Spirulina which is part of the organisms blue-green algae has been known to be in use for centuries as a food source from Kanem Empire in 9th century and consumed by millions of people globally today.
The nutrition and health benefits of spirulina are even recognized by NASA and The European Space Agency where they’re researching to see the benefits of incorporating it into astronauts’ diets.
It’s often used as a vegan source of protein & iron, and a rich source of antioxidants, minerals, and many other nutrients.
Not only spirulina is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids, but one of the densest protein sources almost 60% being protein, beating some of the best-known animal proteins such as beef, chicken, pork, fish, and eggs.
Spirulina Nutrition Facts Per 100 Grams
- Energy: 290 kcal DV*= 14.5%
- Carbohydrate: 23.90g DV*= 8.5%
- Protein: 57.47g DV*= 100%
- Nine essential amino acids
- Histidine : 1.085g
- Isoleucine : 3.209g
- Leucine : 4.947g
- Lysine : 3.025g
- Methionine : 1.149g
- Phenylalanine : 2.777g
- Threonine : 2.970g
- Tryptophan : 0.929g
- Valine : 3.512g
- Total lipid (fat): 7.72g DV*= 13%
- Fatty acids, total monounsaturated (omega-7 & omega-9): 0.675g
- Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated (omega-3 & omega-6): 2.080g
- Fiber: 3.6g DV*= 9.4%
- Calcium: 120mg DV*= 12%
- Iron: 28.50mg DV*= 140%
- Magnesium: 195mg DV*= 46%
- Phosphorus: 118mg DV*= 17%
- Potassium: 1363mg DV*= 29%
- Zinc: 2mg DV*= 18%
- Copper: 6.1mg DV*= 680%
- Manganese: 1.9mg DV*= 82%
- Selenium: 7.2µg/mcg DV*= 13%
- Vitamin B-6: 0.364mg DV*= 28%
- Thiamin (vitamin B1): 2.380mg DV*= 200%
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 3.670 0.170 mg DV*= 281%
- Niacin (vitamin B3): 12.820mg DV*= 80%
- Folate: 94µg DV*= 23%
- Vitamin A: 570IU DV*= 63%
- Vitamin E : 5mg DV*= 30%
- Vitamin C: 10.1mg DV*= 17%
- Vitamin 1 (phylloquinone): 25.5µg DV*= 7%
- Choline: 66mg DV*= 12%
* daily value
Ten Health Benefits of Spirulina
1) A Complete Protein with All The Essential Amino Acids
Amino acids being the building blocks of proteins play many roles in our body such as building proteins, form as part of the cellular structure, function as biological catalysts such as enzymes, synthesis of hormones, neurotransmitters & neuropeptides, building muscles, and regulating immune function.
Though our body needs about 20 different amino acids for healthy functioning only 9 are classified as essential since they cannot be produced by the body and should be supplied by our diet.
These essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Out of these nine amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which promote protein synthesis, energy production, and many other functions.
At least 50% of each serving of spirulina is protein which provides all these essential amino acids with BCAAs giving you all the benefits we discussed.
2) Boost Energy, Stamina and Muscle Function
The amino acid isoleucine which is admired by athletes and bodybuilders in spirulina is broken down to be used as energy within the muscle tissue while maintaining stable energy levels by assisting in regulating blood sugar.
Further other amino acids in spirulina such as leucine, lysine and valine are all useful in enhancing energy production, improve athletic performance, muscle metabolism and promote muscle growth.
3) Improve Brain Function & Mental Health
B vitamins such as riboflavin (vitamin B2) in spirulina has great importance in maintaining healthy brain function as its flavoproteins are co-factors for the metabolism of essential fatty acids in the brain and for regulation of thyroid hormones.
Spirulina also guards the brain against free-radical damage by enabling the increased activity of two enzymes called catalase and glutathione peroxidase which can negate free radicals and protect the brain making it more resistant to aging.
Thiamine (vitamin B1) in spirulina being a cofactor for many energetic reactions in the brain is known for maintaining a positive mental attitude, improve learning, and prevent memory loss.
