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Spirulina: Health Benefits of This Blue-Green Algae Superfood

Spirulina: Health Benefits of This Blue-Green Algae Superfood

Spirulina: Health Benefits of This Blue-Green Algae Superfood

Spirulina has been a term that has been making the gut health and wellness rounds as of late. Often, you will hear about it being a superfood or see influencers adding these blue-green algae into nutrition shakes and protein shakes. Heck, organic spirulina is even in pill form as a supplement. But what exactly IS spirulina, and do the health claims of green or blue spirulina powder live up to the hype? 

spirulina health benefits

What is Spirulina?

In short, spirulina is biomass derived from a type of cyanobacterium. Cyanobacterium is a family of single-celled microbes that grow in fresh and salt water. The supplement industry typically grows this type of blue-green algae in a controlled environment to lower the chances of contamination of heavy metals and other bacteria.

Once upon a time, spirulina was considered to be a plant due to its ability to photosynthesize. However, the classification has since changed. Spirulina product is a blue-green algae that is often consumed in a dry powder form. This aquatic food source is one of the most nutrient-dense foods that nobody knows about. Spirulina is a complete protein source, making spirulina powder a superfood for vegans.

Health Benefits of Spirulina

spirulina health benefits

Due to its high nutritional content, this dark blue-green algae has been consumed for many years as a dietary supplement. Many tout that this algae have a wide range of health benefits. So, that being said, what are the health benefits of spirulina? Why should you incorporate it into a healthy gut diet plan? Let's discuss!

High Nutritional Value

It may not come to a shock to many that spirulina is high in micronutrients. Why else would they offer algae wraps at the spa? It has high antioxidant content that prevents oxidative damage, such as Vitamins A, C, E, and K. It's especially high in beta carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A. This vitamin is essential for skin health, immunity, and eye health [1].

Additionally, a tablespoon of spirulina powder gives you around 22 percent of your daily recommended copper intake. Copper is essential for breaking down and iron and creating red blood vessels. Spirulina is a good source of iron, too.

This blue-green microalgae also contains many B vitamins. These are essential for many cellular processes along the gut-brain-axis. That's why many add spirulina supplementation into their brain health regimen.

Vegan Powerhouse

Most notably, spirulina's weight in nutrients is about 60 percent protein. Just a single tablespoon of this blue-green algae contains 4 grams of spirulina protein! It also covers all of the essential amino acids your body needs. 

Amino acids are the building block of life. They are essential for building our muscles, grey matter, and gut lining cells. The high protein content of spirulina powder can be beneficial, especially if you are on a plant-based diet.

That being said, there are some claims about the nutritional value of spirulina that do not hold up under scrutiny. For example, despite what some people may claim, there is no Vitamin B12 in Spirulina. So, please do not try to use spirulina supplementation as an alternative to Vitamin B12 supplements. This warning is especially true for vegans.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

This cyanobacteria also has what is called phycocyanin. Phycocyanin is a pigment-protein complex that gives this popular supplement its blue color...and potent anti-inflammatory capabilities.

Research shows that this pigment-protein complex helps curb free radicals that cause chronic inflammation [2]. Although it is important to note that these results were mainly seen in animal studies. The supposed anti-inflammatory effects of spirulina may work entirely differently in the gut biome.

Weight Loss and Heart Health 

This superfood is excellent for weight loss and management because it's so high in nutrients. Your body feels fuller after consuming spirulina without consuming so many calories. In fact, one double-blind controlled study followed people who consumed the genus Spirulina maxima in powder form for three months. Results found that those who consumed spirulina had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who didn't [6]. 

Researchers also noted that this type of cyanobacterium improves high blood pressure, blood sugar, and total cholesterol. Its influence on red blood cells helps blood flow and circulation.

That way, your heart and other parts of the body get adequate blood supplies to promote healing and cell growth. What a tasty way to prevent heart disease!

Fight Allergies 

Throughout time, spirulina has been known for being able to treat allergies. In a double-blind study, spirulina was able to reduce markers for allergies by 32% compared to placebo [8]. 

Another double-blind placebo-controlled trial took place in Turkey. This study also showed that people who took spirulina had fewer symptoms of allergies than people who merely took a placebo [9]. 

With that said, spirulina does have some negative side effects if you are on blood thinners, have an  autoimmune condition, bleeding disorder, or severe allergies. So, you should avoid spirulina and seek medical advice before taking it if you have any of these conditions.

How to Take Spirulina

how to use spirulina

"Spirulina is galactic: funky, savory, and loaded with protein."

- – Chef Fernando Aciar told Bon Apetit

Great. We want in! So, how to take spirulina, you ask? By the spoonful! You can just pop it in your mouth in a less dangerous version of the Cinnamon Challenge. Also, check out these tips!

