Spirulina: 10 Health Benefits and Possible Side Effects

spirulina benefits

Written by: Lukas

Category: Spirulina

Published: 28.07.2016

 

Spirulina is an ancient blue-algae with high nutritional value and numerous health benefits. This algae grows naturally in alkaline water bodies in subtropical climates where there is ample sunlight. Although spirulina has been in existence for centuries, its popularity as a potent superfood has emerged in the last few decades.

The algae has played a vital role in the development of the food chain since it is capable of enduring high atmospheric temperatures. Spirulina is good source of nutrients for mammals, aquatic life and human beings. It can be cultivated on algae ponds although it also grows naturally in large green colonies on the surface of water bodies.

Spirulina is cultivated in parts of Japan and the U.S. (Hawaii). It also grows in the wild in Africa and Mexico. A lot of people, including health experts and popular lifestyle personalities, have endorsed spirulina superfood for its amazing health benefits. 

 

Spirulina – History of Use

Spirulina has been consumed for ages in Central America, Mexico and Africa due to its nutritional value. The Aztec people of Mesoamerica used it as a food source until the 16th. Lake Texcoco in Mexico was the main source of spirulina for the Aztec people. Lake Chad in Central Africa is one of the largest freshwater sources of spirulina. The Aztec and people around Lake Chad sifted the algae from the lake and dried it on the rocks in form of cakes before taking it as their primary source of proteins.

According to research findings published in the Cardiovascular Therapeutics Journal, spirulina was once categorized as plant because it has several plant pigments and is able to carry out photosynthesis. However, further research into its biochemical properties, genetics and physiology has shown that spirulina belongs to the bacteria kingdom. 

This algae is easily harvested because it grows in microscopic spirals or colonies which tend to stick together. Although it has a concentrated blue-green color, its taste is relatively mild. The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers to make spirulina supplements as well as use it as a color additive in candy and gum.

spirulina flakes healthy

Forms of Spirulina

Spirulina is available in different forms such as capsules/tablets and powder. Spirulina powder can be dissolved in water, blended drinks and soup. If you don’t like the taste of powdered spirulina, you can use it in tablet or capsule form and still get the same health benefits of Spirulina superfood.

10 Health Benefits of Spirulina Superfood

Benefit #1: A High Protein Food

This superfood has a unique ability of efficiently synthesizing concentrated proteins in a short duration of time. The algae contains about 50-70% protein content, and is regarded as one the foods with the highest protein content in the entire plant and bacteria kingdom.

Spirulina also contains essential amino acids and other proteins which are easily digested and absorbed by the body. For this reason, it is a very good alternative to animal-based proteins.

This algae has a good balance of proteins, antioxidants and minerals, and is an excellent option for vegetarians and people who prefer a high raw diet.

Benefit #2: Balances Brain Chemistry

Spirulina contains amino acids that are essential in preventing depression and enhancing brain function. It contains an amino acid known as tryptophan which enhances the production of serotonin in the body. Serotonin reduces depression, elevates mood, reduces the risk of neurological-related conditions and boosts sleep.

Benefit #3: Immune Boosting Antioxidants

Spirulina has several antioxidants including lutein, beta-carotene, phycocyanin and zeaxantin, among others. Beta-carotein and phycocyanin enhance the immune system by protecting the body from harmful pathogens and viruses. Carotenoids and beta-carotenes are the orange-pigments in fruits and plants like carrots and red palm fruit. They are vital for healthy mucous membranes, eyesight and the skin.

Benefit #4: Protect Against Radiation

This algae-bacteria contains a huge amount of phycocyanin due to its blue-green pigment. Phycocyanin protects the cellular part of the plant from excessive amount of sunlight. As such, when you consume this superfood, your body cells will be protected from the damaging effects of excessive ultra-violet radiation.

Several studies suggest that spirulina combines with radioactive isotopes to protect the body from harmful radiation. For this reason, the superfood can be used by people undergoing radiation therapy treatment.

Benefit #5: Promotes Healthy Eyesight

Spirulina contains zeaxanthin, a common component in dark leafy vegetables and greens. Zeaxanthin nourishes the retina as well as protects the eyes from muscular degeneration and damage from UV rays.

spirulina recipes

Benefit #6: Purifies the Blood

This algae contains large amounts of chlorophyll which it uses to collect energy for photosynthesis. The chlorophyll in spirulina is almost similar to blood hemoglobin except that it contains magnesium as its center molecule unlike hemoglobin which contains iron as the center molecule.

Spirulina has large amounts of iron which purify the blood by getting rid of unwanted toxins in the nervous system and liver. The iron also builds blood and prevents anemia. Spirulina increases energy levels in people with low levels of iron and women undergoing menstruation. Additionally, it enables the uptake of more oxygen in the blood.

Benefit #7: Prevents Cancer

According to a study in the Journal of Biochemical Pharmacology, spirulina reduces the production of cancerous leukemia cells by causing the cells to die, a process known as apoptosis. In 2009, the Cancer Science Journal indicated that spirulina enhances natural killer cell activity.

This means that it boosts production of immune cells that prevent the growth of tumors and cancer cells. Other studies have shown that spirulina is a critical nutritional supplement for HIV patients because it fights influenza virus, herpes virus and the HIV itself.

Benefit #8: Lowers Cholesterol

Blue – green algae reduces cholesterol in people with normal or high cholesterol levels. It lowers LDL/bad cholesterol and total cholesterol as well as increases good/HDL cholesterol.

Benefit #9: Relieves Allergy, Fatigue and Diabetes

Studies indicate that people who take 2-6 grams of spirulina for several months have lower blood sugar levels, decreased allergy and low fatigue. This superfood also improves liver function.

Benefit #10: Enhances Weight Loss and Exercise Performance

Lifestyle changes have contributed to weight gain. However, you can enhance weight loss by taking spirulina. Spirulina increases the production of serotonin in the brain. This hormone improves your mood, suppresses appetite and prevents emotional eating.

As a result, the body burns fats to provide energy hence increases weight loss. Spirulina also boosts energy levels in the body to enable you exercise for longer periods of time.

spirulina forms

Possible Side Effects

Health experts consider spirulina to be a healthy and safe superfood. However, the algae can be contaminated with liver-damaging substances such as harmful bacteria, toxic metals and microcystins (toxins produced by some algae) if it is grown in contaminated areas.

Contaminated spirulina can cause rapid heartbeat, thirst, shock, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, liver damage and death. To enjoy the health benefits of spirulina, users must buy high-quality spirulina superfood products that are verified and tested for toxins.

 

People with severe hyperthyroidism or allergic reaction to iodine or seafood should avoid using the superfood. Nursing mothers and pregnant women should consult their doctors before taking this product. It is recommended that you consult your physician or a healthcare professional before using the product as a dietary supplement.

Spirulina has numerous health benefits and is safe for consumption. Many people today prefer natural supplements which have several nutrients. The nutritional value of spirulina is unbeatable. This superfood contains high protein content, essential amino acids, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Scientific research has shown the positive health benefits of spirulina superfood on various medical conditions like cancer, leukemia, HIV and diabetes, among others.

 

 

Written by

Writer, contributor and a huge fan of healthy lifestyle. I write about my own experiences with different types of food.

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