Spirulina is a bit of a buzz word when it comes to health and nutrition, and rightly so – this popular superfood is one of the most nutritionally-dense foods on the planet!
Personally, I love the stuff. Simply because of the vast array of benefits that you can get from just this one supplement.
So why the craze? Let’s get into it!
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a form of Blue-Green Microalgae, which is absolutely packed with protein, vitamins and other essential nutrients.
In fact, Spirulina is actually made up of around 55-70% protein – meaning that it has a higher concentration of protein per gram than chicken, soy, fish and even beef!
It also contains high levels of anti-oxidants, B-Vitamins, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, phosphorus, chlorophyll and phycocyanin – which is a pigment-protein complex that can only be found in blue-green algae.
Click here for a link to the detailed breakdown of all the nutrients in one tablespoon of Spirulina (USDA website).
Health Benefits of Spirulina
Provides High Levels of Antioxidants
Spirulina provides high levels of antioxidants, and has one unique antioxidant (Phycocyanin) which acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Antioxidants protect our cells from harm by neutralising molecules called ‘free radicals’ in our body that can damage molecular structures.
We receive antioxidants from various foods in our diet such as blackberries and dark chocolate. However, Spirulina provides a healthy boost to our system – helping prevent cancer, lowering the risk of infection and contributing towards a healthy heart.
Improves Your Immune System
Spirulina acts as a booster to your immune system, especially because it contains the antioxidant Phycocyanin which boosts the number of white blood cells in the body.
White blood cells produce antibodies in our blood which guard against infection.
So the next time you feel like you are coming down with flu – make sure that you are taking Spirulina!
Supports Your Heart, Liver & Kidneys
Spirulina also supports the heart, liver and kidneys.
The Phycocyanin in Spirulina has been shown to reduce blood pressure, and to lower levels of Cholesterol.
Spirulina also contains high levels of GLA (Gamma-Linoleic acid). GLA is a ‘healthy fat’ in moderation, which also contributes towards the healthy functioning of the brain and the heart.
Spirulina also supports your digestive system. It boosts healthy bacteria in your body, helps with the absorption of nutrients from your diet, and assists the flow of waste through your system.
Spirulina acts as a natural detoxifyer, and is especially effective in removing heavy metals such as arsenic from the body. Spirulina contains high levels of Chlorophyll, which is an extremely powerful detoxing agent.
High levels of heavy metals in the body can damage us from the inside out. They collect in our body tissue and cause damage to our internal organs, as well as weaken our immune system.
There are four main areas from which we can be contaminated by heavy metals: the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the food that we eat and from dust and dirt.
Our diet and everyday living exposes us to more heavy metals and toxins than we may expect. Spirulina acts as a neutraliser, and helps us keep our levels of damaging toxins under control.
Boosts Your Energy Levels
Spirulina has also been shown to give you an energy boost, especially when you need it the most – during exercise!
As it is packed full of protein and vitamins, it is an ideal supplement to take to help muscle recovery after a workout. It has also been shown to increase fat burning during exercise, and it acts as a natural appetite suppressant – so you are less likely to overeat and reverse all the hard work that you have done at the gym.
Spirulina also has a high iron content, which is essential for keeping your muscles oxygenated during exercise.
May Improve HIV/AIDS
There is some controversy over this point, but there has been some evidence to suggest that taking Spirulina may actually reduce the risk of developing HIV/AIDS.
Epidemiologists have been wondering why those in Chad, Japan and Korea actually have less instances of HIV/AIDS than the average western population.
And it just so happens that the populations in those areas consume a lot of algae in their diet!
Here is a link to a case study done in the USA where this theory was put to the test.
The study had 11 subjects who were split into three groups. The first group took 5g of Spirulina per day, the second 5g of brown seaweed per day, and the third took a mixture of both.
The study showed that after 3 months Spirulina had no adverse affects of the patients, and that their quality of life notably improved after 3 weeks.
It also showed that over time, Spirulina may improve clinical endpoints of HIV/AIDS.
Assists in Keeping Eyes Healthy
Spirulina contains high levels of Vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin for maintaining eye health.
Eating carrots is normally recommended for healthy eyes. But in fact, blue-green algae actually has ten times the concentration of Vitamin A as carrots – making it a great supplement for maintaining general eye health.
High in Iron Content
Spirulina contains a high content of iron, which makes it very beneficial supplement for those who are anemic, or for pregnant women.
Getting the right intake of iron is extremely important for several reasons. Iron assists in the formation of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through the body, through your blood.
Having a healthy iron content in your body ensures that enough oxygen gets to the right parts of your body for them to function at their maximum capacity.
Around 20% of the blood in your body is used by your brain, so having the right iron content in your body also helps to maintain a healthy brain!
Iron also helps oxygenate your muscles during exercise, which increases sports performance…
Maybe Pop-Eye the Sailor should have taken Spirulina as well as spinach for his muscles!
Forms of Spirulina
Spirulina can commonly be purchased in either a powder form (the most common), or in a capsule or tablet form.
A powder form is the fastest absorbed by the body, followed by Spirulina capsules, and then Spirulina tablets.
Spirulina powder is also the least processed form of Spirulina, as it is the first form created from live Spirulina cultures.
We would recommend taking Spirulina in powder form if you can, as you can normally source it cheaper than capsules or tablets. It does however have a strong taste, so do be prepared!
How Much Should I Take Daily?
The amount of Spirulina that you may wish to take on a daily basis will vary depending on your age, your weight and how long you have been taking the supplement.
As with all things, it is best to start out with a fairly small dose, and then gradually increase the dose as your body gets used to it.
