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What Is Spirulina?

You might have seen Spirulina being mentioned as one of the vital ingredients of several natural supplements such as energy bars available in the market today.

The positive health effects of spirulina are so profound that over a thousand research articles have been published so far.

Spirulina powder and tablets

So what exactly is so special about this product? Let us take a close look at spirulina superfood.

About Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue-green alga which comes under the cyanobacteria category. 

Each individual algae has a length of about 300-500 microns and embedded within the algae is unfathomable strength of life's vital forces.

This unicellular organism got its name coined from the Latin word "Spira" which means 'spiral' or 'helix', due to its appearance when looked under a microscope.

Scientifically, spirulina is known as Arthrospira platensis, one of the oldest living organisms present on the earth.

For most people, the entire idea of consuming blue-green algae won't be a delectable choice. Surprisingly, this tiny microorganism powers the entire food chain.

Historically spirulina has been the fundamental choice of nutrition for the great civilizations which existed around the globe. Cultures such as Mayans, Aztecs and the Toltecs are known to use this extensively in their diet.

The soft cell wall of this algae makes it easy to digest, helping the body to access all the nutrients with utter ease.

Where does spirulina come from?

Spirulina in its natural form can be found in many freshwater rivers, lakes and ponds that are rich in minerals. Many naturally occurring sites have been discovered in water bodies near volcanoes.

Environments with moderate temperature and very high levels of sunlight are best for growth. Extensive growth has been found at salt lakes of South and Central America and Africa.

The largest concentration of spirulina has been found around Lake Chad in Central Africa, along the Great Rift Valley in East Africa and at Lake Texcoco in Mexico.

Ever since its rediscovery in the 1960s, spirulina has been extensively tested by researchers all over the world. It is found to be the most well balanced and potent source of nutrition available on the planet.

The alga gained immense popularity as a superfood in 1963. A French botanist Jean Leonard during his expedition in Africa described a blue-green cake sold in the food market Fort Lamy, Chad. Popularly known in the local dialect as Dihe, consumed by the Kanembu tribe living close by.

Why is spirulina a superfood?

If you pay attention to the trends in the wellness world, you might have noticed that in recent years, there has been a sudden upsurge in the use of spirulina.

This has a high protein and vitamin content, making it an excellent nutritional supplement to people who are on a vegan diet. Besides, it has proteins, fatty acids and minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphate, and carotene, which are found to be deficient in our daily diets.

Spirulina

Thus, in short, spirulina has the five primary nutrients which are vital in our daily diets.

Additionally, the digestive absorption of this algae within the human system is considered excellent.

Research has indicated that its antioxidant and anti-inflammation properties help to regulate the immune system.

Vitamins and minerals present in spirulina

The nutrient content present here is really immense, and it is one of the best ways to supplement vitamins and proteins in the diet without any side effects.

As per official data, one tablespoon (7 gram) of spirulina contains the following nutrients as mentioned in the table below.

Nutrients

Spirulina ( 7gm )

Iron

2 mg

Magnesium

13.6 mg

Phosphorus

95.4mg

Sodium

73.4mg

Zinc

0.14mg

Copper

0.427mg

Manganese

0.133mg

Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid

0.707mg

Protein

4.02 g

Carbohydrate

1.67g

Calcium

8.4mg

Riboflavin

0.257mg

Vitamin B-6

0.025mg

Vitamin A

2.03µg

Carotene, beta

23.9µg

Energy

20.3kcal

Fibre, total dietary

0.252g

Selenium and Vitamin C are known to be strong antioxidants to prevent cell and tissue damage. 

This alga is immensely rich in iron. The high iron content of 2mg is good enough to cover the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) of 23%, which is a prescribed value of men for over 18 years, and 13% for women aged 19-49 years old.

Spirulina is immensely rich in protein, which is 1 tbsp (7g).

Is it safe to take spirulina every day?

Yes, it is safe to take it every day. The standard dosage is about 1–3 grams, but it can go up to up to 10 grams per day.

The dosage mainly depends on what purpose you are using it for. These could include:
  • For reducing cholesterol: a dose of 1-8 g per day 
  • For muscle performance: a dose of 2-8 g per day 
  • Control blood sugar levels: a dose of 2-3 g per day 
  • Control high blood pressure levels: a dose of3.5-4.5 g per day
  • Reduce the effects of fatty liver:4.5 g per day

However, further research is needed to determine the exact quantity and time of day for maximum results.

Dosage of tablets
  • Children: 1-3 tablets/day.
  • Adults: 6-10 tablets/day.

Do keep in mind that if you are just starting on this superfood. Hence, it is advisable to build up the dose gradually.

  • Start with one tablet /day for the first two days.
  • For the next two days, take 2 tablets daily.
  • Like this, gradually increase the intake until you reach the required dosage.
  • If you are just starting, it is better to take it after the meals to avoid gas build-up.
  • You can take all the tablets in the morning or spread them through morning and night.

Dosage of powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoonful will be ideal to start with. If you don't like the taste, you can also mix it with fruit and vegetable juices.

Mixing spirulina powder with lemon juice is a  good idea as Vitamin C helps to increase its digestive absorption.

Health benefits of Spirulina

As mentioned above, spirulina is packed with nutrients. This is perhaps the reason why it offers multiple health benefits when consumed in the recommended dosages.

Following are some of the key health advantages of spirulina:

  1. Helps in weight loss
  2. Helps maintain blood sugar levels
  3. Reduces cholesterol
  4. Boosts metabolism
  5. Helps to control allergies
  6. Helps protect against certain types of cancers
  7. Improves colon health
  8. Helps in building stamina and improving muscle strength
  9. Helps in maintaining good mental health
  10. Is known to offer protection against viruses like HIV

Precautions and side effects

While spirulina has multiple health benefits, it may sometimes not be suitable for certain people with pre-existing health conditions. 

Some of the side effects are due to possible contaminations with toxins. This is mostly when the algae are harvested from unhygienic environments.

Additionally, this blue-green algae can cause health concerns to people suffering from pre-existing auto-immune disorders or issues with blood clotting.

For those suffering from any of these health issues, it is best to consult your doctor before starting your spirulina journey. 

Final words

Thousands of people across the globe are suffering from weak immune systems,  malnutrition and other health conditions. Spirulina, as a naturally occurring nutrient supplement, could be the best antidote in fighting against some of these health conditions.

It is known to improve your blood lipid levels, suppress oxidation, lower high blood sugar and blood pressure.

While more research is needed to prove the dietary applications of spirulina, this one of a kind blue-green algae is definitely worthy of being called a “superfood”.

Check out some leading brands to ensure that your spirulina conforms to top quality standards.

 

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