Are the mega health benefits of spirulina the nutrient dense protein miracle you've been waiting for?
"Spirulina", says certified nutritional consultant and Project Juice co-founder Lori Kenyon Farley "is a type of bacteria called cyanobacterium (but referred to as blue-green algae) that produces energy out of sunlight just like plants. It's believed to have been a staple of the Aztecs and one of their main sources of protein.”
So, spirulina isn’t new. Got it. But, at first, consuming blue-green algae that tastes like the bottom of a pond doesn’t sound entirely sexy. That is until you hear what spirulina can do for your body. Kenyon Farley continues, “Spirulina may be one of the most nutrient dense items on earth."
Nutritional and Health Benefits of Spirulina
A single ounce of spirulina contains:
- Protein: 39 grams
- Vitamin B1: 60% recommended dietary allowance (RDA)
- Vitamin B2: 44% RDA
- Vitamin B3: 18% RDA
- Copper: 85% RDA
- Iron: 44% of the RDA
- Magnesium: 14% of the RDA
- Potassium: 11% of the RDA
- Manganese: 27% of the RDA
- ALL essential amino acids
- Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids
- Calories: 81
- Sugars: .1 g
Kenyon Farley adds that spirulina can aid in:
- Reducing blood pressure
- Detoxifying the body of heavy metals
- Promoting growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, which strengthens your immune system and can eliminate candida
- Lowering cholesterol
- Boosting energy
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving endurance and increasing strength
- Speeding weight loss by curbing hunger
- Alleviating sinus issues
Certified nutritional consultant and founder of Essential Daily Greens, Geri Giagnorio says spirulina "can help with health conditions that are brought on by inflammation and oxidative stress in the body… It's effective in treating the basics of anti-inflammatory responses within the body when bombarded by free radicals. Spirulina’s nutrients are effective to healing, obtaining and maintaining a healthier body because they all contribute to the proper functions of the organs and tissues in the body.”
Catherine Arnston, founder of ENERGYbits®, adds that, “100% spirulina algae provides a steady stream of energy to improve endurance, strength and focus... without chemicals, sugar, caffeine, gluten or stomach distress.”
Is all spirulina created equal?
Nope! Holistic nutritionist Jennie Miremadi tells her clients to select a “high-quality brand that has been tested for toxins and pollutants."
But does it have to be organic? That is definitely up for debate.
While Kenyon-Farley says that organic is best and brands like Terrasoul Superfoods and Starwest Bontanicals are organic, Traci Kantowski of Nutrex Hawaii says that organic spirulina doesn't necessarily mean better quality. She explains, "In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) ruled that all-natural, mined nitrogen from the earth is not allowable in organic foods. The NOSB allows only two alternatives, both of which are organic and both of which carry health risks. These are fertilizers from animal manure and fertilizers from decomposed plants (also called compost teas). We chose not to use these because they can contaminate the microalgae with lead and other heavy metals, increase the bacterial count or deplete the nutrients.”
When selecting a brand of spirulina, give them a call. Learn about their harvesting and testing practices. A representative of Terrasoul Superfoods says, "Know what you're buying. You want a company who is transparent and does their own testing from a certified lab for each lot. Especially, if they import from outside America."
How do I take spirulina? Tablet, powder, or capsule?
The good news is that spirulina might be the most nutrient dense substance on earth. But as Kenyon Farley says, “It takes like pond water.” Good thing that companies are re-introducing spirulina in more palatable forms. She says, “It's most bio-available in raw, frozen form. But can also be taken in pill or capsule form… Powder and capsules deliver the same benefits, but capsules take about an hour to dissolve and are a bit harder to digest."
What form you take also depends upon what health benefits of spirulina you want. Kenyon Farley advises, "If you're looking for a quick energy boost, choose powder. If you are using it for weight loss and want to take advantage of the appetite suppressing qualities, take the powder immediately before a meal or the capsules one hour prior to eating."
Miremadi says she prefers powders over tablets and capsules "because powders are generally more easily absorbed and often contain less fillers or binding agents. Tablets in particular can sometimes be hard to digest, which can cause less nutrients to be absorbed."
Giagnorio adds, "Some people just prefer one over the other. When it comes to pills make sure they are a pressed powder pill or a powdered spirulina encapsulated in a vegan capsule. No additives."
Starwest Botanicals reports that "most customers prefer the raw powder and it seems to actually be more popular than the encapsulated spirulina. However, the encapsulated form of spirulina is definitely convenient and delivers the specified amounts of the desired nutrients in a low to no calorie form."
So, powder, tablet or capsule? I say, take whatever you can to get started and course correct along the way. The health benefits of spirulina are definitely... better than a bagel!
Any cons to this wondrous nutrient dense power?
“Spirulina is expensive as compared with other sources of plant proteins,"says Miremadi. "And while spirulina is generally quite safe, it is easily contaminated when growing. Before consuming any spirulina, individuals need to make sure that they are consuming a source that is tested for contaminants and toxins.”
She also warns, “Individuals with phenylketonuria should avoid consuming spirulina because it contains the amino acid phenylalanine, which phenylketonurics are unable to metabolize. Individuals with autoimmune diseases should also likely avoid spirulina as it may stimulate the immune system, which could potentially increase symptoms or cause the autoimmune disease to become worse."
According to Arnston, UV rays can compromise the integrity of spirulina, and proper UV-protected packaging is vital to shelf life.
Giagnorio also points out an obvious but very important reminder, "If you are allergic to algae avoid Spirulina.” She also advises, "Never take more that the normal daily dosage. Because Spirulina contains iron you wouldn’t want to over do it. Anything over 7 grams for the normal height and body weight would not be recommended in my opinion, when trying to achieve better overall health.”
Are you ready to experience the mega health benefits of spirulina?
Here are 3 ways to get started!
- Choose a high-quality reputable spirulina brand.
- Choose a power, tablet, or capsule that works with your lifestyle.
- Then take the right daily dose for your weight to get the full health benefits.
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Spoon of Spirulina image via Shutterstock