WHAT IS SPIRULINA?
Spirulina is a blue-green algae, also fondly known as cyanobacteria is declared as superfood by the United Nation. It is absurdly healthy and densely packed with nutrients that improves health and decreases risk of having diseases in a human’s body.
Spirulina grows rapidly through the process of photosynthesis - absorbing Carbon Dioxide and great amount of intense sunlight; converts greenhouse gases into protein, nutrition and releases oxygen back into the atmosphere. This single celled organism will grow well in highly alkaline water condition that is constantly between the temperature of 30 - 35°C. Spirulina occurs naturally only in a handful of places in the world due to rare high alkalinity of water. And because of it’s unique habitat preference, Spirulina can be grown in an environment free from contaminated algae and bacteria as these harmful organisms only thrive in a more neutral or acidic water condition.
Despite being part of human’s diet for over a thousand years, Spirulina is still often overlooked or misunderstood. Also because it only occurs naturally in a few places, it didn’t become a common diet plan in the modern days. Spirulina has always being in a form of nutritional supplement - tablet or powder form, and this only happened in the last 40 years. Back then, the ancient Aztecs consumed Spirulina to get significant amount of nutrition and protein. There were also reports where some communities in Africa relied purely on Spirulina diet to survive through the times of famine.
In 1940, a botanist, Pierre Dangaeard rediscovered the extraordinary nutritional benefits of Spirulina. However, it went unnoticed for 25 years until Jean Leonard further explored Dangaeard’s work. It wasn’t until 1967, two years after Leonard’s exploration that the International Association of Applied Microbiology decaled Spirulina as “a wonderful future food source”
Since then, there was a much better understanding of its extraordinary nutritional values and the potential application as a food source had been realized. Today in the 21st century, many companies are producing Spirulina on a commercial scale for human consumption as well as in animal and fish food. Governments and NGOs are also in communication with lesser developed communities to fight malnutrition problems by introducing Spirulina farms.
Spirulina nutrition profile is so complete that the European Space Agency and NASA are exploring to use Spirulina as a primary source of food intake for astronauts.
NUTRITION FACTS OF SPIRULINA
Exceptionally High In Protein
Spirulina’s protein content makes up about 50-70% of its dry weight. It contains 8 essential amino acids that body cannot produce by themselves :
- Isoleucine – required for optimal growth
- Leucine – stimulates brain function
- Lysine – needed for producing antibodies, enzymes and hormones
- Methionine – antioxidant properties
- Phenylalanine – required for thyroid function
- Threonine – improves intestinal and digestive function
- Tryptophane – regulates serotonin
- Valine – stimulates mental and physical capacity
These amino acids make up to a complete block of protein, which is exactly needed in the human body. The amount of protein in 100 grams of dried Spirulina is 57.47 grams, which is equivalent to 31 grams of protein in 100 grams of chicken breast, and it’s also three times as much protein as beef!
High In Beta-Carotene
Beta carotene is the pigment that makes the carrots orange. Spirulina has the highest concentration of beta-carotene and its ten times more concentrated than carrots. 10 grams of Spirulina provides 460% of the U.S Daily Value of Vitamin A. Human’s body only turns beta carotene into Vitamin A when it’s needed, and Vitamin A is the perfect vitamin to help maintain a perfect vision.
High in Antioxidant
Antioxidants are essential and powerful substances that protect our cells from getting damaged by harmful molecules called free radicals. Experts believe this damage is the cause in the development of blood vessel disease, cancer and other conditions.
There are 15 pigments in Spirulina, that includes Chlorophyll and Phycocyanin - the main active component. Phycocyanin can ward off free radicals, impede production of inflammatory signal molecules while providing spectacular antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Rich In Vitamins & Minerals
The concentration of vitamins and minerals in Spirulina are so dense that is had been classified as the “most nutrient dense food on the planet”. 1 gram of Spirulina covers the daily requirement for a normal adult.
List of Vitamins content in Spirulina:
- Vitamin A (beta carotene)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E( a-tocopherol)
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Folate (folic acid)
- Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)
- Pantothenic Acid
List of minerals in Spirulina
By comparing Spirulina to other foods gram to gram, Spirulina has :
- 5 times more potassium than bananas
- 26 times more calcium than whole milk
- 4 times more zinc than spinach
Consuming 10 gram of Spirulina powder is equivalent to having
- 1 piece of apple (Potassium).
- 2 and a half beetroots (Magnesium).
- 6 and a half artichoke (Iron).
- 3 slices of whole wheat bread (Thiamin B1)
- 85 grams of halibut (Calcium)
- 6 and a half cups of grated green cabbage (Phosphorus)
Contains Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) and Omega-3
Spirulina is about 50-70% protein and amino acids, including the essential fatty acid Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) which is very well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, especially when taken with other quality Omega-3 supplements. GLA is exceptionally difficult to get from natural food source and it’s usually has to be created by the human’s body. Spirulina is one of the few foods with natural GLA content.
Spirulina is also the second richest source of GLA after breast milk. It is proven that GLA is effective in treating autoimmune disorders, arthritis eczema and PMS.
Spirulina is the only vegetable in the world that contains Glycogen. Glycogen is a breakdown from carbohydrates. It is a complex sugar that is stored in the liver until energy is needed.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SPIRULINA
1. Detoxes Heavy Metals (especially Arsenic)
According to the World Health Organization, arsenic toxicity is a problem and is affecting people all over the globe especially the United States where inorganic arsenic is naturally present at high levels.
In the Far East, arsenic toxicity is a real big problem as well where the drinking water contains high concentration of arsenic and thousands have already developed chronic arsenic poisoning.
