What is Spirulina?
If you’re looking for a plant that can nourish your body by providing most of its protein requirements, can prevent allergies and reinforce your immune system, then spirulina is what you need.
Spirulina is a natural algae (cyanobacteria) that are incredibly high in protein and nutrients. It is obtained primarily from two species of cyanobacteria: Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima. Unlike other plants that grow in the soil, Spirulina grows in the form of blue-green algae in both fresh water and salt water in the wild. It is also commercially cultivated in Spirulina farms. The name originates from the Latin word for ‘helix’, or ‘spiral’, because of its spring like physical characteristics.
This plant is consumed as food as well as a dietary supplement. It’s available in tablet, powder and flake form. Besides being consumed by humans, it is also used as a feed supplement in aquaculture, aquarium and poultry industries. Spirulina is largely composed of proteins and amino acids and hence, is beneficial for vegetarians. The high content of protein and iron makes it beneficial during pregnancy, after surgery, and for boosting the immune system. Since it is a concentrated whole food, it is easily incorporated in various dishes, particularly for children who do not like vegetables.
Spirulina Health Benefits:
Spirulina is a “superfood” which possesses tremendous nutritional value. Being rich in vital nutrients, this plant offers the following health benefits:
1. Treatment of Allergies:
According to research, Spirulina can help in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Consumption of Spirulina helps in reducing symptoms like nasal discharge, sneezing, congestion and itching.
2. Lowers Blood Cholesterol Levels:
Spirulina reduces the blood cholesterol levels naturally and boosts the absorption of vital minerals. Consumption of several grams of Spirulina daily can reduce LDL or bad cholesterol and improve the cholesterol ratio. This normalization of cholesterol plays a great role in weight reduction.
3. Beneficial in Diabetes:
In a study it was observed that taking Spirulina as a dietary supplement for 12 weeks results in a significant reduction in blood-fat levels. It is particularly beneficial for diabetics as it decreases inflammation and helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
4. Aids in Weight Loss:
Spirulina is rich in beta-carotene, chlorophyll, fatty-acid GLA and other nutrients which are particularly beneficial for overweight people. Taking this supplement is beneficial while fasting, as it supplies the nutrients that are needed to cleanse and heal your system, while curbing your appetite.
5. Prevents Cancer:
Several studies have proven that Spirulina can arrest the development of cancer progression, reduce the risk of cancer initiation and boost your immune system. It is a great substitute for animal products as it contains a special form of protein that assimilates well. Unlike animal proteins, it does not burden your body with waste products. It is also rich in phycocyanin, a pigment with anti-cancer properties. It strengthens immunity and inhibits excess cell division. Spirulina also offers some protection against oral cancers.
6. Improves Brain/Cognitive Function:
Folate and vitamin B-12 play an important role in the healthy functioning of the brain and nervous system. Being rich in these nutrients, Spirulina helps in protecting cognitive function as one starts to age. This nutritional supplement helps maintain brain function.
7. Cures Depression:
Spirulina is a good source of folic acid which provides nourishment for the brain and supports the production of energy and blood cells. This makes it beneficial in the treatment of depression.
8. Eye Health:
Research has shown that Spirulina is beneficial for the eyes. It is proven to be effective in treating eye diseases such as geriatric cataracts, diabetic retinal damage (retinitis), nephritic retinal damage and hardening of retinal blood vessels (angiosclerosis).
9. Treatment of Ulcers:
Spirulina acts as a good treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers, thanks to the presence of amino acids, cysteine and a high content of high quality protein. Being rich in chlorophyll, it is great for retaining and restoring a good digestion.
10. Treatment of Hepatitis and Cirrhosis:
Clinical reports have indicated that Spirulina prevents, as well as cures, fatty liver and hepato-cirrhosis. This supplement should be taken for at least one month to notice beneficial results.
11. Promotes Sexual Vitality:
The high content of protein in Spirulina, as well as the presence of other vitamins, minerals and enzymes, makes it beneficial for improving sexual vigor.