Remember – this stuff is packed full of nutrients, so it will most likely be quite a shock to your system to start with!
It is recommended that you start on around a 3-5g dose per day. You can then gradually increase that to a higher dose of between 6-10g per day if you wish.
As a maximum, you don’t really want to exceed 16-18g per day. There is no point in taking any more than that, as there is no proven increase in health benefit over that limit.
Most of the health benefits from this superfood can be seen at between 4-8g per day.
Possible Side Effects of Spirulina
Spirulina is by nature easy to digest, and extremely rich in nutrients.
It does however contain iodine, so it is best avoided by those who are allergic or sensitive to iodine, and those with hyperparathyroidism (a rare hormone disorder).
Being a form of blue-green algae, it is also important that those who are extremely sensitive or allergic to seafood and/or seaweed should refrain from taking Spirulina.
There is also some evidence to suggest that pregnant women and young children should not consume blue-green algae.
However for most – it is completely safe!
We recommend that you consult your doctor before starting to take any supplement, just to make sure that it would be right for YOU!
The Difference Between Chlorella and Spirulina
Both Chlorella and Spirulina are superfoods, and they are also both supplements that are derived from algae.
Chlorella is actually richer than Spirulina in Chlorophyll (around 10x richer), which is demonstrated by the fact that it is more of a green colour – whereas Spirulina is more of a blue-green.
Chlorophyll is beneficial for detoxifying, so Chlorella is a bit better at removing toxins from your body.
Chlorella also contains a special growth factor that is not present in Spirulina. This is called Chlorella growth factor, and is what allows Chlorella to quadruple in number every 24 hours. It also makes Chlorella a good supplement for repairing damage to nerve tissues, and for those with degenerative brain disorders.
Spirulina contains higher levels of phytochemicals than Chlorella. These phytochemicals (natural compounds found in plants) are effective in helping to prevent cancer, and also act as a good boost to the immune system.
Spirulina also contains a far greater amount of protein than Chlorella (and 12x that in beef even), and has proven links to aiding weight loss.
Both superfoods are extremely nutritious, and either would make a great supplement to add to your daily routine.
Where to Source Spirulina
It is important to ensure that you only buy pure forms of Spirulina – so always make sure that you buy organic (there is only one exception to this, which we’ll show you below).
Buying organic is a little bit more expensive, but cheaper forms are commonly more contaminated, and they can cause you illness.
Because of the Chlorophyll in Spirulina, it absorbs heavy metals and toxins from the environment. This makes it extremely important to check where the Spirulina that you source is produced.
If it is produced in man-made lakes or ponds, then it is far easier to control the conditions in which is is grown, and to ensure that no contaminants are absorbed during the manufacturing process.
All of the brands that we recommend below test their produce extensively to ensure that their Spirulina is of the highest quality, and free from contaminants.
It is also generally much cheaper to buy in bulk, especially when buying this superfood in powder form. If you store your Spirulina in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight, then it can have a shelf-life of 2-3 years
This makes it possible to buy larger quantities and then get through them over time.
Here are our top four brands of Spirulina to try out (Follow links to view product):
Healthforce Spirulina Azteca Powder – Grown in the United States
Healthforce Spirulina is in our top two brands of Spirulina, as it is just simply out of this world!
The company maintains that their products are not just organic, but that they are 100% pesticide, insecticide, herbicide, GMO and irradiation free. The company strives to produce the purest products on the market, and that can really be seen in the quality of their Spirulina, as well as their other products.
If you are going for an ultra-clean source of Spirulina, then this would be a great option for you.
Nutrex-Hawaii Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica – Grown in Hawaii
One of the most popular brands of Spirulina, Nutrex-Hawaii produces its Spirulina on the Kona coast in Hawaii – a location which receives the most sunlight in the US on average for a coastal location.
Nutrex-Hawaii’s Spirulina is extremely pure, as it is grown in lined ponds, and it is grown without the use of any chemical fertilisers, or plant/animal waste products.
The only reason that it can’t be certified as organic is because they use the same inorganic fertiliser as nature to fertilise the crop (phosphorus, natrium and nitogen), as that is the natural food for algae.
To be officially marked as ‘organic’, then animal and plant waste have to be used in the growth of the product, which poses a risk of contamination to the produce.
And that is why Nutex-Hawaii is the only non-certified organic Spirulina that we would recommend – just because we know how pure it is!
Synergy Natural Organic Spirulina Powder – Grown on a Sub-Tropical Island in the Pacific
Synergy grow their organic Spirulina on a sub-tropical island in the pacific ocean – far away from any heavy industry or pollutants. It is Australian certified organic.
I have been impressed with the quality of their produce. Synergy grow their Spirulina with underground spring water as the medium, which enhances the quality, and means that you can trust that it is free from pollutants.
Synergy also pack their products in recyclable plastic containers in order to preserve the contents as much as possible. They also flush their packaging with nitrogen before filling it, to ensure that the minimum amount of oxygen enters (again, to preserve the product as long as possible).
A great brand, and a great provider of organic Spirulina, at a good price.
NOW Foods Organic Spirulina Powder – Grown in India
Grown in Southern India, NOW Foods Spirulina Powder is certified as organic Spirulina by the USDA.
The company have been producing supplements since 1968, and they have continuously met and exceeded natural product manufacturing regulations.
They extensively test their Spirulina to check that contaminant levels are kept to an absolute minimum, and they have been in the business of producing health supplements for a long time.
The Spirulina that they produce is very good quality, and it is not too expensive either!