4) Protect the Heart and Reduce the Risk of Strokes
Excessive cholesterol in your blood can clog your arteries which is a risk factor for heart disease and also blocks normal blood flow to the brain which can cause strokes.
A 2007 study showed that 4.5 grams of spirulina per day for 6 weeks considerably lowered triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol, while increasing HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).
In other studies consumption of blue green algae such as spirulina that has carotenoids, niacin (vitamin B3), lysine, phycocyanin (PC), omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, fibers, and plant sterols has shown to provide many heart friendly properties such as lowering plasma lipid concentrations and reducing the risk of clogged arteries.
5) Healthy Immune
Vitamin C and iron are important nutrients to keep your immune system healthy.
Spirulina is a good source of vitamin C which is involved in many aspects of the immune system helping in the production & effective functioning of white blood cells to boost immunity and skin’s defense system.
Iron is also abundant in spirulina that supports the immune system by immune cells proliferation and maturation, affecting the capacity to have a sufficient immune response.
6) Healthy Bones
Spirulina is a rich source of protein which is vital for the formation, strengthening, maintenance, and renewal of bones while numerous studies have shown the use and the benefits of protein in treating patients with hip fractures.
Calcium, as we all know, is a fundamental mineral for healthy bones which is available with spirulina that increases bone mass density, maintains strong bones and could reduce the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Further magnesium in spirulina assists in transporting calcium to your bones and maintain bone mineral density.
7) For Regulating Blood Sugar and Reduced Risk of Diabetes
Spirulina’s essential amino acid leucine aids in regulating blood sugar levels and according to another study the amino acid histidine in spirulina is related with reduced fasting blood glucose levels.
Fiber in spirulina can also be beneficial as it can help in slowing down the rise of blood sugar after a meal.
8) For Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails
While you may find many luxury creams available in the market to protect and supplement skin being the largest organ of the body, it is best maintained & supported through diet which is why a protein dense food like spirulina can be handy.
Your skin, hair, and nails, are created with protein which supplies the structural foundation for the growth and maintaining the integrity of skin, hair, and nails.
Besides protein, vitamin E in spirulina can further maintain your skin which is a powerful antioxidant that can bring down the effects of free radicals and slow your aging process.
9) Healthy Digestion
Dietary fiber is well known to make your digestive tract healthy and avoid its usual issues. This is where fiber in spirulina can be so beneficial as it can add bulk to stools that can minimize constipation and decrease transit time.
Copper is also known to assist in warding off digestive issues. A single serving (3g) of spirulina gives you 20% (0.18mg) of daily copper requirement. The antibacterial properties in copper can help the good bacteria in your bowels to fight and resist bad bacteria, which is a valuable process for maintaining the appropriate floral balance in your digestive tract.
10) Rich in Antioxidants to Fight Free Radicals
Spirulina is an excellent source of antioxidants, which can guard against the damage done to cells caused by free radicals.
A major pigment protein called phycocyanin in spirulina has significant antioxidant effects that can fight free radicals and curb inflammation.
Another major antioxidant in spirulina is vitamin E which can protect your cells from free radical damage that may play a role in slowing down aging and reducing the risks of heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases.
Manganese is also abundant in spirulina which is part of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), found in all living cells.
Spirulina Side Effects
Spirulina is generally considered safe for most people since it has been used as a food source for centuries and only a few side effects are known with some cases such as headaches, allergic reactions, nausea, muscle pain, sweating, difficulty of concentrating and insomnia.
However consuming contaminated spirulina can cause liver damage, upset stomach, vomit, rapid heartbeat, and even death.
Therefore make sure to purchase spirulina products that are free from contamination, ideally grown in laboratories, and tested by a third-party with legitimate quality certificates.
Further, if you have a thyroid condition, an autoimmune disorder (such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, pemphigus vulgaris, etc.), gout, kidney stones, phenylketonuria (PKU), pregnant or nursing, consuming spirulina may not be safe.
As with any supplement, it’s advisable to consult your health care practitioner before you decide to use spirulina considering any medical conditions and medications/supplements you’re currently taking.
Available Forms of Spirulina
Spirulina is mostly available in powder form, but you can also get it as capsules, tablets, and juices. The powder can be useful if you’re having it with your smoothies.
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