If you’re into superfoods, or frequent your local health food store, you’ve probably at least heard about spirulina. This blue-green algae is a freshwater plant – in fact, it’s the very same algae that can be found on the surface of the pond. While that might not seem very appetizing, there are practically an endless number of reasons you should eat it, at least in its final form of spirulina, which is completely safe.
Similar to other sea vegetables, like kelp and chlorella, as far as its nutritional makeup, spirulina is grown around the world, from Hawaii to Mexico and Africa. Although you may have only seen it as an ingredient in a green smoothie or other superfood beverages, energy bars and natural supplements, you should really be taking a spoonful of it every day, due its incredibly powerful nutritional profile – to date, there are about 1,200 peer-reviewed, scientific articles that have revealed its wide range of health benefits.
Although many people across the globe have consumed spirulina as part of their diets for decades, it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that it was declared one of the “best foods for the future” at the World Food Conference, where at the time, it was known as a food used to specifically help fight malnutrition in areas of the world where food was scarce. Eventually, it became a main fixture for the diets of NASA’s astronauts to use in space. Once word got out that NASA was using it for its superior nutritional profile, it’s popularity began to grow.
Spirulina has a deeply rich, blue-green hue that’s unlike anything else – the color is the result of a specific pigment known as phycocyanin. It’s the phycocyanin that is primarily responsible for spirulina’s numerous health benefits, including an extraordinarily high antioxidant count which allows it to fight off free radicals that can damage the body’s cells and ultimately lead to a host of diseases, illnesses, and premature aging.
So how exactly can it benefit your health and well-being? Let’s look at the many ways a spoonful of spirulina a day can benefit you.
1. A powerful energy boost
There are few people these days, in our busy, modern world, that couldn’t use an extra boost of energy, and spirulina offers just that. Due to its many nutrients, including B1, it can naturally increase energy levels. According to celebrity physician Dr. Oz, if you combine spirulina with lime juice, it enhances energy as the mixture helps to unlock sugar from our cells to boost metabolic energy. Dr. Oz recommends combining a teaspoon of spirulina powder with 12 ounces of fresh, organic lime juice and then freezing the mixture in ice cube trays for a healthy kick of energy.
2. Supporting brain health
Taking a spoonful of spirulina a day is believed to help protect the brain from degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. One study compared spirulina to foods rich in antioxidants like blueberries and spinach, which are well-known to cause neuroprotective effects because of their ability to lower inflammation and eliminate free radicals. Research has also shown it doesn’t only protect the brain from degeneration, but it also helps sharpen your mind, with some findings that suggest taking it daily can even help increase productivity and focus, as well as to decrease ADHD symptoms.
3. Heavy metal detoxification, particularly arsenic
Chronic arsenic toxicity is a problem worldwide, and according to the World Health Organization, the U.S. is one of the nations that is most severely affected, although it’s an even more serious issue in the Far East, including India, Bangladesh, and Taiwan, where citizens are consuming a high level of arsenic in their drinking water. The effects can be devastating and can be seen even years after exposure. It’s initially associated with abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea, but peripheral neuropathy and encephalopathy has been linked to it as well. In Bangladesh, as many as 3% of the population is said to exhibit signs of arsenic poisoning, but after giving patients affected a spirulina extract combined with zinc, the participants were found to have a 47% decrease of arsenic in their bodies.
Spirulina is also very high in chlorophyll, which helps remove toxins from the blood while strengthening the immune system.
4. Improving muscle strength and endurance
As one of the major contributors to fatigue in muscles is exercise-induced oxidative damage, consuming plant foods that are rich in antioxidants like spirulina can prevent the problem, or at a minimum, limit the damage. Spirulina has also been found in studies to be beneficial for improving both endurance and muscle strength.
5. Lowering the risk of cancer
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports: “A number of animal and test tube studies suggest that spirulina increases production of antibodies, infection-fighting proteins, and other cells that improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic illnesses such as cancer.”
Research from the Czech Republic noted that “Spirulina is (also) rich in tetrapyrrolic compounds closely related to bilirubin molecule, a potent antioxidant, and antiproliferative agent.” When tested on human pancreatic cells, the scientists found that “Compared to untreated cells, experimental therapeutics significantly decreased proliferation of human pancreatic cancer cell lines in vitro in a dose-dependent manner.”
Basically, that proved that adding spirulina to one’s diet can help prevent a number of different cancers from developing.
6. Lowering blood sugar levels
Some animal studies have suggested that consuming spirulina can lower blood sugar levels, in fact, results have even shown that it can outperform some of the most common diabetes medications, like Metformin. Other research on humans, in which 25 patients with type 2 diabetes took two grams of spirulina each day for two months, experienced significantly lowered blood sugar levels.
7. Reducing blood pressure
Thanks to the pigment phycocyanin, spirulina offers antihypertensive effects, which means it helps to lower blood pressure because it can reverse endothelial dysfunction in those with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is one of the primary causes of preventable diseases today.
