Read this guide to learn about Spirulina health benefits and why this superfood is so important to your diet
Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, meets the definition of a superfood because it is packed with antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients to power the body and promote optimal health. UCLA professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla conducts research into the effects of foods on the brain. He says the health benefits of spirulina and chlorella are partly due to the amount of antioxidants found in these substances. Antioxidants are especially helpful because they prevent free radicals from damaging the cells in your body. They also strengthen the immune system and make it easier for your body to fight infections. The major antioxidants found in spirulina include:
- Chlorophyll, present in most green herbs and vegetables like arugula and parsley
- Gamma-linolenic acid, a fatty acid found in flax and hemp seeds as well as soy beans
- Carotenoids, which are responsible for a lot of the nutrition in carrots
Researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center say spirulina may also help the immune system produce more proteins used to fight infection and prevent illness. Approximately 62 percent of spirulina is made of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The high level of protein is responsible for several spirulina health benefits.
Expected Health Benefits
Spirulina has been linked to several potential health benefits in animal studies and studies performed in test tubes.
- In both types of studies, the algae seemed to prevent the release of histamines, substances that cause allergy symptoms.
- In test-tube studies, spirulina appeared to protect Lactobacillus acidophilus, a helpful bacterium found in the digestive tract, from being destroyed by antibiotics.
- A human study led by researchers from Kerala, India, showed spirulina may help with precancerous lesions in people who use chewing tobacco. The study showed the lesions were more likely to go away in people who took spirulina, so when it comes to spirulina health benefits, cancer is of particular interest to researchers.
- The vitamin E in spirulina helps maintain healthy skin cells and may fight inflammation on the skin’s surface.
For more nutritious superfoods checkout our 50 Best Superfoods of 2015
Spirulina blue green algae health benefits come from the important nutrients found in this superfood. It contains manganese, copper, zinc, selenium, iron, vitamin E, and B-complex vitamins. Manganese acts as an antioxidant, supports the body’s metabolism, aids in the development of bones, and helps wounds heal properly. Copper helps metabolize iron, produce energy, form connective tissue, and produce substances such as melanin, myelin, and neurotransmitters. The body uses zinc to stabilize the structure of cell membranes and proteins. You need selenium to produce seleno proteins, which are used to help enzymes function properly. Selenium is hard to come by so foods like spirulina and brazil nuts should always be stocked in your kitchen. Iron transports oxygen through your body, so spirulina is also useful for fighting anemia. The primary role of vitamin E (which is common in many foods like mulberries) is to act as an antioxidant and protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. B-complex vitamins work together to ensure your body can use the energy from the foods you eat. All of these nutrients are responsible for powerful spirulina health benefits.
Selection and Storage
Much of the spirulina sold in the United States is produced in a laboratory. Spirulina is available in powder, tablet, capsule, and flake form, so choose the one that will best fit your daily routine. If you want to add spirulina to smoothies and other blended beverages, flakes or powder would be the best choice. Capsules or tablets are ideal if you want to take spirulina without adding it to your food.
Moisture and high temperatures may affect the quality of spirulina, so be sure to store it properly. Keep it away from sunlight and strong sources of artificial light and avoid storing spirulina near any source of heat. When storing spirulina, make sure the package is sealed tightly. Avoid spoilage by using your spirulina within three months of opening it, if possible. Taking these precautions will help you enjoy spirulina health benefits without worrying about the quality of your supplement
Making green juice with spirulina gives you the opportunity to enjoy your favorite fruits and vegetables.
- A basic recipe for spirulina green juice includes two apples, an English cucumber, a small lime or lemon, and a teaspoon of spirulina powder. Juice the apples, cucumber, and citrus fruit and then add the powder to your blender or juicer.
- Combine three tablespoons of honey, one-fourth teaspoon cinnamon, and one-eighth teaspoon of spirulina powder. Drizzle the honey on high fiber fruits like pineapple or add it to tea.
- Mixing four tablespoons of nutritional yeast, a quarter teaspoon of sea salt, a teaspoon of spirulina powder, and an eighth teaspoon of cayenne pepper makes a delicious seasoning salt that is also nutritious. Use the salt on baked potatoes, kale chips, steamed vegetables, and other foods.
When discussing spirulina health benefits, Dr. Oz even recommended using algae and lime juice to make your own “energy cubes.” Experiment with different recipes until you find your favorite way to enjoy spirulina health benefits on a regular basis.
Intake Recommendations and Side Effects
The standard dose of spirulina is four to six tablets per day with 500 mg in each tablet. If your tablets have a different amount of spirulina in them, ask your doctor about how many you should take. High doses of the supplement appear to be safe, but experts are not sure if spirulina interacts with medications. If you take Remicade, Imuran, Humira, Neoral, CellCept, or Arava, talk to your doctor before using spirulina. These medications suppress the immune system, so they may not be compatible with spirulina’s immune-boosting effects.
Because spirulina stimulates the immune system, it may not be suitable for people with lupus and other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Always buy spirulina from a reputable vendor to avoid the risk of consuming blue-green algae that has been contaminated during the manufacturing process, and ask your doctor about spirulina health benefits and side effects if you are unsure of how this supplement will affect your health.