superfoods

Spirulina

Focusing your diet on the most nutrient-dense foods possible is best way to ensure that your body achieves and sustains optimal health and function. On top of a daily, whole foods diet, an excellent way to boost our nutrient status is by including booster foods, such as spirulina.

This super superfood is a type of micro-algae, and has received a lot of attention in the health world. It grows in bodies of water that have a high alkaline content, such as lakes, ponds and rivers. Spirulina is packed full of key vitamins, minerals, and even protein. When added to an already nutrient-rich diet, it can truly take your health and energy to the next level.

Not only can spirulina be added on a regular basis to your diet, therefore providing unique and powerful anti-inflammatory and nutrient properties, but it also makes for an excellent addition to any detoxification plan.

spirulina

Nutritional Information

1 tablespoon serving

Spirulina Benefits

1. Packed Full of Vitamins and Minerals

Spirulina truly defines “superfood,” as a single tablespoon contains 4 grams of protein, crucial vitamins B1, B2 and B3, 21% of the RDA for copper, and 11% of the RDA for iron (1). Furthermore, spirulina offers smaller amounts of important vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium, which are essential for stress management. In fact, due to spirulina’s high iron content, it can be an excellent supplement for those with anemia (2).

2. Offers a Huge Nutritional Bang For Your Buck (Quite Low in Calories)

Impressively nutrient-dense, spirulina provides all of its nutritional benefits for only 20 calories per gram. Believe it or not, that means that spirulina might be the most nutrient dense food on the planet, calorie for calorie.

3. Protects Against Free Radical Damage

Free radical damage can cause serious harm to our cells and DNA, and spirulina offers high amounts of antioxidants to fight this damage. The main antioxidant found in spirulina is phycocyaninwhich also gives it that deep green/blue color, and has been shown to fight inflammation on a systemic level (3).

4. Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease

Spirulina has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, lower LDL cholesterol levels, and improve blood sugar levels in diabetics. In one study of 25 type 2 diabetics, taking two grams of spirulina per day improved all of the above-mentioned markers (4). In another study of participants with high cholesterol, just one gram of spirulina lowered both their cholesterol and triglyceride levels significantly (5).

5. An Excellent Source of Protein and Omega 3 Fatty Acids

It might come as a surprise that spirulina is also a great protein source, and is considered a complete protein (meaning that it provides all essential amino acids that must be obtained from food sources). In fact, spirulina’s protein quality has even been compared to eggs, which are one of (if not the) best source of protein. Of course, the amount of protein in spirulina is less when considering the amount you’ll actually consume, but it does help.

Uses of Spirulina

Spirulina is available in powder, flake or tablet form, and might seem a little bit daunting to incorporate into your diet. Some find it has a relatively strong taste, so you might need to find ways to disguise it, if that bothers you. Here are some easy ways to start today:

1. Use Spirulina in a Smoothie

Simply add about one tablespoon of spirulina powder or flakes to your favorite smoothie. Combine with full fat yogurt, 1/2-1 frozen banana, 1 cup of berries and water, almond or coconut milk as desired for consistency. Blend and enjoy! You can also just simply blend spirulina with unsweetened fruit juice.

2. Sprinkle Spirulina Over Your Salad

Using about the same amount of spirulina powder or flakes (roughly one tablespoon), simply sprinkle spirulina over any salad (or veggie) dish. If the taste is too much for you, you can start with just one teaspoon.

3. Replace Your Multi-Vitamin with Spirulina

If you regularly take a multi-vitamin, try replacing spirulina tablets several days a week. Of course, if you have a special medical condition that is being treated via vitamins, check with your doctor on this one, but spirulina’s incredible combination of nutrients is often more readily available to the body than your standard multi-vitamin product.

4. Add Spirulina into Guacamole

Why not give guacamole an extra green color, and an extra nutrient boost. Either in a blender, food processor or just with a fork, add 1 tablespoon (or more) of spirulina together with 2, ripe avocados, the juice of one lemon, salt and pepper to taste, and any other of your go-to guacamole ingredients (tomato, garlic, etc). Mix together thoroughly, and serve.

