Health and Nutritional Benefits of Spirulina

Is Spirulina a Superfood You Should Be Using?

Spirulina capsules
Spirulina capsules. Mitch Hrdlicka/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that's been linked with a wide range of nutritional and health benefits. You’ll find spirulina as a supplement in almost any health food store in the form of tablets, flakes, powders and pills. Learn more about the health pros and cons of spirulina.

What Exactly Is Spirulina?

Cyanobacteria Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows in warm climates.

Many varieties of algae have been highlighted as superfoods lately.

They're nutrition is due to how and where they grow. Algae pulls in a wide variety of nutrients both from the sun and from the water it grows in. There are claims (as with every so-called superfood) that spirulina can fight cancer, slow HIV progression and more. Of course, these claims are generally overstated or refer to the individual nutrients in spirulina in high laboratory doses.

Nutritional Benefits of Spirulina

Spirulina contains high amounts of protein, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. And it delivers all that in a concentrated dose. Just a tablespoon of dried spirulina gives you 4 grams of protein, 11% of your daily iron dose, plus a smattering of several other vitamins and minerals...all for just 20 calories. 

Health Research and Spirulina

Several studies have explored possible health benefits of spirulina, taken as a supplement. In a 2016 study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, people who were given 2 grams of spirulina daily saw improvements in their weight, BMI and blood pressure; people who took a placebo saw no improvements in these areas.

These are all factors that influence heart disease risk, suggestion that spirulina may lower heart disease risk through these mechanisms.

Some studies in lab animals and test tubes have suggested that spirulina may improve immunity, but a lack of human studies make that unclear. Similar studies have also shown that spirulina may help quell allergy symptoms.

Again, this hasn't yet been tested in people.

Spirulina may also have some anti-cancer benefits. A study in India studied people with precancerous lesions in their mouth. Among people who took 1 gram of spirulina daily for a year, half of them had their lesions go away.

Several studies have also shown that spirulina may also help regulate blood sugar levels.

There's some limited evidence saying that spirulina enhances sports performance.

Cons of Spirulina

While the nutritional value is pretty solid, spirulina isn't winning any points for flavor. Also, it can be contaminated with toxins, so make sure you buy spirulina from a reputable brand. It also might interact with other medications, so make sure you talk to your doctor if you're considering adding spirulina to your diet.

Should I Eat More Spirulina?

Maybe. It is a natural source of a lot of good stuff: vitamins, minerals, protein and more. If you are looking for a more “natural vitamin” to supplement your diet, spirulina may just be it. If you are looking for a miracle cure for diabetes, allergies, cancer or anything else, though, spirulina doesn’t hold anymore promise than a well-balanced diet.

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