Spirulina fits the description of a super food because it is a wonderful source of nutrients and is high in protein content. It is an alga (cyanobacterium) that has been considered as a food source for many centuries. These algae grow in tropical and subtropical regions in lakes that have high pH and high levels of carbonate and bicarbonate. There are mainly two varieties of spirulina – Arthrospira maxima and Arthrospira platensis. While the maxima species is specific to Central America, the platensis species can be found growing in Asia, Africa and South America. Being an excellent food source with exceptionally high nutritional value, spirulina is cultivated widely in many parts of the world, especially in countries like Bangladesh, Burma, Chile, China, Greece, India, Pakistan, Taiwan and the United states. Spirulina is also used as a food source in poultry industries and aquaculture.
Nutritional value of Spirulina
Spirulina is immensely rich in nutrient content and hence including it as part of your diet not only improves your overall health, but will also protect you from diseases caused due to the deficiency of nutrients. At least 50 to 60 percentage of this alga is protein and hence it forms one of the best sources of protein. Spirulina is also a good source of essential fatty acids and vitamins like vitamin A, B group vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B7, B8, and B12),
vitamin C, vitamin D, Vitamin E and vitamin K. It contains high levels of beta carotene, which is a very important antioxidant. Spirulina is very low in cholesterol and also contains a large array of minerals like calcium, chromium, potassium, magnesium, iron, selenium, sodium and phosphor.
One cup of spirulina can provide you with 325 calories, 64.4g of protein, 26.8g of carbohydrates, 4g of fiber, 3.5g of sugars, 8.6g of total fat, 922mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 1404mg of omega-6 fatty acids, 638 IU of vitamin A, 11.3mg of vitamin C, 5.6mg of vitamin E, 28.6mcg of vitamin K, 2.7mg of thiamine, 4.1mg of riboflavin, 14.4mg of niacin, 0.4 mg of vitamin B6, 105mcg of folate, 3.9 mg of pantothenic acid, 73.9mg of choline, 134 mg of calcium, 31.9mg of iron, 218mg of magnesium, 132mg of phosphorus, 1527mg of potassium, 1174mg of sodium, 2.2mg of zinc, 6.8mg of copper, 2.1mg of manganese, and 8.1mcg of selenium.
Health benefits of Spirulina
Spirulina happens to be one of the most nutritious foods available on earth. The health benefits provided by this alga are innumerable that it easily falls into the category of super foods. Not only is spirulina good for your health, but it is also used in the treatment and prevention of many health conditions.
Spirulina protects your eyes
Age-related macular degeneration, condition that causes the degeneration of your macula is likely to occur as you get older. This is a serious condition that can even lead to blindness. Spirulina is a rich source of Xanthophylls which are carotenoid pigments that help to prevent macular degeneration and cataract.
Spirulina good for your heart
Spirulina is highly beneficial to your heart as it improves the lipid profiles, increases the elasticity of the blood vessels and helps to control high blood pressure. Phycocyanin present in this alga slows down the activity of pancreatic lipase which in turn helps to reduce the levels of triglycerides.
Spirulina improves digestion
Spirulina improves the functioning of your digestive system and promotes regular bowel movements. It protects your digestive system from the effects of bad bacteria like e-coli and Candida yeast. At the same time, it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria (like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria) in your stomach, which helps in the easy digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. These good bacteria also help in improving your immune system and protect you from infections.
Improve your liver health with spirulina
Spirulina is beneficial to your liver in many ways. It slows down lipid peroxidation and prevents the accumulation of triglycerides in the liver. Spirulina offers protection to your liver from the harmful effects of heavy metals like mercury and lead. It is also capable of reducing inflammation of the liver.
Spirulina has potential for cancer treatment
Spirulina has been found to have cancer preventing abilities. Phycocyanin, a pigment that gives spirulina its beautiful color is thought to play a role in fighting cancer cells. Spirulina is capable of boosting your immune response and also helps in preventing mutation of genes. The high content of antioxidants in this alga protects you from the toxic effects of free radicals. By reducing the oxidative stress caused by these free radicals, spirulina reduces your risk of developing cancer.
