Spirulina may seem like a recent health craze, but unlike many that can come and go, this one seems to have some real science behind it!
From ancient Mesoamericans to NASA, this green powder has had a wider impact and range of use than you might think.
Read on to learn more about the great health benefits of spirulina powder and why it is incorporated into our Super Greens Formula!!
What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a visible mass of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. There are several different species that can make up spirulina depending on the environment and part of the world it was harvested in.
Arthrospira platensis is common in Africa and Asia while Arthrospira maxima are found in California and Mexico. Both species like warm weather and a high pH in the water. 86 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 8.5 (somewhere in between baking soda and toothpaste) is the sweet spot.
In this article, we use “spirulina” to refer to any of the species harvested for use as a dietary supplement.
A Brief History
Spirulina isn’t just some crunchy fad – it’s been used as a dietary supplement for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The Aztecs ate cakes of spirulina called tecuitlatl until about the 16th century – they appear in one conquistador’s memoir.
On the other side of the world, the Kanembu tribe from modern-day Chad makes cakes called dihe from the spirulina harvested from Lake Chad. These cakes are used to make a rich and nutritious broth.
Spirulina’s future may be even brighter than its past – NASA is considering how astronauts might be able to grow it and use it to supplement their diet on long space missions. And as more people cut back on meat for climate or other ethical reasons, spirulina may be a good, low-impact protein replacement.
Spirulina’s Nutritional Profile
In a 2019 review, the World Health Organization dubbed spirulina a superfood. It’s easy to see why when you look at the nutrients it contains.
On a macro level, it boasts 4 grams of protein per tablespoon. That’s more than peanut butter, which only has about 3.5 grams a tablespoon. And at only 30 calories per 8 grams, it’s easy to add to any diet.
Spirulina is also an excellent source of thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin (B1, B2, and B3) as well as copper, iron, and magnesium.
Spirulina is not a good source of B12, though you may still see it listed as such. It contains a chemical called pseudo-B12, which looks similar, but is of little use to the body nutritionally. While spirulina can be a healthful addition to a vegan or vegetarian diet, it shouldn’t be used as a B12 supplement.
Spirulina contains a ton of compounds, including phenolics, phycocyanins, and polysaccharides. Many of these chemicals serve as antioxidants – reacting with free radicals and loose ions in the body before they can damage cells.
Oxidative stress is correlated with a number of chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disorders, asthma, and most cancers.
Research on the specific antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties of spirulina is still in its infancy, but the early signs are promising.
If you struggle with anemia or low iron, spirulina could be just the thing. It’s been successfully used as an iron supplement in studies with seniors.
Spirulina is generally well-tolerated, vegan, and easy to take. It’s a great way to get an extra boost of iron into your diet.
Help With Allergies?
One of the more interesting possibilities for spirulina is that it may help with treating allergic rhinitis (the inflammation and swelling of the nose that may cause congestion or sneezing).
One pre-print study (meaning it hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed) shows that a spirulina-ingesting group had fewer runny noses and less congestion. Another small study showed it to be more effective than cetirizine (Claritin) in easing rhinitis.
Possible Cardiac Benefits
Spirulina contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids – generally considered good compounds for heart health. But there may be other benefits, as well.
One study found that spirulina significantly increased hemoglobin, or the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. This increase allowed study participants to exercise harder before fatigue.
One pigment contained in spirulina, phycocyanin, can enhance the production of nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator – it widens your blood vessels and thus lowers your blood pressure.
A rat study that specifically looked at metabolic syndrome found that phycocyanin from spirulina lowered the rats’ blood pressure, presumably through increased nitric oxide production. While we have yet to see human studies, the mechanism of action seems pretty clear.
Improved Immune Response?
A lymphocyte is a kind of white blood cell that identifies and kills invading cells and viruses. One of the proteins produced by these cells, interleukin-2, increases white blood cell activity and helps to strengthen the overall immune system.
One human study out of South Korea found that spirulina supplementation both increased interleukin-2 activity and lowered serum levels of LDL cholesterol. It’s only one study and more research needs to be done, but what we know so far seems quite promising.
Spirulina powder, like any supplement, isn’t without its risks and contraindications. It’s rich in phenylalanine, an amino acid, which is a plus for most. But if you have phenylketonuria (PKU), spirulina could be dangerous, or even deadly.
Microcystins are toxins produced by some types of cyanobacteria. While spirulina doesn’t produce these toxins, the bacteria that do live in close proximity to it. Depending on where and how your spirulina is harvested, it can contain microcystins, which can cause diarrhea, muscle pain, and even liver damage.
Heavy metals are another concern. Fertilizer and industrial runoff can put metals like cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury into spirulina’s habitat. These metals then become concentrated in the biomass.
How can you make sure that the spirulina powder you’re getting is free of microcystins and heavy metal?
Buy from a Reputable Brand
Always purchase all your supplements from a reputable brand. Nested Naturals, for instance, tests all its products for both microbes and heavy metals – that provides peace of mind that you’re getting all the good spirulina has to offer without the bad stuff.
Why not try our super greens product? It’s certified organic and is non-GMO.
Nested Naturals Super Greens
If you’re hoping to boost your iron, up your protein, or just improve your general health, Nested Naturals Super Greens is the high-quality spirulina powder you’re looking for!
Try it today and see the Nested Naturals difference!