5. Use Spirulina to Roast Vegetables

Mix one tablespoon of spirulina flakes together with paprika, cumin and chilli powder to make your own Mexican seasoning. Use to flavor roasted vegetables, ground beef for tacos or a Mexican-inspired salad.

Possible Side Effects of Spirulina

Especially if taken in food dosages (used in cooking/food instead of as a supplement), spirulina is generally considered safe. However, consider the following:

Allergic Reaction

While uncommon, some people could have an unexplained allergic reaction to spirulina. Be aware of any new symptoms that arise such as headache, itchiness, rash or nausea. If symptoms such as these occur, discontinue use.

Auto-Immune Conditions

For those with certain autoimmune conditions such as lupus, MS (multiple sclerosis), RA (rheumatoid arthritis) and some others, spirulina could aggravate the condition due to the fact that it activates the immune system. Again, check with your doctor.

Those with Thyroid Conditions

Because spirulina (like any other seaweed or micro algae) contains iodine, people with thyroid conditions (particularly hyper-thyroid), might need to avoid it. Consult your doctor or trusted healthcare practitioner.

Those Allergic to Seafood

Those that have an allergy to seafood might also react to spirulina. Discuss with your doctor to see if introducing spirulina in small doses is safe for you.

Spirulina FAQs

What is spirulina, exactly?

Spirulina is a micro algae that grows in bodies of water that have a high alkaline content, such as lakes, ponds and rivers. It is a superfood that is packed full of key vitamins, minerals, and even protein. It comes in powder, flake and supplement form.

What gives spirulina its intense color?

The main antioxidant found in spirulina is phycocyanin, and this is also what gives it that deep green/blue color. This same antioxidant is also thought to provide much of spirulina’s health benefits.

What is the nutritional content of spirulina?

At only 20 calories per gram, one tablespoon of spirulina contains 4 grams of protein, crucial vitamins B1, B2 and B3, 21% of the RDA for copper, and 11% of the RDA for iron. Also, spirulina offers smaller amounts of important vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium and more. Spirulina’s high iron content makes it a great supplement for those with anemia.

How can I incorporate spirulina into my diet?

You can use spirulina in smoothies, sprinkled on a salad or veggie dish, to make guacamole or simply mixed with unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice.

What if I can’t stand the taste of spirulina?

Spirulina does have a strong taste for some. If it is problematic, sweeten a smoothie or juice with some honey, and this should help soften the taste. You can also use it on a salad with a strong flavored dressing, and this will also mask the taste of spirulina. Or, opt for using it in capsule form.

What about spirulina supplementation?

Food form will be safer and less expensive, but supplement form can be an excellent choice for some. As with any supplementation, it’s always good to check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner, but see below for some general dosages for certain conditions. Start with powder or flaked spirulina, if possible.

What is the difference between spirulina and chlorella?

If you’d already heard of spirulina, you might also be familiar with chlorella, which is another micro-algae. There is often some confusion about the differences, so here is some clarification:

  1. Spirulina is typically a larger plant that has a blue-green color, while chlorella is a solid green-colored algae.
  2. Due to its cellulose wall, chlorella can be more difficult to process than spirulina, as it needs to be broken down before our body can digest and assimilate it. Spirulina, on the other hand, can be eaten immediately and is more easily absorbed.
  3. Spirulina has a higher protein content, and offers a larger quantity of beta-carotene, while chlorella contains more chlorophyll.
  4. Spirulina contains all eight essential amino acids (calcium, zinc, potassium, and 4 key B vitamins).

Bottom line: Both are hugely beneficial and can be alternated in the diet.

What are proper dosages of spirulina?

As is the case with most herbs and supplements, spirulina dosage depends on the condition and/or symptoms it is being used for (6):

  1. For cholesterol, doses in the range of 1-8 g per day may be impactful
  2. For muscle performance, doses of 2-7.5 g per day have been used
  3. For blood glucose control, very mild effects have been seen with 2 g per day
  4. Blood pressure may be affected at doses of 3.5-4.5 g per day
  5. Effects for fatty liver have been seen at doses of 4.5 g per day

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