Spirulina detoxifies your body
It is a known fact that you are continuously being exposed to the harmful effects of toxins that enter your body through food, water, air etc. In order to maintain a healthy body, it is important to detoxify your body and get rid of these toxins. Spirulina contains phytonutrients that has the power to detoxify your body. Moreover, spirulina is also capable of removing the toxic heavy metals like mercury and lead from your body.
Spirulina good for diabetics
Studies reveal that spirulina is capable of reducing lipid and triglyceride levels. It increases the levels of good cholesterol in your blood. Since it helps to control the blood sugar levels, spirulina is an ideal food source for people suffering from diabetes.
Spirulina had anti-aging effects
The nutrients and antioxidants contained in spirulina make it a perfect anti-aging food. Free radicals that are formed in your body can cause damage to cells and can lead to premature aging. It also increases the risk of many diseases like cancer. Beta-carotene and vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin E present in spirulina fights against these radicals and reduces the effects of aging.
Spirulina lowers cholesterol
It is important to keep the cholesterol levels under check in order to lower the chances of strokes and heart attacks. The very fact that spirulina has no cholesterol shows how healthy it is. Moreover, it is capable of reducing the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol and increasing the HDL levels.
Spirulina helps to control blood pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a major health concern faced by millions of people worldwide. But not many people are aware of the fact that they have this condition. High blood pressure is often described as a silent killer because although it doesn’t show any symptoms, if left untreated it can increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks. It can even lead to the death of the person. This condition can be prevented to a great extent by eat a well balanced diet and following a healthy lifestyle. Studies and experiments suggest that when spirulina was given to people with hyperstension, it helped to normalize their blood pressure.
Spirulina boosts your immunity
Research shows that spirulina has the power to improve your immune system. Spirulina contains complex sugars that increase the production of T- cells that fight infection and also the amount of antibodies in your blood. Phycocyanin in spirulina stimulates the lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell) activity and increases blood production.
Get relief from allergic rhinitis with spirulina
Millions of people around the world suffer from perennial or seasonal allergies. All though there are several OTC drugs that provide relief from the allergic symptoms, they are not actually good for you in the long run and may even cause side effects. A natural way of treating these allergies is to use spirulina. Studies reveal that allergic people treated with spirulina found great relief from symptoms like sneezing, nasal discharge, itching and congestion.
Choose the best spirulina
This alga comes in many types and it is very important to buy organically cultivated spirulina from a reliable and reputed source. Spirulina that is cultivated in an uncontrolled environment has the chances of being polluted with toxins and heavy metals. These are potentially harmful to your body and overall health. Contaminated and poor quality spirulina can lead to nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, liver damage, rapid heartbeat, weakness, shock, and even death. Spirulina is available in the form of tablets, capsules, flakes and powders. It is better to start with 3 grams a day, although higher doses are safe too. Increasing your intake of fresh water helps in the better absorption of this awesome food.
Precautions while use of spirulina
Although spirulina is perfectly safe to eat, in some cases you may experience some minor problems depending on the condition of your health. These may include nausea, slight fever, gas build up, intestinal problems, passing of dark green stool, itchy skin and drowsiness. People suffering from autoimmune diseases should better avoid using spirulina. This alga boosts your immune system which can lead to worsening of the symptoms of the disease. People having the genetic disorder- phenylketonuria should also avoid spirulina because it contains phenylalanine that can worsen the condition. Pregenant and nursing mothers should consult their doctors before taking spirulina just to be on the safer side.
More and more people are coming to realize the health benefits of spirulina and have started including it in their diet. Spirulina can be called a complete food promotes overall health of your body. As such, many nutrition and health experts recommend this wonder food to their patients.Image Credits: Joydeep