- Spirulina or blue-green algae have long been used as a food source, but now are popularly used as a smoothie ingredient.
- It is a source of many essential nutrients and provides important health benefits.
- Spirulina can also promote weight loss.
Facts About Spirulina
Spirulina is a blue-green alga naturally found in freshwater ponds and saltwater lakes but it can also be grown in man-made lakes and laboratories. According to Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Ojai, California, and author of California Vegan, spirulina has been used as a food source even back in ancient times. It is now a popular smoothie ingredient because of its numerous potential health benefits.
There are many species of spirulina, with Spirulina maxima and Spirulina platensis being the most popular. It can be prepared in tablet, capsule, and powdered form. Palmer shares that spirulina gives a grassy and earthy taste and it is better paired with other flavors. It is best to add spirulina powder in dressings, porridges, puddings, and smoothies.
Spirulina supplements are not yet FDA-regulated so there is no recommended dosage on how much is safe or effective. Still, Palmer recommends using one tablespoon per serving.
Nutritional Content and Side Effects of Spirulina
A tablespoon of spirulina can contain 20 grams of calories, 4 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrate, 0.3 gram of fiber, 2 mg iron, 13.6 mg magnesium, and 95.4 mg of potassium. It is also a good source of B-vitamins, beta-carotene, and copper.
In addition, it contains phycocyanin antioxidant which makes it appear blue-green, which is why it is often used as a color additive for gums and other packaged foods.
On the other hand, spirulina also has risks and side effects. Lauren Slayton, a New-York based dietitian and the author of “The Little Book of Thin,” explains that spirulina is not recommended for pregnant women and those with known autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis because it can stimulate the immune system and only worsen existing conditions.
It is also not advisable for people with phenylketonuria to take spirulina. In some cases, spirulina can also contain microcystin liver toxins or brain toxins called neurotoxins, according to an independent supplement-testing organization.
Health Benefits of Spirulina
The nutritional content of spirulina makes it able to provide many health benefits, including:
- Boosting Iron Levels
Spirulina has iron content which helps in preventing anemia. Anemia is a condition when there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. While other iron supplements cause constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach upset, spirulina does not cause these effects, making it a better iron option.
2. Improving Oral Health
Spirulina has anti-inflammatory properties. Using it as a mouthwash can help reduce dental plaque and inflammation. One study published in the International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences noted that one week of using spirulina mouthwash can improve oral health. Poor oral health is linked to diabetes, heart diseases, and stroke, and plaque build-up can lead to inflammation in the gum line and other parts of the body.
Studies have also shown that spirulina has potential benefits against oral cancer. In the 2013 Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, participants who have precancerous lesions took spirulina for about three months. Results showed that spirulina users showed better symptom improvement than those who took medicine for improving blood flow.
3. Curing Seasonal Allergies
According to one study published in the 2020 issue of ACTA Otorhinolaryngologica Italica, spirulina can be more effective than allergy medicines because of its anti-inflammatory property.
4. Losing Weight and Improving Heart Health
A review of an article in the Open Heart 2020 issue suggested that consuming 2-8 grams of spirulina a day can aid in weight loss, reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, and lower blood pressure as well as triglyceride levels.
5. Managing Diabetes
According to a 2018 meta-analysis of a study published in the journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy, spirulina supplements may help lower fasting blood sugar and improve diabetes management.
Source: The Healthy