Spirulina is one of my favourite super foods on the market. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fatty acids and is known as one of the most nutrient dense superfoods available.
There are many reasons why I recommend people to include spirulina in their daily routine, let me open your eyes as to just how ‘super’ this superfood is.
Spirulina is a simple one-celled microscopic blue green algae with the scientific name Arthrospira platensis. Under a microscope, spirulina appears as long, thin, blue-green spiral threads. The name Spirulina comes from this superfoods spiral character. (1)
Spirulina grows in freshwater environments such as lakes, ponds and rivers. Wild spirulina grows in the alkaline lakes of Mexico and on the African continent, although it is commercially grown and harvested all over the world. Commercial production of spirulina is estimated to reach 220,000 tons by the year 2020. Japan is the largest producer of spirulina, as well as the largest consumer. (1)
Spirulina is a complete food
I often recommend spirulina to those who are lacking nutrition in their diet, or for those who want a nutritional boost. Check out this impressive nutritional profile. (1,2)
· Spirulina consists of 65%-71% protein. It is a complete protein source, containing all eight essential amino acids and a whopping eighteen amino acids in total.
· Spirulina contains
omega 3, 6 and 9 and is especially high in omega 3’s which is great for
· Spirulina has a very
high concentration of bioavailable iron. Making it a fabulous choice for
vegetarians and pregnant women.
· Spirulina has a very
high content of chlorophyll, which helps to reduce acidity in the body and also
remove toxins from the body.
· Spirulina has an amazing calcium content and contains 26 times the amount of calcium found in milk.
· Spirulina is a rich source of many vitamins including vitamin A, (beta carotene), B1, B2, B6, E and K. Spirulina is also a source of potassium, chromium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc.
Spirulina helps to slow the ageing process
Over the course of time, our DNA gets damaged by free radicals generated from everyday living, exposure to toxins and radiation. When DNA gets damaged it accelerates the ageing process. One way to minimise the damage done by free radicals is to ensure you get enough antioxidants. (1)
This is where Spirulina comes in. Spirulina contains some potent antioxidant compounds, check out the list below:
· Beta carotene (and other carotenoids) - Carotenoids are natural fat soluble antioxidants that are known to increase life span and improve the immune system and skin texture.
· Chlorophyll - a blood builder and purifier.
· Zeaxanthin - the most important antioxidant for improving vision.
· Superoxide dismutase (SOD) - generally regarded as the most important health enhancing anti-oxidant.
· Phycocyanin - the blue pigment that helps give spirulina its blue green colour. Phycocyanin is known to help stimulate stem cells and has a very high antioxidant action.
With all these amazing antioxidant compounds in one product is it any wonder it helps slow the ageing process. These days you will also find spirulina in skin care products helping to protect the skin from the outside. I always say beauty comes from within, so ensuring you get plenty of antioxidants in your diet will have you glowing from within.
Spirulina for gut health
Spirulina is a fabulous product to enhance gut health. Spirulina stimulates beneficial flora like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in your digestive tract to promote healthy digestion and proper bowel function. It acts as a natural cleanser by eliminating mercury and other deadly toxins commonly ingested by the body. (2)
Spirulina the disease fighter
Spirulina is a great tonic for the immune system and is rich in beta carotene, manganese, zinc, copper, selenium, and chromium. These nutrients help fight free radicals, cell-damaging molecules absorbed by the body through pollution, poor diet, injury, or stress. By removing free radicals, the nutrients help the immune system fight infection and prevent cellular degeneration. (3)
Spirulina really is remarkable as it accelerates nearly all aspects of the immune system. Spirulina boosts the production of antibodies and cytokines, which protect the body against microbes and viruses. Spirulina can also increase the production of bone marrow stem cells making it a valuable tool for anyone with a low functioning immune system.
Spirulina for detoxification
Spirulina is a fabulous addition to any detox program as it helps to bind and excrete heavy metals from the body. Spirulina is one of the main go-to foods for protection from harmful radiation. It protects the organs and helps detoxify the radiation out of the body, extremely helpful for anyone effected by the fallout from Japans recent nuclear disaster and also good for anyone who has had radiation therapy or heavy metal exposure. (2)
How to take Spirulina
When choosing a spirulina product to take I try to look for a certified organic product. You can choose to take it in powder, tablet or capsule form. I like to add my spirulina to my daily vegetable juice, I use 2 teaspoons per day but if you haven’t used spirulina before it is recommended that you start at a lower dosage (1 teaspoon) and slowly work your way up to a higher dosage.
You can add spirulina to plain water but I must warn you it will taste very green, most people will just add it to juice or to green smoothies. If this doesn’t appeal to you simply choose to take spirulina in tablet or capsule form.
As you can see there are so many benefits from taking spirulina, it is an easy and economical way of boosting your nutrition whilst also protecting you from disease. Why not try some for yourself today.
Written by Lea McIntyre - Naturopath - ND BHSc
Lea has had many years of professional experience as a naturopath working with her patients and clients both in her clinic and as a senior retail naturopathic adviser. When Lea is not helping people stay well and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, she is busy caring for and nurturing her two young children.
1. Wolfe, David. Superfoods, The food and medicine of the future. Atlantic books 2009
2. Nutritional and medical applications of spirulina microalgae. Hosseini SM, Khosravi-Darani Mozafari MR. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2013 Jun 1;13(8):1231-7
3. Antioxidant activity of different fractions of Spirulina platensis protean extract. Pinero Estrada JE, Bermejo Bescós P, Villar del Fresno AM Farmaco. 2001 May-Jul;56(5-7):497-500
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