What Is Spirulina?

Have you ever heard of spirulina before? Maybe you have seen it online, in the health foods store, or at a smoothie shop. What’s it all about? Is it good for me? Where does it come from? Keep reading to find out more about the bright-colored supplement and see where you could include it in your diet.

Key Takeaways

  • Spirulina is an algae found mostly in areas of Central Africa and Mexico
  • Just one tablespoon of this bright, blue-green powder is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals and has been researched for its health benefits
  • Spirulina can be taken in capsule or powder form, by itself or in green powders

What Is Spirulina?

Spirulina is an algae. It has this bright blue-green color to remind you of where it’s from – the water!

The green color can be attributed to something you might be familiar with called chlorophyll. The blue color is from phycocyanin, another pigmented protein that has begun to be studied for its health benefits.

This microalgae is found throughout fresh water and salt water, along with soil, marshes, and thermal springs. One of the main places it can be found is in lakes around central Africa and in Mexico.

Reported use of spirulina dates back to the Aztec civilization. Now, it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a coloring additive and sold in health and supplement stores in powder or capsule form after researching its reported health benefits.

Is Spirulina A Superfood?

You may have heard spirulina be called a superfood on packages or elsewhere.

While the term “superfood” has no official definition, spirulina definitely packs a whole bunch of nutrition in its tiny serving size.

Let’s look at some nutrition facts for one tablespoon of spirulina.

Nutritional Breakdown

For one tablespoon of spirulina, about seven grams, here is the nutritional breakdown:

  • Calories: 20 calories
  • Macronutrients
    • Protein: 4 grams
    • Fat: less than 1 gram
    • Carbohydrate: 1.5 grams
  • Vitamins and Minerals
    • Potassium: 95 milligrams
    • Sodium: 73 milligrams
    • Iron: 2 milligrams, or 11% daily value (DV) for women and 25% DV for men
    • Riboflavin: 0.25 milligram, or approximately 20% DV
    • Thiamine: 0.17 milligrams, or about 14% daily value
    • Magnesium: 23 milligrams or about 5% daily value
    • Beta Carotene: 24 micrograms
Spirulina powder algae

Spirulina has become so popular mostly based on its nutritional breakdown above.

Protein makes up just about 100% of spirulina’s total calorie content. It is low in fat and low in carbohydrate content. 

It is a vegan and vegetarian source of protein that provides all of the essential amino acids we need from our diet.

It is doable for vegans and vegetarians to get in the essential amino acids to get a complete protein source from foods, but it can be difficult. Spirulina can be a great protein addition to vegan and vegetarian diets – and for any diet, for that matter!

The only group that might want to avoid spirulina is those with a seafood or shellfish allergy, just to be safe.

Both sodium and potassium are present in spirulina. They are minerals, sometimes referred to as electrolytes, and their relationship is important in maintaining homeostasis of fluid levels inside and outside of our cells.

Spirulina is a good source of vitamins like riboflavin and thiamine, both B vitamins. They are both important in energy production, growth, and development.

Iron is a mineral that is essential for red blood cell production, oxygen transport throughout the body, and neurological development. Women need more iron than men.

Lastly, Beta carotene is a carotenoid from vitamin A. It protects against cell damage and is important in eye health and vision. 

What Does Science Say About Spirulina And Its Health Benefits?

After reading the above nutritional breakdown of spirulina, it goes without saying that scientists and researchers would jump on the idea of researching this so-called superfood.

Let’s look at some research that shows the spirulina health benefits. 

What Does Spirulina Do?

Spirulina has been studied for a wide variety of benefits.

First, spirulina may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. One study showed a significant decrease in IL-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine associated with some autoimmune conditions.

Spirulina supplementation has also been looked at regarding cardiovascular health. It may help reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

A study also showed a significant decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels after 2 grams of spirulina supplementation after three months.

Decreasing LDL levels is optimal for cardiovascular health.

There is some evidence that spirulina could be used in blood sugar control and improve hemoglobin content in those with anemia, but more research is needed.

Lastly, spirulina may improve exercise performance and muscular fatigue after exercise.

For example, 6 grams of spirulina for 4 weeks or a placebo were given to males in a double-blind study. Researchers found time to fatigue after a two-hour run was significantly longer than those taking a placebo.

