Spirulina benefits: Here’s everything you need to know about spirulina and why we love it!
One of the oldest lifeforms on earth, spirulina is far from a new superfood. Here is everything you need to know about spirulina benefits and why we love it!
Spirulina: A brief history
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows around the world in oceans and lakes.
The history of spirulina dates back to Mexico in the 16th century, when Aztecs harvested it and made it into bricks they referred to as “tecuitlatl,” named for the old site, Tenochtitlan, that is now present-day Mexico City.
When the Conquistadores came upon Tenochtitlan, they were surprised to see such a thriving city. With an estimated population of about 250,000, it was larger than European towns at the time, despite its primitive farming practices and sparse access to food sources. The women of the town had great fertility, and the people seemed strong and healthy.
When they returned to Spain, the Conquistadores recounted their experience in a book called the Conquest of Mexico, in which they noted the “cake-like bricks” the Aztecs ate that had a “salty taste.” Although we may never know for certain, it sure sounds like they were referring to the spirulina bricks the Aztecs made.
Fast-forward several hundred years, and today, researchers have conducted more than 100,000 scientific studies about its health benefits.
Everyone from health bloggers to the World Health Organization, who is interested in using it to combat malnutrition, have taken note. In 1974, the United Nations named it the “best food of the future,” and in 2008, urged governments to consider how spirulina can help feed malnourished children.
Touted as the most nutrient-rich food in the world, spirulina offers tremendous health benefits:
1. It’s packed with nutrition.
Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, studies show that spirulina may very well be the most nutrient-dense food on the face of the planet. It is a great source of:
- Iron: Spirulina contains up to 3900 percent more iron than spinach. That’s a lot of iron!
- Antioxidants: With 280 percent more antioxidants than blueberries, spirulina is a great way to boost your immune system.
- Protein: Spirulina has the highest concentration of protein found in any food, including essential amino acids.
- B vitamins: Spirulina is great for vegetarians, as it is one of the only plant-based sources of B vitamins.
- Calcium: Spirulina has 26 times the amount of calcium that milk has.
2. Spirulina is a great detox aid.
Spirulina is high in chlorophyll, which is very effective at binding with heavy metals in your blood and removing them. It can also help eliminate candida by serving as an effective anti-microbial agent.
3. Your heart will thank you!
Studies show that spirulina can help reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure while reducing your risk of heart disease.
4. The vitamins and minerals in spirulina will give you the energy boost you need.
Spirulina is a natural energy form that contains vitamins, minerals and protein perfectly combined to give you an energy boost. And unlike the energy you get from a cup of coffee or a sugar-laden snack, because it contains both protein and nutrients, the boost you get from spirulina will last a long time.
5. It has the power to help your immune system ward off disease.
In a University of Maryland Medical Center study, spirulina increased the production of antibodies, infection-fighting proteins, and other cells that help fight infections and chronic illnesses in animals. Although more research is needed, this study and others suggest that spirulina could potentially help people battling anything from allergies to cancer.
6. Spirulina reduces inflammation.
An increasing number of studies show that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. It is also responsible for joint pain, acne and other health issues. Spirulina contains Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that eases inflammation symptoms.
How to incorporate spirulina into your diet
If you don’t doubt its benefits but are wondering if spirulina is technically lake scum – you know, the green kind you see on top of the water? – you are right! And unfortunately, it can taste like it, too.
The best way to incorporate spirulina into your diet is to add it to other foods, like smoothies and muffins, or to take it as a supplement.
How to choose a spirulina supplement
You can purchase spirulina in powder or capsule form.
When considering which spirulina supplement to buy, it’s important be aware of some of the side effects and precautions associated with it:
- As with anything that grows from the ocean, it’s important to make sure the supplement you pick is free from contamination. Make sure the spirulina you purchase is of the highest quality and standards.
- If you are on any blood thinners or anti-coagulation medication, check with a doctor before taking spirulina.
- Since spirulina contains amino acids, those with Phenylketonuria, or PKU, should also consult a doctor before taking it.
- If you are pregnant or nursing, talk to your Ob-Gyn before incorporating spirulina into your diet.
Chocolate Spirulina Smoothie Recipe
Here’s a great recipe to get you started!
Chocolate Spirulina Smoothie
1 cup of spinach
½ cup frozen berries
¼ cup ice
1 T almond butter
1 cup almond milk
2 T cacao powder
2 t spirulina powder
1 t coconut oil
1 t cacao nibs
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender. Top with cacao nibs and enjoy!
Want to bring your spirulina smoothie with you?
Love the idea of starting your day with a spirulina smoothie, but don’t have time to drink it at home? Healthy Human’s Cruiser Tumblers will keep your smoothie colder 2x longer than a mug and are safe, reusable and durable.
Did you give spirulina a try?
Have you experienced spirulina benefits first-hand? Do you have other recipes you love? Let us know in the comments below!