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Spirulina Benefits and Nutritional Profile

Used by NASA as a food source for astronauts in space, spirulina is a modern superfood. Spirulina benefits your well-being. For example, it manages diabetes, and it supports healthy weight loss.

SUMMARY

What is spirulina good for when it comes to your health? Spirulina benefits wellness in several key ways. This algae superfood may help lower cholesterol, and studies show it can help keep blood sugar within healthy levels.  

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Many researchers agree that it’s ideal to get our nutrition from whole foods. 

Whole foods contain nutrient combinations that work together synergistically to support good health. You don’t get quite the same benefits with isolated nutrients. 

Spirulina is an algae that’s been hailed for its amazing range of nutrients. Though it’s packaged and sold as a dietary supplement, spirulina is actually a whole food. Spirulina benefits your health in several ways. For example, a spirulina supplement can help you drop excess pounds, and it supports gut health.

So, what is spirulina, and how can it assist you on your wellness journey? 

In this article, we will:

  • Explain what spirulina is
  • Shine some light on spirulina nutrition
  • List the ways in which spirulina benefits your health
  • Discuss spirulina dosage

What is spirulina?

Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae, classified as a cyanobacteria. It gets its name from the spiral nature of its filaments. Spirulina is a microalgae, and it’s been on the planet for over three billion years. 

This algae is relatively easy to grow. It tends to thrive in alkaline lakes that have an extremely high pH. Sunny conditions are required; the climate found in places such as Greece, Chad, Japan, India, Spain and parts of the United States are ideal for growing spirulina. Spirulina growers sometimes cultivate this algae in large outdoor ponds under carefully monitored conditions. 

Spirulina history

The Aztecs were wise to the ways in which spirulina benefits the body, and this algae was a food source for them in 16th century Mexico. They revered spirulina for its ability to provide exceptional strength and vitality to those who took it, and they referred to it as “food of the gods.” The microalgae spirulina has also been used for centuries on the African continent.

Types of spirulina

Spirulina comes in these three species:

  • Arthrospira maxima (also known as Spirulina maxima)
  • Arthrospira platensis (also known as Spirulina platensis)
  • Spirulina fusiformis

This algae is available in different forms:

  • Spirulina powder – this is dried spirulina; dried, powdered spirulina is perhaps the most common form of this supplement
  • Spirulina tablets – with spirulina tablets, powdered spirulina is compressed into tablet form
  • Fresh frozen spirulina – this is fresh spirulina that has been frozen 
  • Fresh raw spirulina – this is rarest form of spirulina, and the most expensive; it is fresh, raw and unprocessed, and those who sell it claim that it is nutritionally superior to all other types of spirulina 

A modern superfood

Spirulina benefits health in several ways; for this reason, it’s been hailed as a superfood. In modern times, it rose to fame after spirulina powder was used with great success by NASA as a dietary supplement for astronauts during their space missions. 

So, what is spirulina good for when it comes to meeting your protein needs? Up to 70 percent of this plant food’s content consists of protein. Taking spirulina is valuable for everyone, but it’s especially valuable for vegans, who sometimes have a hard time meeting their protein needs with plant-based sources. 

With spirulina, nutrition is a key selling point. Thanks to its broad range of nutrients, spirulina is essentially a whole-food multivitamin, loaded with minerals and vitamins that support good health. And since spirulina lacks cellulose cell walls, its nutrients can be easily digested. 

Spirulina nutrition

It’s time to tackle this question: What is spirulina good for when it comes to overall nutrition? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a tablespoon (7 grams) of spirulina powder contains these nutrients:

  • Water – 0.328 g
  • Calories – 20.3
  • Protein – 4.02 g
  • Fat – 0.54 g
  • Ash – 0.436 g
  • Carbohydrate – 1.67 g
  • Dietary fiber – 0.252 g
  • Sugar – 0.217 g
  • Calcium – 8.4 mg
  • Iron – 2 mg
  • Magnesium – 13.6 mg
  • Phosphorus – 8.26 mg
  • Potassium – 95.4 mg
  • Sodium – 73.4 mg
  • Zinc – 0.14 mg
  • Copper – 0.427 mg
  • Manganese – 0.133 mg
  • Selenium – 0.504 µg
  • Vitamin C – 0.707 mg
  • Thiamin – 0.167 mg
  • Riboflavin – 0.257 mg
  • Niacin – 0.897 mg
  • Vitamin B6 – 0.025 mg
  • Folate – 6.58 µg
  • Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) – 0.35 mg
  • Choline – 4.62 mg
  • Vitamin A, RAE – 2.03 µg
  • Beta-carotene – 23.9 µg
  • Vitamin A, IU – 39.9 IU
  • Pantothenic acid – 0.244 mg
  • Vitamin K (phylloquinone) – 1.78 µg
  • Saturated fatty acid – 0.185 g
  • Monounsaturated fatty acid – 0.047 g
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acid – 0.146 g
  • Tryptophan – 0.065 g
  • Threonine – 0.208 g
  • Isoleucine – 0.225 g
  • Leucine – 0.346 g
  • Lysine – 0.212 g
  • Methionine – 0.08 g
  • Cystine – 0.046 g
  • Phenylalanine – 0.194 g
  • Tyrosine – 0.181 g
  • Valine – 0.246 g
  • Arginine – 0.29 g
  • Histidine – 0.076 g
  • Alanine – 0.316 g
  • Aspartic acid – 0.406 g
  • Glutamic acid – 0.587 g
  • Glycine – 0.217 g
  • Proline – 0.167 g
  • Serine – 0.21 g