Green smoothie with spirulina

How To Incorporate Spirulina Into Your Diet

Thinking of giving spirulina a try after reading up on what it is all about and its benefits?

Below we will go over some ways of how to add spirulina to your daily diet.

Food Sources Of Spirulina

Unfortunately, there are not any food sources of spirulina. It must be consumed in either powder or capsule form.

Spirulina – How Can We Get It Then?

As mentioned above, spirulina can be harvested from freshwater, marshes, or saltwater, where it grows naturally.

It can also be cultivated in farms or greenhouses, just like many of our other fresh produce, like lettuce and strawberries, could be.

By greenhouse growing spirulina, the quality components can be well monitored, such as the quality of the water and the temperature, as well as ensure its purity. Just because it is greenhouse-grown doesn’t mean it is bad for you!

In fact, spirulina harvested from lakes and marshes could pose risks. Toxic substances may be present if the body of water is polluted or contaminated with bacteria or heavy metals.

Something called microcystins could be present in contaminated spirulina. Microcystins are harmful if consumed and could be toxic to the liver. This goes for all blue-green algae, not just spirulina.

Purchasing spirulina from a reputable supplier, grower, or brand is super important.

Researching the company you are considering buying from is important, especially one that is third-party tested and has practices to assure its purity.

How To Take Spirulina

Once spirulina is harvested and processed, it is readily available to consumers in powder or pill form.

Doses studied in the literature vary from one to eight grams per serving. One teaspoon is about 2-3 grams in weight, and one tablespoon is about 7 grams in weight.

Spirulina can be mixed into plain water and consumed just like that. Adding spirulina to your smoothie might be more fun, as it will turn a bright blue-green color, and who wouldn’t want that? It can also be added to yogurt, other juices, or almond milk.

Spirulina is sold as tablets in serving sizes of around 500-750 mg in pill form. Multiple tablets may be recommended to take per day depending on the concentration of the tablet.

To get sufficient dosages of Spirulina is difficult when taking tablets, though, and so Spirulina powder can be better.

Even though spirulina is approved as a food additive by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FDA does not regulate spirulina as a supplement. Therefore, there is no recommended daily intake (RDI) for spirulina, and research has not yet defined the optimal daily dose. 

Pouring Supergreen Tonik into glass

Green Powders And Spirulina

Green powders have become popular over recent years. They can provide a variety of green powder health benefits, such as increasing nutrient density in your diet, possibly a healthier immune system may help decrease blood sugar, and may help protect against oxidative damage.

They often contain dehydrated forms of green vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards, or broccoli. But the ingredients in green powders don’t usually stop there.

Oftentimes, they could also have fruits or other vegetables, like blueberry, pineapple, beetroot, or even garlic.

Something like beetroot powder may help improve blood pressure or boost athletic performance, acting like a non-stimulant pre-workout.

Additionally, green powders can contain adaptogens. Adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola are herbs used in traditional medicine now being studied in the literature that is said to help the body adapt to stress and modulate the stress response.

Even though green powders can provide some vitamins, minerals, and green vegetables in the diet, it’s important to remember that green powders are not a substitute for a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables. Green powders can help close nutritional gaps in the diet.

Green powders can often be a great source of spirulina and an excellent way to get spirulina in your diet.

By taking spirulina in a green powder, consumers can benefit from spirulina and greens powder in just one daily dose instead of multiple supplements.

So, if you are wondering if green powders are worth it, and you are interested in spirulina, checking out Supergreen Tonik might be your first move. 

Supergreen Tonik contains 2000 mg of spirulina, which aligns with the doses studied in the literature mentioned above.

Their label is transparent with no proprietary blends, meaning consumers know exactly how much each ingredient is in one serving size. 

Supergreen Tonik ingredients + icons

Final Thoughts

Spirulina is a powerful little algae that pack a whole bunch of nutrition in a serving size as small as a teaspoon.

The research is up-and-coming and exciting, as some studies already show a link between positive health benefits and spirulina.

Always talk with your doctor or dietitian before adding nutritional supplements to your diet. Some herbal or nutrition supplements may interact with certain pharmaceutical medications or conditions, so it is best practice to check in with your providers before starting something new.

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