12. Dental Health:
Spirulina has a high content of phosphorus and helps improve your teeth.
13. Antibacterial Properties:
Chronic candida yeast is responsible for worsening symptoms of various autoimmune diseases. Spirulina keeps candida overgrowth under control by encouraging and supporting the growth of healthy bacteria in your stomach.
14. HIV and AIDS:
Spirulina can cure the symptoms that are a side-effect of HIV and AIDS treatment. It also helps inactivate the human immunodeficiency virus associated with HIV and AIDS.
15. Beneficial during Pregnancy:
Spirulina has a high content of iron which is required during pregnancy, particularly for those with anemia. It also prevents constipation.
[Read:Spirulina For Weight Loss]
16. Other Uses Of Spirulina:
Spirulina possesses antimicrobial properties that can destroy bacteria and viruses such as HIV-1, enterovirus, cytomegalovirus, measles, mumps, influenza A and herpes simplex. It also boosts the immune system by making it produce more monocytes, natural killer cells and macrophages, all of which destroy invading pathogens in the body.
Skin Benefits of Spirulina:
Being loaded with proteins, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, Spirulina has a lot to offer in terms of skincare. It is beneficial for your skin in the following ways:
17. Skin Toner:
Spirulina has a high content of vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin E, calcium, iron and phosphorus, all of which are vital for your skin’s health. Free radicals make your skin look tired, limp and flabby. Taking Spirulina supplements on a regular basis works wonders for your skin, making it look toned, youthful and vital. It also treats flabby skin by eliminating the body’s metabolic waste products and strengthening the body as a whole.
18. Treatment of Dark Circles:
Spirulina is effective in treating dark circles and dry eye symptoms. Its detoxifying effects give your eyes new energy and power, removing dark shadows and dryness.
19. Anti-ageing Benefits:
Spirulina contains tyrosine, vitamin E or tocopherol, and selenium, all of which are known for their anti-ageing effects. Tyrosine slows down the ageing of skin cells. The antioxidants present in it eliminate free radicals which are responsible for skin ageing. Try this facial mask to prevent premature ageing of skin and fight acne. Make a paste by mixing some Spirulina with water and apply it on your face. Keep on for 20 minutes and wash off. This will make your skin amazingly soft and smooth as well as prevent signs of ageing like wrinkles.
20. Detoxifies Skin:
Spirulina facilitates faster cell turnover that helps skin heal faster. It wards off free radicals and eliminates toxins from the skin to increase skin metabolism. It also prevents candida overgrowth that can cause acne breakouts.
21. Healthy Nails:
Regular use of Spirulina treats fingernail ridges and other nail problems. Spirulina contains 70% high-value protein which is required by the body. Consuming it for about 4 weeks can cure nail problems and warts.
[Read:Benefits Of Potato Juice]
Hair Benefits of Spirulina:
Spirulina is being widely used for promoting hair growth and to combat hair problems like thinning hair and baldness. Spirulina contains amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamin A and beta-carotene, all of which are great for hair. Some of its hair benefits are as follows:
22. Promotes Hair Growth:
External use of Spirulina can speed up hair growth. Besides consumption, this algae is used as an ingredient in shampoos and conditioning treatments. It also helps in hair re-growth.
23. Treatment of Hair Loss:
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease characterized by hair loss at an alarming rate. It is not just confined to the scalp alone but also leads to hair loss across the body and face. This can result in bald spots, even in women, and even complete baldness. Spirulina acts as an alternative medicine to deter further loss of hair and facilitate hair renewal.
24. Treatment of Dandruff:
Spirulina acts as an antioxidant compound and taking it for 4 weeks makes your hair completely dandruff-free, glossy and stronger.
