I HAVE written about spirulina many times, but honestly it’s a favourite super food that I think should be in every cupboard! Spirulina is actually super serious as a health supplement, but what exactly is it?
It is a type of bacteria called cyanobacterium, which is often referred to as blue-green algae and it can benefit your body and health in an almost mind-boggling number of ways. If the idea of putting algae into your body grosses you out, well, I would say turn away now, but you really shouldn’t.
Spirulina is a bonafide super food with a list of benefits and nutrients so long, it seems too good to be true. This super powered kind of algae is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and has been used as a food supplement for over 20 years here in the UK.
Spirulina is incredibly nutrient-dense and might actually be the most nutritious food on the planet. In 1974, spirulina was actually named the ‘best food for the future’ at the united world food conference.
It’s touted as an incredible source of protein—it’s between 55 and 75 per cent protein and serves as a fantastic source of that basic dietary need for vegans and people without access to other forms of protein.
Spirulina can be a great addition to a vegan diet considering the iron and B12 that may be naturally low in these diets. This diet-friendly algae contains high levels of many nutrients including calcium, potassium, B Vitamins and iron. Not only does it have high amounts of many micro nutrients, but it also contains amino acids, which are important components of proteins necessary for growth and repair in our bodies.
A single teaspoon of spirulina contains four grams of protein, as well as 11 per cent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B1 (thiamin), 15 per cent of the RDA of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), four per cent of the RDA of vitamin B3 (niacin), 21 per cent of the RDA of copper, and 11 per cent of the RDA of iron.
In addition to all of that, spirulina also contains significant amounts of magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Magnesium plays a pivotal role in helping to regulate muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure in the body, as well as making protein, bone, and DNA. Potassium, which is a type of electrolyte, aids in nerve function and muscle contraction and it regulates your heartbeat. And, finally, manganese helps your body develop and function properly throughout your life.
In addition to being ridiculously nutrient-rich, spirulina is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. You’ve probably heard the term ‘antioxidant’ thrown around a lot, but you might not know why antioxidants are so important. Basically, they combat oxidative stress, which has the potential to harm our cells and even our DNA. Spirulina’s antioxidant properties are thanks to a substance called phycocyanin, which is also responsible for giving spirulina its vibrant blue-green colour.
Spirulina has also been shown to lower “bad” cholesterol and, in some cases, even raise “good” cholesterol and may also be helpful for people with diabetes. One small study discovered patients with type 2 diabetes found that two grams of spirulina daily helped reduce blood sugar levels considerably.
This impressive algae also appears to have anti-cancer effects and has been shown to reduce cancer occurrence and the size of tumour cells, as well as being linked to reducing precancerous lesions in the mouth.
Spirulina’s benefits can also extend to allergy sufferers. Two grams of spirulina a day can help reduce common rhinitis symptoms, like nasal congestion and sneezing. It has also been used as a treatment for elderly patients suffering from anemia and may help increase muscle strength, among younger people and athletes.
One of spirulina’s most impressive and wide-reaching benefits, however, is as a nutrition supplement for malnourished people, particularly children and patients with HIV and AIDS. In a pilot study on the use of spirulina to treat malnourished children in central Africa, a dose of just ten grams per day seemed to significantly and quickly improve the nutritional status of undernourished children. Spirulina is officially recommended as a treatment for malnutrition by the world health organisation.
When purchasing spirulina, make sure it’s from trusted brands and sources.