Spirulina benefits

Now that we understand a thing or two about spirulina nutrition, how does it all come together? What is spirulina capable of doing to support your wellness? Spirulina benefits your health in these ways:

Spirulina benefit #1: Supports gut health

Gut health is important, and in many cases, it diminishes as we age. We rely on our intestines to absorb the nutrients our body needs. If your gut isn’t in good shape, it can hinder nutrient absorption. It can also make you more likely to fall victim to chronic diseases. 

Research shows that spirulina may be helpful for supporting gut health as we grow older. In a 2017 study involving mice, spirulina powder exhibited a positive impact on gut microbiota. 

Spirulina benefit #2: May help manage diabetes

People with diabetes tend to have high blood sugar. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is essential when managing diabetes. 

Research shows the spirulina benefits diabetes management. In a 2018 study, spirulina supplementation worked effectively to lower blood sugar levels. And in a 2012 study, spirulina powder outperformed Metformin (a well-known diabetes drug) in helping to bring down blood sugar in test rats. 

Spirulina benefit #3: May boost muscle strength and endurance

When we exercise, it causes oxidative damage. This can ultimately leave us with muscle fatigue. If our muscles are fatigued, we won’t get as much from our workouts as we could. 

Spirulina benefits muscle strength and endurance. In a 2010 study, participants who took spirulina powder exhibited better exercise performance than those who didn’t. The study showed that spirulina consumption reduced muscle fatigue and supported greater endurance.  

Spirulina benefit #4: May help lower LDL cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fat that’s found in the blood. There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL cholesterol supports your health by helping to detoxify the body. But LDL cholesterol is harmful; if levels are high, it can make you more likely to develop heart disease.

So, what is spirulina capable of doing for cholesterol? Research indicates that spirulina benefits wellness by helping the body maintain healthy cholesterol levels. In a 2016 meta-analysis, spirulina powder reduced total cholesterol, as well as LDL cholesterol. It also raised the level of healthy HDL cholesterol in participants.

In a 2013 study, participants who took 1 gram of spirulina daily exhibited lower triglyceride levels, less total cholesterol and less LDL cholesterol after a three-month period. 

Spirulina benefit #5: Supports healthy weight loss

Spirulina is nutrient-dense and low in calories. It’s packed with essential amino acids and proteins. Foods that are high in protein tend to be very satiating. This keeps you feeling full for longer periods of time, and this may ultimately encourage you to eat less. 

2016 study shows that spirulina benefits those who are seeking to achieve a healthy body weight. After three months of regular spirulina consumption (2 grams daily), participants showed reductions in body weight and body mass index (BMI). 

Spirulina benefit #6: May help reduce blood pressure

High blood pressure can place great strain on the heart, ultimately leading to cardiovascular disease. In a 2016 study, participants who regularly consumed spirulina powder showed improvements in blood pressure levels. 

Spirulina benefit #7: Excellent source of antioxidants

Antioxidants protect against oxidative damage and help reduce the amount of free radicals in the body. This can work to reduce chronic inflammation, a condition that’s been linked with ailments such as heart disease and cancer. 

So, what is spirulina good for when it comes to antioxidants? Spirulina’s main active component is phycocyanin; this is what gives this algae its rich blue-green color. Research shows phycocyanin is an antioxidant that works hard to battle oxidative stress, fight free radicals and stop inflammation.

Spirulina benefit #8: May help prevent cancer

Cancer is a leading cause of death in the U.S. Research indicates that spirulina benefits cancer prevention.

One study looked at people in India with precancerous lesions. Some in the study were given 1 gram of spirulina powder each day for a year, while others got a placebo. Of those taking spirulina, 45 percent saw their lesions disappear. Among those taking the placebo, only 7 percent saw a disappearance of lesions. 

Spirulina benefit #9: Improves allergy symptoms

Allergens such as pollen and animal hair can trigger a condition known as allergic rhinitis. This ailment causes your nasal passages to become inflamed. 

Research shows that spirulina benefits allergic rhinitis. In a 2008 study, participants who were given 2 grams of spirulina powder a day showed a dramatic reduction in symptoms such as itching, nasal congestion, sneezing and nasal discharge.  

Spirulina dose

Studies show that spirulina doses of anywhere from 1-8 grams per day can be effective. 

Next steps

What is spirulina capable of when it comes to helping you achieve your health goals? The best way to find out is to take this superfood for a test run. It’s sold online and at local health food stores. 

Support your spirulina supplementation with a clean, healthy diet. To add delicious, nourishing foods to your eating plan,subscribe to Fresh N’ Lean. For your convenience, we cook each meal and deliver it to your door. Our chef-prepared meal plans range from vegan to keto, and they’re loaded with foods designed to support you on your health journey.