Before we get into the main benefits of Spirulina, we need to give you a quick 101. Spirulina is a blue algae (cyanobacteria); it contains many beneficial health-promoting properties. Spirulina is rich in protein, antioxidants, B-vitamins and other nutrients. Spirulina is rich in chlorophyll as it gets its energy from the sun, as do plants – not bad for something that is referred to as ‘pond scum’.
Spirulina is referred to as ‘pond scum’ because it grows in small bodies of water. Therefore, be sure to research the source of your spirulina and don’t be shy to ask for lab reports showing its potency and purity.
The protein in spirulina contains all 9 essential amino acids and is typically recommended to vegetarians due to its high natural iron content. However, do always keep in mind that spirulina is a supplement and not a replacement for food sources of amino acids.
Benefits of Spirulina
Spirulina is Nutrient Dense
A high concentration of protein, vitamins and minerals in spirulina led many to classify it as a superfood. To put this into perspective, 1 gram of spirulina contains:
Protein -complete source of high-quality protein with a bioavailable rate of between 50-61%.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) – necessary for digestion of fats and proteins and is known to increase energy, eye health, brain function and nerve health.
Spirulina contains a highly absorbable and bioavailable form of iron.
Spirulina contains 26x more calcium than milk.
B-9 (folic acid)
Vitamin C, D, A & E.
Potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc.
Although believed to be high in B12, which it is, spirulina is not a good source of Vitamin B12 for humans. Spirulina’s claim to fame amongst vegans has been its high B12 content. Studies have shown that the form of B12 found in spirulina is a pseudo-vitamin, which is not absorbable or effective and may actually inhibit you from absorbing B12 from your daily diet .
Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) & Omega-3s
Spirulina contains Gamma-Linolenic Acid and Omega-3s. Spirulina contains 65% protein and amino acids, which also includes essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is known to be a potent anti-inflammatory, especially when taken in conjunction with Omega-3’s.
Additionally, GLA is normally synthesized by the body and not found in food sources. Spirulina is one of the few foods sources naturally containing GLA.
Spirulina also contains Omega 3-,6 and 9s and is exceptionally high in Omega-3s.
The antioxidant that makes spirulina unique is called phycocyanin .
Bioavailable and clean spirulina once tested has been shown to have an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) of over 24,000, 4x that of blueberries (another food containing high amounts of antioxidants).
For those of you not familiar with the ORAC score , it is used to measure antioxidant potency of foods.
Spirulina May Help with Allergies
Studies have shown spirulina to be helpful towards allergies. This is likely because spirulina reduces inflammation, which is responsible for all afflictions under the sun, including allergies.
Heavy Metal Chelation (Detox)
Spirulina can bind with heavy metals in the body and help remove them. Due to its high chlorophyll content, it helps remove toxins from the blood and boost the immune system.
Other studies have also suggested that it may bind with radioactive isotopes and may be useful for radioactivity exposure or radiation therapy.
Muscle and Endurance
As mentioned above several times, spirulina is very high in protein, which allows it to help increase fat burning during exercise. Its high antioxidant content makes it beneficial in reducing exercise-induced oxidation, which leads to muscle fatigue and inability to gain muscle. Spirulina is also well known to increase endurance and decrease damage from exercise post-workout.
Words of Caution
*If you have phenylketonuria (PKU), you should consult with your doctor.
*If you are anti-coagulators or suffer from an autoimmune disease, pregnant or nursing, please consult with your physician.
On a gram per gram basis, spirulina costs up to 30x more than dairy and meat protein. Therefore before jumping on the spirulina train, weight these facts and see if they fall into your budget and lifestyle. As a primary source of protein, you would have to consume a lot more spirulina to make up for say a rib steak.
Is Spirulina the Same as Chlorella?
Spirulina is not the same as Chlorella, however, they are similar and have many benefits. You can learn about the health benefits of Chlorella here on Life Inspired by Nature. Spirulina and Chlorella are both a form of algae with some key nuances:
Chlorella is a single-cell algae with a nucleus, while Spirulina is a multi-celled plant with no nucleus.
Spirulina is a cyanobacteria, a blue-green (hence the prefix ‘cyan’) type of algae, while chlorella is a green algae.
Spirulina and chlorella are both excellent sources of nucleic acids, although chlorella has twice as much per gram. Nucleic acids are essential for DNA and RNA formation in the body.
Chlorella is higher in Chlorophyll, with almost double the amount.
Chlorella is not a great source of iron, protein and beneficial Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA).
Chlorella has unique properties in its cell walls that make it bind to heavy metals and other contaminants.
So as always, please do your due diligence and always research what is good for you. Because spirulina is suitable for your friend does not mean it is viable for you.
To your health and longevity.
Please note that all opinions here are strictly opinions and for informational purposes only. They are not to be used as a replacement for medical opinions and should not be used as the only metric for diagnosing any medical condition.
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