Spirulina is a microscopic algae that is cultivated across the world because of it's noted health benefits. When observed through a microscope spirulina appears in long, thin, blue-green threads.
One of the first questions asked is what spirulina tastes like. Most people liken the smell and taste of spirulina to that of seaweed. This makes perfect sense since seaweed is a marine algae as well.
There are over 25,000 different species of algae – including both spirulina and seaweed. Algae like seaweed is classified as macroalgae, whereas spirulina is a microalgae that is best seen through a microscope.
Spirulina contains roughly 60% protein and provides a complete profile of protein and amino acids, as well as over a hundred other valuable nutrients. It has slightly lower amounts of amino acids (such as methionine, cysteine and lysine) than typical protein sources like eggs, meat or milk but it is superior to typical plant protein such as those found in legumes (like peanuts, for example).
Spirulina is often named as the most complete food source available and is a “superfood” in the health benefits it delivers. These benefits include:
- Reduces the risk of cancer. Spirulina ishe richest source of beta-carotene and provides a full spectrum of 10 mixed carotenoids – half of those are orange carotenoids (alpha, beta, and gamma), while the other half are yellow xanthophylls. Beta-carotene rich foods have been shown in studies to reduce the risk of cancer, and the synergy of the carotenoids provide powerful antioxidant benefits.
- Powerful anti-aging properties. The beta-carotenes in spirulina are 10 times more powerful than those of carrots and the antioxidant effects can slow the aging process. This can include improving your eye health, vision, immune system, skin and hair, and nerve tissue (due to the high levels of vitamin B12 in spirulina).
- Can be used in a healthy diet. Just 10g of spirulina will provide you with 70% of the daily recommended dose for the nutrient iron, 3-4 times the daily dose for vitamin A (beta-carotene), B complex, D and K. It doesn't contain vitamin C, surprisingly, but it does increase the potency of the vitamin. There are so many benefits to your diet that come from supplementing with spirulina:
- Useful as a protein replacement for fatty/cholesterol rich meats or dairy products – for vegetarians and vegans.
- Rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – which is found in breast milk and is shown to develop healthier babies.
- Helps the body to absorb nutrients when it loses the ability to absorb food. For example, in malnourished or impoverished communities.
- Builds muscle mass and increases stamina in athletes. The complete protein profile of spirulina allows athletes to recover from training and achieve a lean muscle mass and increases stamina and immunity from the toughest of training regimens.
- Aids digestion by stimulating lactobacillus and bifidobacteria floras in your digestive tract and cleanses by removing toxins like mercury.
- Helps to fight diseases. Because spirulina contains over 100 nutrients, it has been shown in numerous studies to help prevent multiple diseases and ailments.
- Antioxidant properties fight free radical cells which has been shown to defend against cancer and other cell-damaging diseases.
- Lowers the levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol) to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, strokes and hardening of the arteries.
- The digestive and bowel benefits of spirulina reduce the risk of e-coli and Candida yeast infections too.
Spirulina side effects
Spirulina is a completely natural and safe to use health supplement with very minimal side effects. Most of which can be prevented simply by taking the correct dose. There are however a few side effects that may be experienced:
- Fever and restlessness.
- Blackish green waste material.
- Gas and stomach aches.
- Dizziness, nausea and thirst.
- Itching skin, rashes and breakouts.
Each of these side effects to spirulina occur mostly due to the actual benefits they deliver and are in most cases very mild and less unpleasant than they may appear.
How to take spirulina
Spirulina is available in both powdered and tablet form and each provide different doses. The tablet form of spirulina usually contains around 500mg per table, and the recommended dosage would be 4-6 tablets throughout the day.
If you were to take the powdered form of spirulina instead, one spoonful can provide about 3-5g. This might be a more affordable option for some people, however the taste is not to everyone's liking.
|Latin name||Common names||Properties||Uses||Treatments|
|Arthrospira platensis||Spirulina, microalgae, phytoplankton||antioxidant, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory||Antioxidant properties, lower cholesterol, improves vision, boosts immune system, improve heart/respiratory health, digestive health||AIDS, HIV, Cancer, HIV, athletic nutrition, digestive and gastrointestinal health, boosting the immune system|
Spirulina nutritional facts
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
|Energy||1213 kJ (290 kcal)|
|#8211; Sugars||3.1 g #8211; Dietary fiber||3.6 g|
|#8211; saturated||2.65 g #8211; monounsaturated||0.675 g|
|#8211; polyunsaturated||2.08 g Protein||57.47 g #8211; Tryptophan||0.929 g|
|#8211; Threonine||2.97 g #8211; Isoleucine||3.209 g|
|#8211; Leucine||4.947 g #8211; Lysine||3.025 g|
|#8211; Methionine||1.149 g #8211; Cystine||0.662 g|
|#8211; Phenylalanine||2.777 g #8211; Tyrosine||2.584 g|
|#8211; Valine||3.512 g #8211; Arginine||4.147 g|
|#8211; Histidine||1.085 g #8211; Alanine||4.515 g|
|#8211; Aspartic acid||5.793 g #8211; Glutamic acid||8.386 g|
|#8211; Glycine||3.099 g #8211; Proline||2.382 g|
|#8211; Serine||2.998 g Water||4.68 g Vitamin A equiv.||29 μg (4%) #8211; beta-carotene||342 μg (3%)|
|#8211; lutein and zeaxanthin||0 μg Thiamine (vit. B1)||2.38 mg (207%) Riboflavin (vit. B2)||3.67 mg (306%) Niacin (vit. B3)||12.82 mg (85%) Pantothenic acid (B5)||3.48 mg (70%) Vitamin B6||0.364 mg (28%) Folate (vit. B9)||94 μg (24%) Vitamin B12||0 μg (0%) Choline||66 mg (13%) Vitamin C||10.1 mg (12%) Vitamin D||0 IU (0%) Vitamin E||5 mg (33%) Vitamin K||25.5 μg (24%) Calcium||120 mg (12%) Iron||28.5 mg (219%) Magnesium||195 mg (55%) Manganese||1.9 mg (90%) Phosphorus||118 mg (17%) Potassium||1363 mg (29%) Sodium||1048 mg (70%) Zinc||2 mg (21%|
Source: USDA Database entry
Where to buy spirulina
Below is an updated list of sources you can use to buy spirulina online.