Welcome back to the snack hacks. These are pretty easy supplemental hacks you can implement into your life without too much effort. Today we will look at Spirulina.
Spirulina is a naturally occuring algae , also known as a cyanobacteria. It has inhabited the earth for around 3.5 billion years. When spirulina is harvested correctly from non-contaminated ponds and bodies of water, it is one of the most potent nutrient sources available.
When processed for human consumption via capsule, tablet or just straight powder, it provides a supplement that is incredibly high in protein and a good source of antioxidants, B-vitamins and other nutrients.
From its staggeringly high protein content to the wealth of micronutrients it contains, spirulina is one of the best superfoods out there.
Let’s now explore about what it is exactly that this ‘pond scum’ actually contains and why it’s worth a little consideration to get into your diet.
Spirulina is 65% protein which is extremely high for a plant. It also contains sources of all 8 essential amino acids. It is considered a complete source of high-quality protein and is often compared to eggs for the amount of protein per gram.
The protein in Spirulina is also highly absorbable for the body and has a net protein utilization rate of between 50-61%. This makes it an easy, healthy way to boost protein intake, and a great source of protein for vegetarians or vegans.
Essential fatty acids
Spirulina is especially high in Omega 3 fatty acids and also has a significant amount of Omega 6s and Omega 9s.
One of the amino acid Spirulina contains is Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), another essential fatty acid. GLA is difficult to find in a food source. Spirulina is one of the few foods with a natural GLA content.
GLA is an Omega 6 polyunsaturated fat that has recently gotten a lot of attention for it’s anti-inflammatory properties especially when taken with other quality Omega-3 supplements.
This helps to flush out toxins from the blood, acting as a natural detox. It also helps to boost your immune system. Spirulina can actually bind with heavy metals in the body and help remove them. In fact, one study found that 5 grams of spirulina daily combined with zinc supplementation was enough to reduce arsenic toxicity by almost half!
Emerging evidence also suggests that chlorophyll binds with radioactive isotopes and may be useful for radioactivity exposure or radiation therapy.
Iron is a mineral found in every cell of the body. Iron is considered an essential mineral because it is needed to make hemoglobin, a part of blood cells. The human body needs iron to make the oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin and myoglobin.
Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and myoglobin is found in muscles
Spirulina is a fantastic source of Iron, meaning it is excellent for women during pregnancy. In fact, 100g of Spirulina contains 158% of your daily Iron requirements. The high iron count lends itself to another pro for veggies or vegans. However, even for those who consume meat, it has a highly absorbable form of iron that is gentle on the digestive system.
Beta – Carotene
Spiriluna is high in Beta-carotene. Beta – carotene, or carotenoids, is the yellow/orange pigment that gives vegetables and fruits their rich colors.
The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol). We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system, and good eye health and vision. Beta-carotene in itself is not an essential nutrient, but vitamin A is.
Spirulina is also very high in calcium, meaning it is excellent for growing children to help their bones and teeth develop. It contains over 26 times the calcium in milk.
Calcium also has a role in blood clotting and the regulation of muscle contractions including the heartbeat. There is some evidence calcium has a role in managing blood pressure and preventing breast and colon cancer.
Also called Thiamin, this vitamin is necessary for the digestion of fats and proteins. It is often taken for increased energy, eye health, brain function and for improving nerve functioning.
Spirulina is a great source of other nutrients including It contains vitamins B-2 (riboflavin), B-3(nicotinamide), B-6 (pyridoxine), B-9 (folic acid), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin E. Contrary to many claims, Spirulina is not a good source of Vitamin B12 for humans. While it does contain a form of B12, it is pseudo vitamin B12 which is not absorbable or effective in humans according to studies. It is also a source of potassium, chromium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, selenium and zinc.
Alrighty, so we’ve looked at the key components that make up Spirulina and why they are so good to you. Now it’s time to look at some of the benefits of Spirulina aside from the powerful effects of it’s individual qualities.
Studies show that spirulina may be especially helpful in balancing blood sugar, and may even be as effective as diabetes medication in some instances. Other studies show that it not only lowers blood sugar but may also lower HbA1c, which is a long term marker of blood sugar levels.
Antioxidants are powerful substances that protect our cells from damage. Thanks to decades of research, many of us understand the importance of consuming enough antioxidants from natural sources, and spirulina is a great choice.
The antioxidant that makes spirulina unique is called phycocyanin, which is a potent anti-inflammatory.
This Spirulina was tested by an independent laboratory and found to have an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) of over 24,000 which is 4x the ORAC score of blueberries. The ORAC score is generally used to measure antioxidant ability and concentration in different foods.
Some research has suggested that Spirulina may be helpful for those with allergies and allergic reactions. (source)This is likely because it reduces inflammation that leads to nasal congestion and other issues. In studies, those who took spirulina noticed a reduction in nasal congestion, itching, and sneezing.
Muscle and Endurance Benefits
Spirulina is known to increase fat burning during exercise. Its high antioxidant content makes it beneficial in reducing exercise induced oxidation which leads to muscle fatigue and inability to gain muscle.
So there you have it, hard to believe pond scum could be a legitimate super food! Looking at the protein content and the high omega 3 make this an exceptionally good option for vegetarians and vegans. That being said however, Spirilana is a definite super food that is not to be ignored by anyone and everyone. Snack hack if ever the was one, enjoy!