Why Is Spirulina So Super?

Why Is Spirulina So Super?

     Superfoods have gained quite a bit of attention over the years in the health and wellness industry but they tend to come and go in terms of popularity. Firstly, what exactly are superfoods? Superfoods are foods that are mostly plant and fish based. They are nutritionally dense foods that are packed with a ton of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, antioxidants and protein. Essentially your one stop shop for giving your body everything it needs - hence the name “superfood”! 

What is Spirulina?

Spirulina is a superfood that has maintained its spotlight for about 20 years now and is considered to be a super serious health supplement. Spirulina (Arthrospira Species) or blue-green algae was initially classified as a plant but has since been reclassified as a type of bacteria called cyanobacteria. Would you believe that it is one of the oldest organisms on earth! One of the great things about spirulina is that it does not contain a cellulose cell wall so it easier for human bodies to digest and get the most from it. Spirulina has become a nutraceutical food with diverse beneficial effects on many diseases due to its high contents of nutrients, like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that contributes to its laundry list of health benefits. Some health conditions that Spirulina can be used for include: hypoglycemia, high cholesterol, malnutrition, allergies, high blood pressure, liver disease, ADHD and heavy metal toxicity. 

Where Does Spirulina Come From?

Spirulina naturally grows in high-salt alkaline water reservoirs in subtropical and tropical areas including: United States, Mexico, Asia and Central Africa.  It is able to grow in extreme conditions in which other water-dwelling organisms may not be able to survive in. Since it is quite easy to grow and harvest, it is considered to be a very sustainable type of food. 

What Are The Main Nutrients Found in Spirulina?

  • Protein
    • Spirulina is 70% protein
    • It is also a complete protein source since it contains all of the essential amino acids and is considered superior to any other plant protein source (ex. buckwheat, soy, hemp and chia seeds)
    • Its high protein content makes it a great snacking food as it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day (Great for hypoglycemia!)
  • Healthy Fat
    • Spirulina is about 1.5-12% fat, specifically Omega 3 (EPA/DHA) and Omega 6 fats. 
  • B Vitamins
    • Spirulina contains B Vitamins: Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, vitamin B3, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B9. The B vitamins are super important for energy production and detoxification processes in the body!
  • Carotenoids
    • Spirulina contains carotenoids like: beta carotene and zeaxanthin, which are considered to be antioxidants. It actually contains the highest amount of carotenoids of any other fruits and veggies and are considered to be the most beneficial components.
    • Beta-carotene is quite heavily researched for cancer. It is estimated that most people don’t get enough of it. It is found in many foods like, spinach, papaya, broccoli and squash. The great thing about beta-carotene is it does not have a risk of toxicity in the body, like Vitamin A does. It only converts what it needs to Vitamin A in the body.
    • Zeaxanthin is a pro-oxidant that is great for eye health.
  • Phycocyanin
    • Phycocyanin is one of the unique components of spirulina. It is what gives spirulina its green colour! Phycocyanin is one of the greatest antioxidants out there! Phycocyanin aids the liver and kidneys during detoxification which can help to remove heavy metals from the body.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Spirulina?

  • Spirulina & Chronic Fatigue
    • Spirulina is high in essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids can be absorbed by many human cells and is used for energy production
    • Spirulina also promotes healthy gut flora through increasing the amount of Lactobacillus in the intestine. This can aid in the production and absorption of Vitamin B6 which is a very important vitamin used in energy production.
    • Dose: 3 grams a day
  • Spirulina & Allergies
    • Spirulina contains anti-inflammatory properties through blocking the release of histamine from mast cells. Histamine is the culprit when it comes to those typical allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy and scratchy throat. So when histamine is blocked, allergy symptoms can improve
    • It works to stimulate the immune system towards Th1 immunity which is why it is helpful in allergies
    • Dose: 2g/day
  • Spirulina & Lowering Cholesterol
    • Spirulina is able to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol), while raising HDL (“good cholesterol) due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects
    • Dose: 1g/day
  • Spirulina & Gut Health
    • Spirulina promotes gut health through promoting the growth of the good bacteria, Lactobacillus which can aid in digestion and absorption of other nutrients
  • Spirulina & Good Source of Nutrients
    • Spirulina contains iron, carotenoids, Vitamin B1, vitamin B2, iodine, selenium, zinc, manganese and chromium. It may be beneficial to people who are deficient in any one of these above mentioned nutrients
  • Spirulina & Detoxification
    • Spirulina promotes phase II of liver detoxification. This phase of liver detox helps the body eliminate accumulated toxins. 

Safety of Spirulina?

Spirulina is generally considered safe for human consumption. Do keep in mind that Spirulina, like any blue-green algae can be contaminated with heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, lead or arsenic. It also contains microcystins that are reported in the blue-green algae species especially when grown and harvested in uncontrolled locations like open lakes. Microcystins accumulate in the liver possibly causing liver cell damage. So quality control in the growth and process of Spirulina to avoid contamination is mandatory in order to guarantee safety of Spirulina products. It is therefore important to purchase spirulina from a trusted source and trusted brand. Do not exceed 15 grams a day.
Also keep in mind to take spirulina blue-green algae away from iron supplements or iron containing foods! Spirulina is an iron chelating agent which can decrease the absorption of iron from food and supplementation. Lastly, blue-green algae is known to stimulate immune function which can theoretically worsen autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and multiple sclerosis. 

How Can You Use Spirulina?

The easiest and tastiest way to add Spirulina to your daily routine is to mix it in with other foods. Adding a spoon full of spirulina to water and drinking it can often times discourage people from drinking it due to the pungent taste. While, adding it to smoothies, foods and dips can make the taste of it less strong and more enjoyable while reaping the benefits of this amazing superfood! 
Spirulina is a safe food supplement without significant side effects and huge potential benefits to health! Fall is a great time to start adding some spirulina into your daily routine for a great supply of vital nutrients, protein and some extra detoxification support!
** Disclaimer: The advice is in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.