Spirulina just may be nature’s most perfect food. These tiny blue green spiral coils harvest the energy of the sun and turn it into a treasure chest of bio-available nutrients. Designed by nature 3.6 billion years ago, these blue green algae were the generators of the oxygen found in our atmosphere. Today’s scientists are only beginning to grasp the incredible nutritional value of blue-green algae and spirulina, but these superfoods have a reputation that reaches far back into history. A form of blue-green algae was consumed regularly hundreds of years ago by Aztecs, while spirulina was a favorite. Foods that have an incredible array of health benefits that go well beyond just their nutrient value are considered ‘super-foods.’ The blue-green algae spirulina is one of the most primitive forms of life on the planet. This algae is known for its extraordinary survival adaptations.
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 odor and taste of spirulina is similar to seaweed.
Spirulina can be found in many freshwater environments, including ponds, lakes, and rivers. It thrives best under pesticide-free conditions with plenty of sunlight and moderate temperature levels, but it is also highly adaptable, surviving even in extreme conditions. More than 25,000 species of algae live everywhere – in water, in soils, on rocks, on plants. They range in size from a single cell to giant kelp over 150 feet long. Macroalgae are large like seaweeds. Microalgae are microscopic. Ocean microalgae, called phytoplankton, are the base of the ocean food web. Spirulina is often deemed the most nutritionally complete of all food supplements, containing a rich supply of many important nutrients, including protein, complex carbohydrates, iron, and vitamins A, K, and B complex. It also has a high supply of carotenoids such as beta carotene and yellow xanthophylls which have antioxidant properties. It is also rich in chlorophyll, fatty and nucleic acids, and lipids. Thus, spirulina has countless uses as a supplement for maintaining good health and for preventing diseases.
Spirulina is the richest beta carotene food, with a full spectrum of ten mixed carotenoids. About half are orange carotenes: alpha, beta and gamma and half are yellow xanthophylls. They work synergistically at different sites in our body to enhance antioxidant protection. Twenty years of research proves eating beta carotene rich fruits and vegetables gives us real anti-cancer protection. Synthetic beta carotene has not always shown these benefits. Research in Israel showed natural beta carotene from algae was far more effective. Natural is better assimilated and contains the key 9-cis isomer, lacking in synthetic. As suspected, natural carotenoids in algae and vegetables have the most antioxidant and anti-cancer power.
Spirulina is an ideal anti-aging food; concentrated nutrient value, easily digested and loaded with antioxidants. Beta carotene is good for healthy eyes and vision. Spirulina beta carotene is ten times more concentrated than carrots.
Iron is essential to build a strong system, yet is the most common mineral deficiency. Spirulina is rich in iron, magnesium and trace minerals, and is easier to absorb than iron supplements.
Spirulina is the highest source of B-12, essential for healthy nerves and tissue, especially for vegetarians.
Precautions and Contraindications
While it has a very high nutritional value, spirulina may also cause some side effects. Some individuals may suffer from allergic reactions to this algae, including rashes, hives, and difficulty breathing. Some commercial versions of spirulina supplements may have also been contaminated with toxic substances during production. It is therefore absolutely critical to buy spirulina only from reputable sources.
People with the rare metabolic condition phenylketonuria (PKU) are not able to metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine, and therefore should avoid taking spirulina. Likewise, people with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or lupus should not take spirulina, as it could stimulate the immune system and worsen the condition. Spirulina may also counteract the effectiveness of certain medicines, such as prednisone, which are commonly used for treating asthma and other inflammatory diseases.
While spirulina may appear safe at large doses, healthy adults should seek a doctor advice for the right dosage. Children and pregnant or nursing women should also consult a doctor before taking spirulina.
Healthy Dieting with Spirulina dry weight is protein, which is essential for growth and cell regeneration. Every 10 grams of spirulina can supply up to 70% of the minimum daily requirements for iron, and about three to four times of minimum daily requirements for vitamins A (in the form of beta carotene), B complex, D,and K.
Spirulina is rich in gamma-linolenic acid or GLA, a compound found in breast milk that helps develop healthier babies. Moreover, with its high digestibility, spirulina has been proven to fight malnutrition in impoverished communities by helping the body absorb nutrients when it has lost its ability to absorb normal forms of food.
Another health benefit of spirulina is that it 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.
Spirulina also increases stamina and immunity levels in athletes, and its high protein content helps build muscle mass. At the same time, it can curb hunger that may develop during the most demanding training routines. Thus, it indirectly acts as an effective way to maintain an athlete performance.
health benefits associated with Spirulina:
Boost the Immune System; Improve Digestion; Reduce fatigue; Build Endurance; Nature’s Detoxifier – Cleanse the body; Boost Energy Levels; Control Appetite; Maintain Healthy Cardiovascular function; Support the Liver and Kidneys; Reduce Inflammation; and Benefit People Who Suffer from Allergies.
NASA has conducted studies on Spirulina as a potential food for space travel. When it comes to space travel, the goal is to provide the astronauts with foods that are in rich in nutrients but don’t take up much space. NASA found that 1 kg of Spirulina had the same nutrients found in about 1,000 kg of “assorted vegetables”! Simply put, when you are feeding your body such a high concentration of healthy nutrients, good things will happen.
The health benefits of Spirulina come from the combination of all the nutrients in the algae, but one nutrient really stands out – chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is basically the blood of plants. It is chlorophyll that allows a plant to transform light into nutrients for the plant – photosynthesis. It is chlorophyll that gives plants and algae their green pigmentation.
Chlorophyll has magnesium as the central atom while human blood has iron in the middle – but besides that, they are basically the same chemistry called porphrin ring. Due to this chemical structure, numerous studies have shown that chlorophyll can help grow and repair tissues, act as a powerful antioxidant, boost the immune system and help maintain healthy blood function. As Spirulina is an excellent source of Chlorophyll, this helps explain how Spirulina can have so many potential health benefits with minimal side effects.