Spirulina is very possibly one of the oldest life forms on this miraculous planet of ours. Much like its cousin superfood, chlorella, spirulina is a multi-celled blue-green alga that has been in existence for billions of years. In fact, it’s believed that spirulina is responsible for producing oxygen in the atmosphere that allowed life to form as the planet was molding and evolving.
This beautiful blue-green powder may look bright and vibrant; however, this surprisingly nutrient-dense powder begins as pond scum. Yup. In fact, if you live near a pond, the odds are solid that you’re sitting close to a spirulina reservoir (although we do not recommend harvesting your own spirulina).
Spirulina (cyanobacteria) is a renowned superfood and possibly the first in existence, as it is one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. It contains more protein than beef, chicken, and soybeans (about 55-70% protein in one serving). Spirulina health benefits include a powerhouse of vitamin and mineral-rich ingredients, as well as essential and nonessential amino acids.
Spirulina has quickly become one of the most studied superfoods. It can grow in many water sources from fresh to seawater but is most commonly found near volcanic activity. The densest farming of spirulina is not surprisingly in Hawaii, Chad in Africa, and parts of Mexico (where active volcanoes are often erupting).
Spirulina health benefits are astounding. In fact, over 1200 peer reviewed studies have been conducted on the microorganism, concluding that its health benefits can range from preventing cancer and treating HIV/AIDS, all the way to helping you find relief from allergies and boosting your immune system.
It’s such a powerhouse superfood that just 3 grams a day as part of your routine can benefit you in myriad ways. While it does taste bitter (some say savory, like sea water), it’s hard to deny including it as part of your health routine. The easiest way is as an ingredient in a superfood powder, like our very own Veggie Shake.
Spirulina: The Most Nutrient-Dense Food on the Planet
One tablespoon of spirulina contains just 20 calories and 4 grams of protein. In fact, spirulina is often compared to eggs for the amount of protein per gram that it provides. It’s also a highly absorbable protein with an absorption rate of between 50-61%.
Protein is necessary for the regulation of many metabolic functions, but to be able to have such a high-quality source of protein from a plant is unusual in many ways. On top of this, spirulina also contains high levels of thiamin (11% of RDA in 1 tablespoon) and iron (11% of the RDA in 1 tablespoon), as well as all of the essential amino acids.
Spirulina is 65% protein and amino acids including a rare essential fatty acid known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is very difficult to find in a natural food source and is usually produced in the body. To see a food source with actual GLAs is like finding a unicorn in the supplement world. When you combine spirulina (and the GLA within it) with omega-3s, you’ve got an incredible anti-inflammatory effect.
Spirulina and Diabetes
These anti-inflammatory properties are of great interest to researchers for many reasons. Spirulina has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels, and when taken regularly can even produce the same effects as medicine to treat diabetes. It is such a superior anti-inflammatory that it can lower glucose levels in laboratory rats (mimicking the symptoms of diabetes).
Spirulina and Cancer Prevention
Some studies have shown that spirulina can halt cancer cell reproduction. It’s believed the high antioxidant content makes spirulina a chemopreventive supplement, and indeed can help prevent certain cancers from multiplying.
Researchers have found the anti-cancer properties of spirulina to be most successful in patients with oral cancer. While more human studies are necessary, there is a lot of excitement around this kind of treatment, as oral cancer radiation or chemotherapy can come with some debilitating side effects ranging from permanently affecting the salivary glands, to making it difficult to chew and swallow altogether.
Spirulina Lowers Blood Pressure
This may be one of the most beneficial health benefits of spirulina to your diet. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and even stroke. By naturally lowering your blood pressure, your risk of developing any of these other life-threatening conditions also decreases.
Phycocyanin is believed to be the chemical compound within spirulina that lowers blood pressure. Researchers believe that spirulina reverses endothelial dysfunction in metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group categorization of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. And by lowering your risk of metabolic syndrome, you reduce your risk for development of any or all of these diseases (or their subsequent complications).
Spirulina and Allergies
Studies are still in the initial phase, but but there is evidence that taking a daily supplement of spirulina can help improve your allergies. By reducing inflammation in the nasal passages, the antioxidants within spirulina could help relax your sinuses and allow you to breathe easier.
Spirulina for Detox
Spirulina is a natural source of chlorophyll. And like chlorella, spirulina is a natural way to detox your body of heavy metals from the blood.
There is also evidence to suggest that chlorophyll can bind with radioactive isotopes making it an option to treat radioactivity exposure, or for patients who are experiencing radiation therapy as part of a cancer treatment protocol.
Spirulina for Weight Loss
Spirulina can actually increase fat burning during exercise or as part of a weight-loss or management program. It also improves muscle building by allowing muscles to recover more quickly and by preventing muscle fatigue.
During any weight-loss program, as your body naturally sheds pounds, toxins and free radicals are released and in some cases absorbed back into the bloodstream, leading to added stress, pain, and a slower recovery from exercise routines. Not to mention, the long-term effects of free radicals in the bloodstream can include elevated risks for heart disease, cancer, stroke, and many other illnesses. Spirulina can naturally fight free radicals and get your body back to a healthier, stronger state, faster.
Caution for Spirulina
Spirulina, while a powerhouse superfood full of many health benefits does come with some potential side effects. It’s essential that you choose a supplement that is of the highest, purest quality and is harvested naturally and free of contamination from toxins or pesticides. We ensure that all ingredients in Veggie Shake are premium and pure, including our spirulina.
According to WebMD, spirulina that has been contaminated through bad farming practices can cause the following:
- Liver damage
- Stomach pain
- Rapid heartbeat
It is not recommended for pregnant women or children to consume algae. Please consult with a natural healthcare physician regarding any other risks, particularly if you suffer from any autoimmune diseases, as symptoms can be exacerbated with the introduction of spirulina.
Spirulina in Your Diet
Spirulina is full of superfood nutrition that’s relatively easy to incorporate as part of your regular health and wellness routine. Much like chlorella, spirulina is available in both pill or powder form. You can include it in your favorite smoothie recipes, like our Mint Chocolate Chip Digestion Dessert Smoothie, sprinkle it on your breakfast cereal, or take a pill with your other high-potency supplements with a balanced meal first thing in the morning.