What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a blue-green microalga and one of the oldest forms on Earth. It was originally discovered on unpolluted alkaline lakes in Central Africa and Mexico, where it was integrated into the diet of the mighty Aztec empire. It allowed the planet's originating life forms to develop due to its oxygen produce. As one of the most nutrient-rich foods, today is grown in cultivated ponds in various tropical areas around the world. Spirulina is the world's first superfood since it contains between 55 and 70% protein, which is more than chicken, beef or soybeans. Also, it has 8 essential and 10 non-essential amino acids, linoleic and arachidonic acid, beta carotene, iron, as well as nucleic acids RNA and DNA. Spirulina is also rich in calcium, phosphorus, chlorophyll, and phycocyanin and it has high levels of gamma-linolenic acid. This freshwater plant is excellent for immunity boost, reducing fatigue and fighting allergies.
Health Benefits of Spirulina
The benefits of spirulina reach far and wide due to its high nutrient density. Usually, it is found as an ingredient in energy bars, smoothies, and natural supplements, but if taken on a daily basis can revitalise your body and restore your health.
- Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Properties of Spirulina
Spirulina is a great source of antioxidants which protect from oxidative damage. The main active antioxidant compound is phycocyanin which also gives spirulina its blue-green colour. This compound eliminates the free radicals and prevents the production of the inflammatory molecule, thus activating antioxidant enzymes and it will prevent lipid peroxidation and DNA damage. Also, it increases the activity of superoxide dismutase and catalase.
- Lowers the Blood Pressure
Phycocyanin also contains antihypertensive effects which are great for lowering the blood pressure, thus protecting you from heart diseases. Additionally, it lowers the chances of stroke. According to a study, spirulina consumption lowers intimal artery surface by approximately 40%.
- Reduces Cholesterol and Balances the Blood Sugar
This superfood also lowers the cholesterol naturally. A study has shown that 4.5 grams of spirulina per day lower the triglycerides and the LDL cholesterol. On the other hand, the good cholesterol, HDL, increases significantly. Additionally, several studies have shown that spirulina is very helpful in balancing the blood sugar and it is also a potential diabetes medication. What is more, spirulina helps in lowering HbA1c - a long-term marker of blood sugar levels.
- Promotes Weight Loss
Spirulina promotes weight loss and low-fat stores through many mechanisms because it is highly rich in protein. Eating protein helps in maintaining the lean tissue and boosts the fat burning. It also suppresses the hunger which can be a huge benefit, especially for those that are struggling with overweight.
- Removes Heavy Metals from Blood
Chronic arsenic toxicity is a global problem. Many countries are affected by inorganic arsenic present in high levels. The situation is even worse in the Far East where millions of people are consuming high concentration of arsenic through water drinking which can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning. It was shown that people affected by this kind of poisoning who used 250 grammes of spirulina extract combined with zinc twice a day experienced a 47% decrease of arsenic in their body.
- Fights Liver Disease
Fighting liver disease is one thing more to add up to the list of spirulina health benefits. Spirulina consumption on a daily basis protects people with chronic liver disease against liver cirrhosis, liver damage, and liver failure. A study has shown that adding spirulina to your diet can be beneficial to the overall liver health.
- Improves Muscle Strength
An exercise-induced oxidative damage can be a major contributor to muscle fatigue. Eating food that is rich in antioxidants like spirulina can help you prevent muscle fatigue or minimize the damage. Several studies have shown that spirulina is extremely beneficial in improving the athletic abilities by boosting the muscle strength and endurance.
- Protects the Brain
Spirulina also protects the brain from degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Spirulina has four times the antioxidant ability of blueberries which causes neuroprotective effects. Moreover, this powerful blue-green alga will help you sharpen your mind and focus. Other findings show that incorporating spirulina into the diet will increase the productivity and it will also help you fight disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Boosts the Immunity and Prevents Cancer.
If you are experiencing some health problems like catching a cold more frequently, spirulina may be the solution for you. Spirulina contains potent nutrients (polysaccharides) which are great helpers in enhancing the overall immune system. Also, it promotes cell regeneration which helps wounds to heal faster and the recovery from an illness quicker. Furthermore, phycocyanin is another potent nutrient found in spirulina which increases the number of white blood cells in the body. These cells are known to produce antibodies that protect the body from bacteria, infection and chronic diseases like cancer.
- Detoxifies the Body Naturally and Helps the Digestive System
The high concentration of chlorophyll which is one of the most potent detoxifying agents makes spirulina extremely effective in removing toxins from the blood. Moreover, it binds to radioactive isotopes and heavy metal which makes it extremely beneficial for people undergoing radioactive therapy. Furthermore, spirulina reduces the stress on the digestive system because it eases the passage of waste through the entire system. Also, it stimulates healthy bacteria which improve the absorption of the nutrients.
