For years now, the health industry has been talking about something called superfoods. Superfoods are defined as nutrient-rich foods that are considered to be particularly beneficial for your health.
In fact, this marketing buzzword is overused so much that simple foods like apples or blueberries have now been labeled as superfoods.
Google a list of superfoods, and you’ll see everything from kale, goji berries, and quinoa to broccoli, strawberries, and watermelons.
While these foods are good for you, there’s one food these lists have omitted that is more deserving of the superfood title…
This nutritionally dense blue-green alga boasts a better résumé than kale or broccoli. Here are 5 reasons why is good for your health…
1) Packed with nutrients
Simply put, spirulina is a powerhouse of vital vitamins and essential minerals. A single tablespoon (7 grams) contains:
- 4 grams of quality protein (with all essential amino acids)
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 11% of your RDA
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of your RDA
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 4% of your RDA
- Copper: 21% of your RDA
- Iron: 11% of your RDA
In addition to this, it contains 14 mg of Magnesium, 95 mg of Potassium, 0.133 mg Manganese, and smaller amounts of pretty much every other mineral that you need.
These minerals serve several functions in the body. Ranging from boosting your immune system and energy levels to supporting the production of sperm and sex hormones.
Despite claims, spirulina doesn’t contain Vitamin B12 but only a pseudovitamin of B12 – which has no proven effect on humans.
2) Reduces Hypertension
Hypertension or high blood pressure causes major harm to the body and is responsible for causing strokes, heart attacks, damaged arteries, erectile dysfunction, and chronic kidney disease.
This reduction is believed to be down to increased production of nitric oxide, a molecule that allows vasodilation (relaxed and dilated blood vessels).
3) Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory
Free radicals are a danger to the body as they are unstable and highly reactive.
They steal electrons from other molecules in our bodies like DNA, proteins, and fats, making them unstable and highly reactive and causing a chain reaction.
Spirulina is packed with antioxidants, small molecules that stabilize free radicals without destabilizing themselves, in turn protecting your cells from oxidative damage.
The active ingredient phycocyanin is what gives spirulina its blue-green color. It is also responsible for inhibiting the production of inflammatory signaling molecules.
If you have to wake up several times a night to urinate due to an inflamed prostate, spirulina will help to relieve those symptoms
4) Lowers Blood Sugar
Studies have shown spirulina to outperform popular diabetes drug Metformin in lowering blood sugar in animal studies. However, further research is needed to demonstrate how spirulina works.
There’s also some evidence to suggest that spirulina can be effective in humans too.
In a short study of 25 people with type 2 diabetes, participants were administered 2g of spirulina per day.
The results showed that there was a 1% decrease in HbA1c, a marker for long-term blood sugar levels.
Studies have estimated that this reduction of 1% can lower the risk of disease-related death by up to 21%, but more studies on this are needed.
5) Cancer Prevention
There is evidence to suggest that spirulina can reduce cancer occurrence and tumor size.
Its effects on oral cancer have been thoroughly researched.
One study looked at 87 people from India with precancerous lesions in the mouth. 45% of the participants who took 1 gram of spirulina every day for a year saw their lesions disappear.
When they stopped taking spirulina for another year, almost half saw the lesions return.
Spirulina vs. Chlorella
You may have heard of a similar, highly nutritious type of algae called chlorella… It is different from spirulina in many ways, but offers just as much value:
- Color: The most noticeable difference. Spirulina is a blue-green whereas chlorella is just green. This is largely down to its much higher amount of chlorophyll.
- Cell structure: Chlorella is much smaller than spirulina because it is a round, single-cell alga with a nucleus. Spirulina, on the other hand, is a spiral-shaped, multi-celled cyanobacterium with no nucleus. These differences in cell structure mean they interact with the body in different ways.
- Bioavailability: One of the properties of chlorella is its strong cell wall, which is difficult for us to break down. Therefore, chlorella has to go through a process to break the cell wall before our bodies can use it.
- Detox: There is evidence to indicate that chlorella can bind to and remove heavy metals from the body. While heavy metals like iron and copper are essential in small amounts, cadmium and lead are metals that we can be exposed to through pollution or certain jobs like mining and are toxic in larger amounts.
Food for Thought…
Despite differences, both spirulina and chlorella are used by many as a dietary supplement, with both proving themselves to be deserving of the ‘superfood’ title.
However you prefer to take your supplements, they are widely available in powder or pill form so you can blend it in a smoothie, or have a tablet with your meal.
A word of caution, though. As with all-natural supplements, it’s crucial that you take high-quality products from reputable sources.
Spirulina is an alga, meaning it grows in water and can be easily polluted.
Always do your research and make sure you’re not putting in more harmful than effective products into your body.
Another thing to bear in mind is to check with your doctor before you start taking spirulina or chlorella, as it may negatively impact those who suffer from PKU (Phenylketonuria) and autoimmune diseases.