at a consistent temperature, usually between 32 and 37 degrees Celsius. The pH of the water during onset is around 8.5. The ponds often have coverings to protect the spirulina from contamination by outside sources.
Spirulina thrives in a solution of water and ample nutrients. Regular pond agitation to keep the spirulina suspended ensures proper aeration and optimal, non-clumpy growth.
Once the spirulina reaches a specific density, harvesting and drying occur.
Growing spirulina at home is simple as you don’t need much space. This plant does well in glass containers next to sunlit areas, and it’s simpler to control indoor conditions.
Although spirulina is an excellent supplement, it has shortcomings and may not suit everyone. Some of the best options to try are chlorella, chlorophyll, wheatgrass, and moringa.
The green-colored chlorella resembles spirulina in many things and might be the closest supplement alternative to the latter. Like spirulina, it is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
However, chlorella contains higher levels of iron, magnesium, copper, vitamins A, B2, and more. Chlorella is an excellent immune enhancer and detoxifier.
Moringa is a tree native to Africa, tropical America, and Asia. Its leaves are highly nutritious and contain high levels of vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.
You can take the leaves fresh, dried, or powdered. Additionally, moringa oil is popular in cosmetics and skincare products.
Wheatgrass is a type of grass that is often juiced or blended and consumed as a health tonic. It is rich in chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
This grass is also a good source of fiber. It enhances digestion, immunity, and detox functions.
Chlorophyll is a potent antioxidant shown to have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and detoxifying properties. Additionally, it is a good source of vitamins A, C, and E, plus iron, magnesium, and potassium.
Spirulina is a unicellular, bluish-green plant thriving in protein, vitamins, mineral supplies, and more. It is often marketed as a superfood or dietary supplement and is available in powder, tablet, or capsule form.
Spirulina is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, making it a popular dietary supplement. It’s a good source of protein, iron, and vitamins A, B2, B1, and K. It also contains magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
The alga has several potential benefits, like immunity enhancement, improving cardiovascular health, and aiding in weight loss.
Though generally safe to consume, the danger of spirulina from misguided use is potentially getting side effects like nausea, diarrhea, or headaches.