Spirulina Benefits for the Skin
Spirulina has a lot to offer when it comes to skin care. Being rich in vitamins, proteins, minerals and fatty acids, it's one of the most efficient natural skin products.
Used in the daily diet or as a supplement, spirulina is a great weapon against aging because of the free radical oxidation. Carotenoids are one of the most powerful groups of antioxidants found in spirulina which include beta-carotene. Another group of antioxidants, xanthophylls, contain the powerful antioxidant zeaxanthin which makes spirulina excellent skin protector. Spirulina also contains selenium, vitamin E, and tyrosine which are widely known for their anti-ageing effects.
- Skin Toner
Spirulina contains a high content of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B12, iron, calcium and phosphorus which are essential for the skin health. Regular consumption of spirulina as a food supplement will make your skin look toned and vital. Also, it will strengthen your body because it's great in treating flabby skin by eliminating the metabolic waste products.
Spirulina is great in fighting against acne by helping your body eliminate toxins and bacteria on the skin. Also because it boosts skin metabolism, the dead cells are eliminated quicker and new, healthy skin cells are produced. Acne lesions heal faster and there will be no scars left.
- Treats Dark Circles
Spirulina is also excellent for treating dark circles. It removes the dark shadows and dryness because of its detoxifying effects.
How to Consume Spirulina
The recommended daily intake of spirulina is 1-5g a day for optimal results, but you can consume up to 10g in small dosages during the day.
Many consumers take spirulina as capsules or tablets, which are convenient to use at any part of the day, during or between meals. They are vegetarian and made of cellulose.
Spirulina is most frequently found as a powder. You can add it into a glass of water or juice. Another option is to add it to your smoothie. You can mix it with yoghurt, soups, salads, pasta, and bread. It can be added even to some desserts such as raw chocolate brownies.
Keep in mind that cooking, boiling or microwaving will affect spirulina nutrients. Also, keep food and drinks that contain spirulina refrigerated. You can freeze the prepared spirulina drinks or foods since freezing doesn't impact its nutrients, but never refreeze them. It's preferable to mix spirulina with vitamin C (lemon or orange juice) as it may help absorb nutrients such as iron. For best result, consume spirulina on daily basis.
Proteins are complex molecules that consist of chains of amino acids. They have an important role in structures' formation and repair amongst other vital functions. Proteins are made of 22 amino acids, nine of which must be provided by the diet, since the body itself can't produce them. The amounts of amino acids in a protein show the quality of the protein. Proteins that match the body's requirements closely have higher quality.
Spirulina is often regarded to as a "complete protein". It contains all important amino acids, meaning that the digestive system won't be subjected to hard work when getting the necessary intake of protein. The protein in spirulina is 85-95% digestible, which is higher than any other foods. Spirulina doesn't have cellulose in the cell walls because it is composed of soft mucopolysaccharides, making it easy to assimilate and digest.
Possible Side Effects
Spirulina is generally safe and very effective food that is highly digestible. However, you should be cautious if you are allergic to iodine. Also, you should be aware that you use organic spirulina of high quality and purity. Be sure that you purchase blue-green algae that are not contaminated. Contaminated spirulina can cause liver damage, weakness, nausea, and vomiting, stomach pain or thirst. People suffering from Phenylketonuria (PKU) and those who take anti-coagulation medicine should consult with a doctor before taking it because it contains amino acids and using this blue-green plant may worsen their condition. Spirulina consumption also causes the immune system to become more active, which could increase the autoimmune disease symptoms.
If there is little information on the label, don't buy spirulina of an unknown origin. You should be able to see its nutritional value and the processing method. Pure, organic spirulina has a deep green colour. Also, if the spirulina is wet or sticky, it's probably because it has been contaminated.
Spirulina Recipes for Beauty and Health
You can use spirulina to make a great face mask that will refreash your skin and give you that "healthy glow". You will need:
- 1/4 tsp spirulina powder
- A few drops of filtered water
- 1 drop each- lavender, frankincense, and tea tree essential oils (optional)
Mix all the ingredients and stir into paste. Apply the mask to clean skin and leave it on for twenty minutes before you remove it with warm water.
You can also use spirulina to make a quick delicious green smoothie. You will need:
- 1 banana
- 1 cucumber
- coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon of spirulina
Mix all ingredients in a blender, you can also add chia or hemp seeds for a more nutritious smoothie. You can consume it as a snack or as an energising, healthy breakfast.