[Read:Benefits Of Cilantro]
Nutritional Value of Spirulina
Spirulina is a super food that has a rich nutritional value incorporating a multitude of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids which contribute to its various benefits. Being one of the most nutritious and concentrated food sources, it is frequently used in natural foods and beverages, including green foods and drinks, energy bars and oral supplements. Its nutritional profile is explained below:
|Spirulina（dried）Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,213 kJ (290 kcal)|
|- Sugars||3.1 g|
|- Dietary fiber||3.6 g|
|- saturated||2.65 g|
|- monounsaturated||0.675 g|
|- polyunsaturated||2.08 g|
|- Tryptophan||0.929 g|
|- Threonine||2.97 g|
|- Isoleucine||3.209 g|
|- Leucine||4.947 g|
|- Lysine||3.025 g|
|- Methionine||1.149 g|
|- Cystine||0.662 g|
|- Phenylalanine||2.777 g|
|- Tyrosine||2.584 g|
|- Valine||3.512 g|
|- Arginine||4.147 g|
|- Histidine||1.085 g|
|- Alanine||4.515 g|
|- Aspartic acid||5.793 g|
|- Glutamic acid||8.386 g|
|- Glycine||3.099 g|
|- Proline||2.382 g|
|- Serine||2.998 g|
|Vitamin equiv.||29 μg (4%)|
|- beta-carotene||342 μg (3%)|
|- lutein and zeaxanthin||0 μg|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||2.38 mg (207%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||3.67 mg (306%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||12.82 mg (85%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||3.48 mg (70%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.364 mg (28%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||94 μg (24%)|
|Vitamin B12||0 μg (0%)|
|Choline||66 mg (13%)|
|Vitamin C||10.1 mg (12%)|
|Vitamin D||0 IU (0%)|
|Vitamin E||5 mg (33%)|
|Vitamin K||25.5 μg (24%)|
|Calcium||120 mg (12%)|
|Iron||28.5 mg (219%)|
|Magnesium||195 mg (55%)|
|Manganese||1.9 mg (90%)|
|Phosphorus||118 mg (17%)|
|Potassium||1363 mg (29%)|
|Sodium||1048 mg (70%)|
|Zinc||2 mg (21%)|
|Link to USDA Database entry|
- Vitamins: B-vitamins refer to a group of water soluble vitamins that are required for energy production as well as formation of red blood cells. Spirulina is a good source of B-vitamins and it contains an exceptionally high amount of vitamin B-12. It also contains vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (nicotinamide), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folic acid). Other vitamins found in these algae include Vitamin, K, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and Vitamin A. The level of vitamin E in Spirulina is comparable to that of wheat germ and it possesses 4 times as much vitamin B12 as raw lever.
- Protein: Spirulina comprises of at least 60% protein. A 112 gram serving provides approximately 64 grams of protein. 83% to 90% of this is digestible because, unlike yeast and chlorella, these algae do not have cellulose walls. It has a high net protein utilization ratio (NPU) of 53% to 61%. The high protein efficiency ratio (PER) of Spirulina indicates that your body is efficiently able to use the amino acids. Protein makes up 15% of the body’s weight and is a vital nutrient for healthy growth.
- Beta-Carotene: Beta-carotene is a pigment belonging to the carotenoid family and is widely known for its antioxidant properties. It is mostly found in fruits and vegetables, imparting red, orange or yellow color to them. A half cup of dried Spirulina provides about 342 mg of beta carotene.
- Essential Fatty Acids: Essential fatty acids are also known as good fats. Since these fats are not produced within the body, they have to be provided from the food sources that contain them. Their main function is to produce prostaglandins that control the body functions like heart rate, blood pressure, fertility and immune system function. Spirulina contains 4% to 7% essential fatty acids such as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), linolenic acid (LA), stearidonic acid (SDA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA).
- Minerals: Spirulina is rich in minerals required for the body’s daily activities. These minerals are calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, selenium, iron and phosphorus. They aid in metabolism, maintain water balance and improve bone health. Its calcium, phosphorus and magnesium content are similar to that of milk.
- Carbohydrates: Spirulina has only 15% to 20% of carbohydrate content. It also contains 18 different amino acids.
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