Water

Otherwise, just stir into a glass of water. If you can handle "funky, savory, and loaded with protein," spirulina is an acquired taste. If you can acquire it, it's a great way to consume a food in your healthy gut diet plan without many calories.  

Forewarning, spirulina water, or popping a spoonful, may change your teeth and tongue into a greenish-blue hue. Therefore, you might want a clean glass of water handy to chase the spirulina water. 

Smoothies 

Hoping to avoid the green colored teeth? Throw the spirulina into a smoothie. This is a great way to add natural energy boosters to your workout routine or boost your immune system during a travel day. Throw in some yogurt, almond milk, or your favorite base!

Spirulina smoothies go excellent with Ombre Rise Prebiotic Powder. Rise is rich in dietary fibers that feed healthy gut bacteria. In turn, they reward you with energizing metabolites that help you feel great! Just add one scoop to your smoothie and blend until smooth!

Supplements 

Spirulina supplements are ideal for those who genuinely don't enjoy the flavor. Also, the serving sizes will be regimented so you can get a more accurate representation of the nutrients you consume.

Confections

People have gotten clever. They will add spirulina to anything! Seriously though, if you came at us with that spirulina birthday cake… 

Anyway, those who love spirulina love spirulina. You can bake with it, add it into a yogurt parfait, or sprinkle some into your pesto. Using spirulina will give your meal or dessert a turn toward a healthy gut diet plan.

Nutrition and Microbiome Testing 

As a whole, spirulina is an alga that is rushing to the forefront of diet and nutrition. With such a large amount of nutrients as well as the potential for good, it is just a matter of time before more people catch onto the gut biome benefits. 

While adding spirulina to your diet can be a game-changer, this alga can't do it alone. Get your gut biome in shape with microbiome testing. 

With Ombre, you can determine the gut bacteria giving you gastrointestinal distress. From there, we make food suggestions and a targeted probiotic recommendation to help your gut find balance.

Resources

[1] Seaweed, spirulina, dried Nutrition Facts & Calories. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2765/2.

[2] Romay, C., González, R., Ledón, N., Remirez, D., & Rimbau, V. (2003, June). C-phycocyanin: A biliprotein with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12769719.

[3] Selmi, C., Leung, P. S., Fischer, L., German, B., Yang, C., Kenny, T. P., . . . Gershwin, M. E. (2011, May). The effects of Spirulina on anemia and immune function in senior citizens. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012879/.

[4] Ou, Y., Lin, L., Yang, X., Pan, Q., & Cheng, X. (2013, May). Antidiabetic potential of phycocyanin: Effects on KKAy mice. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23368938.

[5] Parikh, P., Mani, U., & Iyer, U. (2001). Role of Spirulina in the Control of Glycemia and Lipidemia in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12639401.

[6] Miczke, A., Szulińska, M., Hansdorfer-Korzon, R., Kręgielska-Narożna, M., Suliburska, J., Walkowiak, J., & Bogdański, P. (2016). Effects of spirulina consumption on body weight, blood pressure, and endothelial function in overweight hypertensive Caucasians: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. European review for medical and pharmacological sciences, 20(1), 150–156.

[7] Parikh, P., Mani, U., & Iyer, U. (2001). Role of Spirulina in the Control of Glycemia and Lipidemia in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of medicinal food, 4(4), 193–199. https://doi.org/10.1089/10966200152744463.

[8] Mao, T. K., Van de Water, J., & Gershwin, M. E. (2005). Effects of a Spirulina-based dietary supplement on cytokine production from allergic rhinitis patients. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15857205.

[9] Cingi, C., Conk-Dalay, M., Cakli, H., & Bal, C. (2008, October). The effects of spirulina on allergic rhinitis. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18343939/.

[8] Ismail, M. F., Ali, D. A., Fernando, A., Abdraboh, M. E., Gaur, R. L., Ibrahim, W. M., … Ouhtit, A. (2009). Chemoprevention of rat liver toxicity and carcinogenesis by Spirulina. International journal of biological sciences, 5(4), 377–387.

[10] Mathew, B., Sankaranarayanan, R., Nair, P. P., Varghese, C., Somanathan, T., Amma, B. P., . . . Nair, M. K. (1995). Evaluation of chemoprevention of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8584455.

[11] Mathew, B., Sankaranarayanan, R., Nair, P. P., Varghese, C., Somanathan, T., Amma, B. P., Amma, N. S., & Nair, M. K. (1995). Evaluation of chemoprevention of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis. Nutrition and cancer, 24(2), 197–202. https://doi.org/10.1080/01635589509514407.