What if eating just a tablespoon of a food each daily could drastically transform your health? Well Spirulina, a tiny freshwater plant has been widely studied for its numerous health benefits. Being so concentrated in nutrients consuming just a spoonful a day could be enough to make a real difference for your health.
Spirulina is the blue-green algae that springs from warm, fresh water bodies and for centuries has been prized for its amazing health benefits. Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a single celled organism that got its name from the Latin word for ‘helix’ or ‘spiral’ because of its spring-like physical shape. The use of spirulina as a food source dates back hundreds of years and was thought to be a popular fuel of the Aztecs in Mexico.
Today, spirulina is considered by many to be one of the most complete food sources available. Exceptionally high in vitamins and minerals it is also one of the most potent sources of complete protein by weight. Containing 65-71% protein by weight, it contains the essential amino acids in a form the body can readily assimilate. This makes it particularly popular with vegans and vegetarians. The proteins in spirulina are of a highly digestible type (83 to 90 percent digestible), due to the fact that it does not have cellulose walls, like yeast and most forms of chlorella do.
Spirulina contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins and vitamin K. It is naturally rich in iodine which is essential for thyroid function and metabolism. It also contains many other minerals (including calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, potassium, and zinc). It is one of best known natural sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, an important fatty acid for skin, heart and joints). Spirulina is popular in cleanse / detox programmes because it contains metallo-thionine compounds (proteins combined with metals that bind heavy radioactive isotopes) plus phytopigments (phycocyanin, chlorophyll, and carotenoids) which help support phase 1 and 2 pathways of the liver.
If you are looking to boost overall health, stamina, performance then try adding spirulina daily to you diet. There are numerous research papers supporting its many health properties.
Research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found supplementing with 7.5 g of spirulina for a period of three weeks protects runners’ muscles during intensive training and increases stamina. Blood samples indicated that supplementing increased the production of the protective enzymes in the muscles while markers of muscle damage, decreased. This enabled the runners to work harder for longer. A useful energising fuel spirulina is a naturally good source of iron and B vitamins – important nutrients for energy production. One study undertaken by the Institute for Medical, Experimental and Applied Physiology in Macedonia showed spirulina helped reduce muscle fatigue by helping replenish low iron levels in runners.
Keeping Lean / Heart health
Being exceptionally rich in protein supplementing with spirulina is an ideal way to boost your protein intake especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian. Achieving optimal protein intake helps preserve lean muscle mass and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Studies suggest spirulina boosts metabolism and helps the body burn fat making it ideal for mental and physical performance as well as keeping lean. Spirulina may also help lower cholesterol.
Enhance Immune Function
Spirulina has been shown to inhibit certain viruses and enhance the immune function by helping the body produce new blood cells, and boost the action of natural killer cells involved in the immune system. Great news for athletes too as intensive training and overtraining is known to depress the immune system.
Like other green superfoods spirulina is rich in chlorophyll which helps alkalise the body (balance pH) countering the increase in acid levels due to stress and exercise. Keeping the body more alkaline also avoids leaching of calcium from the bones in the body’s attempt to balance pH levels. Spirulina provides magnesium, which can help reduce cramping and muscle soreness and promote sleep and relaxation. Being a strong detoxifier supplementing with spirulina may reduce the accumulation of toxins in the muscles, which can contribute to muscle fatigue during and after exercise.
The accumulation of fats in your liver is closely associated with metabolic syndrome and increases your risk of fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease. Studies suggest spirulina can protect your liver, reduce buildup of triglycerides, reduce liver inflammation and protect the liver from damage. It can also help support pathways in the liver to enhance liver detox function and cleansing programmes.
Inflammation is a major contributing factor in many long term health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular health and aging. Studies have shown that the antioxidant properties of spirulina can help lower inflammation.
As we age our brain cells like other organs is vulnerable to free radical damage. Studies have shown high antioxidant foods like spirulina are neuro protective and can help protect against brain damage. If you are looking to support your health and brain capacity long term add spirulina daily to your diet.
Making Use of Spirulina
Spirulina is readily available from health shops as capsules, tablets and powders. To ensure purity it is best to choose an organic brand. The recommended daily dose is typically between 1tsp to 1tbsp initially. It is can be mixed into yogurts, added to protein shakes, smoothies or juices and used in a variety of sweet and savoury recipes. I love adding them to pesto, dips, homemade energy balls and protein bars. To get the most from this superfood it is best not to heat it. While it is safe for the majority of people if you’re allergic to seafood or have an iodine allergy spirulina is not suitable. As it is an effective detoxifier it is normally recommended that you start with a small dose and gradually build up to allow your body time to adjust.