Spirulina, a natural algae found in both fresh and salt water, has long been called a superfood due to its high concentration of nutrients and antioxidants. While the ancient Aztecs were among the original users of spirulina, today it is a common ingredient in smoothies, juices, and more. As reported in the journal Marine Drugs, NASA has even found a way to reuse it by growing it in space to help astronauts stay healthy.
Now, Spirulina is one of the most popular supplements on the market. However, you should still exercise caution, as research on its effects is ongoing. Before using Spirulina, here’s what you need to know.
Benefits of Spirulina
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae, believed to be one of Earth’s oldest life forms. It is a cyanobacteria that uses photosynthesis to create energy, similar to plants. Due to its natural nutritional content, it has been called a superfood for humans, but how does it actually affect human health?
These are some of the known health benefits of Spirulina.
It is rich in nutrients and antioxidants
Spirulina contains many different nutrients that the body needs to stay healthy, including vitamins like thiamine for healthy metabolism and vitamin A for vision, as well as minerals like copper and iron that help improve immunity. Let’s help. It also has other nutrients, like omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation, and antioxidants like phycocyanin and beta carotene that help reduce the risk of certain diseases. With a protein content of 60%, Spirulina provides more protein than many vegetables and is a popular protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one teaspoon of dried spirulina contains 20 calories and the following nutrients:
Dry Spirulina (1 tsp)
14% of Daily Value (DV)
20% of daily value (DV)
6% of Daily Value (DV)
47% of the daily value (DV)
11% of daily value (DV)
Spirulina also contains small amounts of magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
All these vitamins and nutrients can help you meet your daily nutritional requirements.
It may support healthy cholesterol
Spirulina lowers “bad” and total cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing the good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL). This prevents fat and cholesterol in your blood from clogging your arteries, which can, in turn, put pressure on your heart. One small study found that people who took 1 gram of spirulina per day had reduced cholesterol after just three months.
According to Harvard Health, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels helps prevent heart disease, as well as heart attacks and strokes.
It may help your immune system
Spirulina contains vitamins and minerals that are important for immune health. Additionally, research has found that it increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies, which the body uses to fight disease. Importantly, spirulina’s effects on the immune system make it risky for people with autoimmune diseases like lupus, according to WebMD.
Spirulina’s anti-inflammatory properties may also benefit people suffering from common allergies, including dust, pollen, and pet hair. It has been explored as an alternative treatment for allergic rhinitis symptoms, although more research is needed.
This may reduce blood pressure
Spirulina may increase the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and helps them dilate. Several studies have found that a daily dose of spirulina can help reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the first and second numbers on a blood pressure reading). Its positive effect has also been seen on people who have high blood pressure.
It may support eye health
Spirulina may also benefit eye health. It’s rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts to vitamin A. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, vitamin A has been shown to help prevent vision loss and promote better eye health.
Spirulina also contains a high concentration of zeaxanthin, which may reduce the chance of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, according to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Some animal research has supported the eye health benefits of spirulina, but more research is needed to know how it may benefit humans.
Risks and Side Effects of Spirulina
When discussing any superfood, it’s important not to focus solely on the hype and ignore potential dangers. Here’s what to keep in mind with spirulina.
lack of research
Spirulina has been around for a long time, but scientists are still learning more about its effects on the human body. Many of its purported health benefits are based on animal research or limited studies.
For example, one theory is that spirulina may help prevent cancer. It is rich in antioxidants that are known to fight inflammation, which can lead to cancer. For example, it contains phycocyanin, which has been found to reduce inflammation while inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. However, studies continue to investigate the exact correlation, if any, between spirulina and cancer.
Researchers are also studying spirulina and the potential prevention and treatment of flu, herpes, and HIV, but again, more studies need to be done.
It is not regulated
There are many Spirulina products on the market today, but be careful when purchasing.
Like all supplements, spirulina is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Contaminants have been found in some spirulina products, especially if they were harvested in wild areas full of heavy metals. These pollutants can damage your liver when exposed to in sufficient quantities.
Additionally, some products may contain more or less spirulina than listed on the label.
Side effects and safety precautions
Spirulina is considered largely safe at regular doses, and the Dietary Supplement Information Expert Committee gives it a Class A safety rating. However, some possible side effects include difficulty sleeping, digestive problems, and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, and dizziness. Some people have reported allergic reactions.
Spirulina is not recommended for people taking certain medications, such as medications designed to lower blood pressure, cholesterol or immune system activity. Additionally, it is not recommended for the following groups of people:
- pregnant women
- people with autoimmune diseases
- who are going to have or have had surgery
Before using spirulina, always check with your doctor about any potential drug interactions, and purchase it from a reputable retailer to ensure its legality and safety.
How to take Spirulina
One benefit of Spirulina is its versatility. Sold at most health food stores, it is available in tablet, capsule or powder supplement form. It has a bitter taste, but adding it to yogurt or smoothies can mask this.
Dosage may vary. Before taking spirulina, ask your doctor how often you should use it and how much you should take. You can also bring it to your appointment so that your doctor can double-check the brand and confirm that it is safe for you to use.
Spirulina may be a useful addition to your health diet, but research is ongoing to determine how it affects the human body. Pay attention to the latest studies and buy tested products from reputable brands. Spirulina isn’t ideal for everyone, but your doctor can help point you in the right direction.
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