8. Lowers cholesterol
Spirulina can also help lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent atherosclerosis. In 2010 research that was published in The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, in which rabbits were fed a high cholesterol diet made up of 0.5% cholesterol for a four week period, and then fed them that same diet, but this time added 1% or 5% spirulina for another eight weeks, researchers found that LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) was reduced by 26% in the group who ate 1% spirulina, and 41% in the group that consumed 5% spirulina. Serum triglycerides and total cholesterol were dramatically reduced as well.
9. Decreasing the risk of stroke
In the same study mentioned above, which was conducted out of the Department of Food and Nutrition, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, South Korea. Experts found that supplementing with spirulina reduced intimal aorta surface by 33% to 48%, which suggested that it can prevent atherosclerosis and subsequent stroke.
The researchers note that the trial was conducted on animals that were consuming a high cholesterol diet, which meant that eating spirulina on a regular basis can actually reverse the damage done to health by a poor diet.
10. Fighting liver disease
Spirulina may be essential for those with a chronic liver disease as research has shown that it helps to protect against liver cirrhosis, liver damage and liver failure. In the study published in Journal Nutrition, the scientists concluded that spirulina is beneficial for liver health in addition to functioning as an antioxidant, eliminating free radicals, preventing liver damage and chelating harmful metals.
11. Supporting weight loss
Regularly consuming protein-rich, nutrient-dense foods like spirulina are known to promote weight loss while lowering fat stores. It does this in a number of ways, including being high in fiber, which is important for keeping one fuller longer and curbing hunger to prevent the temptation to give in to unhealthy snacks. Additionally, as it takes more energy to metabolize, eating foods high in protein like this one, helps to maintain lean tissue while contributing to fat burning. Of course, it’s not very effective if you still follow a poor diet and fail to exercise, which is why it’s so important to follow a consistent, balanced, healthy diet and regular physical activity.
By taking a spoonful of spirulina each day and following a healthy lifestyle, it will help to speed your metabolism and improve weight loss results.
12. Fighting PMS
Spirulina may also help battle PMS symptoms like cramps, fatigue, bloating and mood swings, if a spoonful is taken on a regular, daily basis. Some find they’re totally eliminated, while others notice that they’re minimized.
13. An ideal non-meat, plant-based protein source
Spirulina contains all essential amino acids and is made up of around 65% of protein by weight, which makes it an excellent non-meat, plant-based protein source. This is great news for vegans and vegetarians., who often turn to foods like nuts, beans, and soy to get their protein, but none of those can even compare to the protein punch delivered by spirulina. Beef is 22 percent protein, whereas lentils are 26 percent, meaning they don’t even come close to spirulina.
The only downside is that spirulina costs a lot more than meat, but by combining it with other good, less expensive protein-based sources such as quinoa, legumes, and nuts, you can get the best of both worlds.
14. Eliminating candida
While candida is not a bad thing on its own and can be found in the gastrointestinal tract, your oral cavity and vagina, if there isn’t a healthy balance, will be much more susceptible to illness and disease. A microflora imbalance can lead to leaky gut syndrome and candidiasis, the leading cause of deaths related to mycosis in the United States. An overgrowth of candida is now a hallmark sign for most autoimmune diseases we see today.
A poor diet, that’s filled with artificial ingredients and sugar, results in lower antimicrobial resistance, therefore infections become much more frequent. Taking spirulina regularly can help, with research proving it to be an effective antimicrobial, particularly for candida. It’s also been found to promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, which inhibits candida from thriving.
How to use spirulina:
The easiest way to utilize spirulina is to mix it into various foods. While you could simply mix a spoonful into a glass of water, many people find its pungent taste rather off-putting, but adding it to a smoothie, fruit juice, soup or other foods, even dips, can be a great way to take advantage of its many benefits without suffering through the experience.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Create your own seasoning blend. Simply combine spirulina powder with some garlic, dried mixed herbs and nutritional yeast to use to sprinkle onto veggies, popcorn or anything savory.
Almond energy drink. Instead of your usual coffee, try adding a half-teaspoon of spirulina to a glass of unsweetened almond milk. Add your own dab of raw honey if you prefer a sweet taste (sweetened almond milk often contains ingredients that are best avoided). This drink is not only rather satiating, but it helps increase your energy levels to make you feel revitalized and ready to tackle the day.
Energy bites. It’s important to have healthy snacks with you when you’re on the go or at the office, to help keep your energy up and prevent the temptation to turn to junk. These spirulina energy bites take just 10 minutes to put together, are tasty and ideal nutritionally too.
- 20 Medjool dates pitted
- 2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
- 1 tsp spirulina powder
- 1/2 cup hemp seeds
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, + 1/4 cup for coating
Add dates, walnuts, spirulina, hemp seeds, and 1/4 cup of coconut flakes to a food processor. Mix until ingredients become sticky and start to form a ball (about 2 minutes). Remove the mixture and form 1″ balls with the dough. Roll them in the remaining coconut flakes to coat. Serve immediately and store remainder in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Where to buy Spirulina:
When purchasing Spirulina, you should opt for a natural, non GMO powder or tablet, just like this – Pure Hawaiian Spirulina Powder by Nutrex Hawaii available on Amazon.