If you’re no stranger to supplements, health drinks, or protein powders, you’ve probably heard of spirulina.
Spirulina, an algae found in both fresh and salt water, has long been considered a superfood due to its high concentration of nutrients and antioxidants. The ancient Aztecs were among the original users of spirulina, and today it is a common ingredient in smoothies, juices and more. NASA has even found a way to grow it in space to help astronauts stay healthy, like noted in Marine Drugs magazine.
Spirulina is one of the most popular supplements on the market. But you should still be cautious, because research on its effects continues. Before using spirulina, here’s what you need to know.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae, considered one of the oldest forms of life on Earth. It’s a cyanobacteria which uses photosynthesis to create energy, similar to a plant. Due to its natural nutritional content, it has been called a superfood for humans, but how does it really affect human health?
These are some of the known health benefits of spirulina.
It is full of nutrients and antioxidants.
Spirulina has many different nutrients that the body needs to stay healthy, including vitamins such as thiamine for a healthy metabolism and Vitamin A for vision, as well as minerals such as copper and iron that help improve immunity. There are also other nutrients, such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation and antioxidants such as phycocyanin and beta-carotene that help reduce the risk of certain diseases. With 60% protein content, spirulina provides more protein that many vegetables and is popular protein source for vegans and vegetarians.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one teaspoon of dried spirulina It contains 20 calories and the following nutrients:
Dried spirulina (1 teaspoon)
14% of the daily value (DV)
20% of the Daily Value (DV)
6% daily value (DV)
47% of the daily value (DV)
11% of the daily value (DV)
Spirulina also contains magnesium, potassium and manganese in small amounts.
All of these vitamins and nutrients can help you meet your daily nutritional requirements.
May support healthy cholesterol.
Spirulina It has been found to reduce “bad” and total cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing the good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL). This prevents fat and cholesterol in the blood from clogging the arteries, which, in turn, can put pressure on the heart. a small one study found that those who took 1 gram of spirulina a day had lower cholesterol levels after just three months.
It could help your immune system
Spirulina contains vitamins and minerals that are important for immune health. Besides, research has found that increases white blood cell production and antibodies, which the body uses to fight diseases. Importantly, spirulina’s effects on the immune system make it risky for those suffering from autoimmune diseases such as lupus, according to WebMD.
Spirulina’s anti-inflammatory properties may also benefit people with allergies from common culprits like dust, pollen and pet hair. He has been explored as a alternative treatment for allergic rhinitis symptoms, although more research is needed.
May lower blood pressure
Spirulina can increase the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and helps them dilate. Multiple studies They have found that a daily dose of spirulina can help reduce both systolic and diastolic pressure. blood pressure (the first and second numbers in a blood pressure reading). He has also shown positive effects for those who have hypertension.
May support eye health
Spirulina may also benefit eye health. It is rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A has been shown to help prevent vision loss and promote better eye healthaccording to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
According to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, spirulina also contains a high concentration of zeaxantuin, which may reduce the likelihood of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Some animal research has supported the benefits of spirulina for eye health, but more research is needed to better understand how it might benefit humans.
Risks and disadvantages of spirulina
When talking about any superfood, it is important not to focus solely on the hype and ignore the potential risks. Here’s what you should 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 supposed health benefits are based on animal research or limited studies.
For example, one theory is that spirulina could help prevent cancer. It is rich in antioxidants that are known to fight inflammation, which can cause cancer. For example, it contains phycocyanin, which has been found to reduce inflammation while preventing the growth of cancer cells. However, studies continue to examine the exact correlation, if any, between spirulina and cancer.
It is not regulated
There are many spirulina products on the market today, but be careful when purchasing them.
As with all supplements, spirulina is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Some spirulina products Have been found to contain contaminants, especially if they were harvested in wild areas plagued by heavy metals. These contaminants can damage your liver with enough exposure.
Additionally, some products may contain more or less spirulina than listed on the label.
Side effects and safety precautions.
Spirulina is considered largely safe in regular doses, and the Expert Committee on Dietary Supplement Information gives it a Class A safety rating. However, some possibilities side effects include difficulty sleeping, digestion problems, and symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness. Some people have reported allergic reactions.
Spirulina is not recommended for people taking certain medications, such as those designed to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, or immune system activity. Additionally, it is not recommended for the following groups of people:
- Pregnant women
- Those with autoimmune diseases.
- Those who are about to undergo or have just undergone surgery.
Before using spirulina, always consult with your doctor about possible drug interactions and purchase it from a reputable retailer to ensure its legitimacy and safety.
How to take spirulina
One of the advantages of spirulina is its versatility. It is sold in most health food stores and is available in tablet, capsule, or powder supplement form. It has a bitter taste, but mixing it with yogurt or smoothie can mask it.
Dosages 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 your doctor can check the brand and confirm that it is safe to use.
Spirulina can be a useful addition to your health regimen, but research continues to determine how it affects the human body. Pay attention to the latest studies and buy vetted products from well-known brands. Spirulina isn’t ideal for everyone, but your doctor can help point you in the right direction.