An edible type of algae AND offering health benefits?
Yup, this is spirulina, an algae known for being rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all good for your health. This highly nutritious algae is typically commercially found as a powder or as a tablet/capsule supplement and has been used recently as a dietary supplement for NASA astronauts. This is because, while on their space missions, astronauts expose themselves to different stress factors and it was found that spirulina can provide many nutrients and protection in small amounts.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae plant found in oceans and salty lakes. Algae are a diverse group of organisms that live in water (aquatic) and have the ability to conduct photosynthesis (the process by which plants use water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide to create oxygen and energy). A familiar example would be seaweed.
Spirulina derives its name from the spiral shape of its microscopic cyanobacterium that composes it. It is believed to have a long history of use as food during the Aztec civilization. Spirulina is actually the most cultivated microalgae in the world.
Spirulina is loaded with nutrients that may offer health benefits for your body. It lacks cellulose cell walls thus making it easily digestible.
It is important to note though that studies on the effect of spirulina on human health and its role in the management of diseases is still undergoing and the available evidence is limited as well as not always of high quality.
Spirulina is famous for being a rich source of plant proteins – it contains up to 60% of protein in 100g of powder! That makes for 4g of protein in one tablespoon of powder (7g) which is higher than most other plants. As a result it has been used as a nutritional supplement. Check out the table below for the macronutrients composition of spirulina.
Composition, per 100g
Table showing the nutritional profile of Spirulina powder. (retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170495/nutrients)
Other than being high in protein, spirulina is a valuable source of vitamins and minerals which are known to be important players that interact together in the human immune response.
It is a natural source of B vitamins specifically, vitamin E, and beta carotenes (provitamin A). It is also glorified for its high vitamin B12 content. However, it should be noted that this has been debunked as spirulina contains “pseudo” vitamin B12 which is actually not active in the human body and does not function similarly to the known vitamin B12. Additionally, the most common minerals found in spirulina include iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Free radicals cause oxidative damage and inflammation in your body cells which can trigger the development of diseases. The presence of antioxidant and anti inflammatory compounds like beta carotene, carotenoids, chlorophyll, phycocyanin, and vitamin E in spirulina are what give it its ability to combat these harmful free radicals in the body as well as give it its characteristic pigment and color. As a result of that, some studies also show that spirulina may protect against cancer, although more high quality human studies are needed to prove this effect.
Some studies show that spirulina supplementation might have a beneficial effect in the prevention and management of high blood pressure. This is after it was found that a certain dosage of daily spirulina supplementation could reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure, especially for people with already high blood pressure levels. Scientists repeat though that more studies are needed to clarify this effect and understand the role of spirulina in the management of hypertension.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and excess fat around the waist which can increase one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. There is some evidence that spirulina could help address the syndrome by lowering the high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. Still, data on the dosage and duration of supplementation is to be further investigated with more high quality research studies.
As with other dietary supplements, there are side effects that should be taken into consideration. So far, spirulina appears safe as there have been few side effects reported from spirulina when used at recommended doses. However, it could still be contaminated with other toxic substances so it is crucial to buy a well reputable spirulina brand.
Not to forget that it could interact with some medication so it is always advisable to contact your healthcare provider prior to consumption. In addition, some people should be prudent of or avoid spirulina as it could affect them negatively. They should contact their doctor before taking spirulina. These people include:
Kiki health organic spirulina provides 500 mg of spirulina per tablet. These organic spirulina is derived from a strain grown in the remote countryside in controlled conditions away from all industrial, agricultural and human development, preventing any impurities from environmental pollutants and carefully monitored on a daily basis to prevent contamination. This nutritious dense product has multiple health advantages such as enhanced cognitive function, immune system, muscles, and bones support..
Spirulina is a blue-green microalgae that has naturally occurring protein plus other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). Now Foods Organic spirulina provides 1,000 mg per tablet.
Naturya organic spirulina powder is rigorously tested for mercury, lead and other contaminants, guaranteeing a pure product without risk of heavy metal poisoning. Spirulina is harvested with a fine mesh-screen that captures the small coiled filaments from the water. It’s then sieved and transferred to a washing pond, before being washed over a mesh-screen, ensuring that only pure spirulina is processed. This wet spirulina is placed in a drying chamber which quickly evaporates all the moisture, while preserving the nutrient content, leaving the fine green powder, spirulina powder.
Spirulina is a microscopic blue-green algae named after its tiny spiral shape. Chlorophyll in spirulina gives it a deep emerald-green color. Sunfood superfoods pure spirulina crunchies use spirulina that after harvest, is ground into a paste, pressed into spaghetti-like strands and gently air-dried at low temperatures. This process creates that satisfying crunch and flavor of Spirulina Crunchies
Spirulina has been declared the food of the future for being eco-sustainable. There’s much hype and hope for its use as a super supplement for humans, and the available evidence intrigues scientists to explore more about its potential roles in human health and disease.
As always, caution should be taken as, like other dietary supplements, spirulina is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which means that there is no guarantee that the supplement product you buy will achieve the claims mentioned, be free of contaminants, or contain the exact amount of spirulina on the label.