In Bangladesh, up to 3% of the entire nation showed clinical signs of arsenic poisoning, and with no specific treatment in hand, the nation is evaluating alternatives like blue-green algae.
A test was conducted, 24 patients affected by chronic arsenic poisoning were given spirulina extract (250 mg) plus zinc (2 mg) twice daily. Another 17 patients were given a placebo. The results showed that spirulina-zinc combination worked wonderfully, a 47% decrease of arsenic in their body.
2. Eliminates Candida
“Candida species belong to the normal microbiota of an individual’s mucosal oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract and vagina.” This means we are simply a lot more susceptible to sickness and disease without a healthy microflora balance in our body,
Improper digestion and leaky gut is directly connected microfloral imbalance. candida overgrowth has become the hallmark sign for most autoimmune diseases today and candidiasis is the leading cause of mycosis-related death in the United States.
Since the 80’s there has been a rise in yeast infection as our diet has shifted towards a diet rich in sugar and unnatural ingredients, antimicrobial resistance and ineffective antifungal drugs. The use of spirulina in animal studies has shown that it’s an effective anti-microbial agent, particularly for candida.
Spirulina has shown that it has tremendously helped to promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, which inhibits Candida from thriving and helps eliminate Candida cells.
3. Improves HIV/AIDS
For a long time, epidemiologist have been trying to understand why the people in Japan, Korea, and Chad have relatively low HIV/AIDS rates. In a 2012 study published by the Journal of Applied Phycology revealed that one possible explanation to this may be the copious amounts of algae they consume on a regular basis.
A research on this was conducted. 11 HIV patients who have never taken antiretrovirals were split into three groups for a three months trial period. One was assigned to eat 5 g of brown seaweed every day, one was to eat 5 g of spirulina, and one ate a combination of both. Two key findings were discovered after the trial:
- Absolutely no adverse effects were experienced from both seaweed varieties and the combination.
- CD4 cells (T-helper white blood cells that fight infection and are used to stage HIV) and HIV-1 viral load (another HIV biomarker) remained stable.
These promising results resulted in one participant volunteering to continue the study for another 10 months which and benefited from “clinically significant improvement in CD4 and decreased HIV viral load”!
4. Helps Prevent Cancer
Research done by the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that spirulina increases production of antibodies, infection-fighting proteins, and other cells that improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic illnesses such as cancer and there has been over 70 peer-reviewed articles that have been published in the scientific literature evaluating spirulina’s ability to affect cancer cells!
In April 2017, Czech Republic scientists pointed out in an article that spirulina has the ability to control blood cholesterol levels and is also rich in tetrapyrrole compounds closely related to bilirubin molecule, a potent antioxidant and anti-proliferative agent.”
Researchers discovered that when tested on human pancreatic cells, experimental therapeutics significantly decreased proliferation of human pancreatic cancer cell lines in vitro in a dose-dependent manner as compared to untreated cells. this proves that consuming spirulina can help prevent developing various cancers!
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
Scientists have discovered that spirulina contains phycocyanin which possesses antihypertensive effects (it lowers blood pressure). In Japan, researches has also claimed that consuming the blue-green algae reverses endothelial dysfunction in metabolic syndrome.
This is promising news for Americans as metabolic syndrome has rapidly become one of the main causes of preventable disease today, as it raises one’s risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
6. Reduces Cholesterol
Spirulina has clearly shown its benefits to prevent atherosclerosis and reduce elevated blood cholesterol levels.
A study published in The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology stated in an experiment, for eight weeks, rabbits were fed high cholesterol diet (HCD) containing 0.5% cholesterol for four weeks, and then fed them a HCD with 1% or 5% spirulina for an additional eight weeks.
The results were very promising after the eight weeks. LDL levels decreased by 26% in the group eating 1% of spirulina and 41% in the group eating 5% spirulina. Serum triglycerides and total cholesterol were also significantly reduced.This strongly suggests that the more you consume the more benefits you receive.
7. Lowers Chance of Stroke
The consumption of spirulina is also suggests that it can prevent atherosclerosis and subsequent stroke as it lowers the intimal aortic surface by 33% to 48%.
Regular consumption of spirulina can literally reverse damage done by a unhealthy diet. Just imagine the benefits with a balanced diet.
8. Boosts Energy
Looking into detail at the chemical composition of spirulina, it’s no wonder that this superfood provides an abundance of energy. Some suggest to combine 1 tsp spirulina powder with 12 oz lime juice and freezing the mixture in ice cube trays for a healthy boost. The cold from the ice boosts metabolic energy while giving our bodies a “wake-up call.”
9. Speeds Up Weight Loss
Spirulina also works to help promote weight loss, similar to other diets high in nutrient-dense protein rich foods. This is due to it takes more energy to metabolise protein. To maximize this benefit, try eating your high protein spirulina in the morning or during midday instead of at night.
10. Alleviates Sinus Issues
Known as allergic rhinitis, spirulina benefits the body by reducing the inflammation that causes people to experience sinus problems, according to numerous studies. Compared to placebo trials, spirulina is effective at reducing itching, nasal discharge, nasal congestion and sneezing.
ENVIRONMENTAL ADVANTAGES OF SPIRULINA
Spirulina, the superfood not only does wonder to the human body but it also tremendously helps the environment. It is known to be one of the best and easily grown nutritious food of nature and is the richest protein rich food amongst the plant sources.
Here is how farming spirulina also contributes to the planet:
Let us make you aware of some of the environmental advantages of the super food Spirulina.
1. Conservation of Soil
The Organic farming of spirulina has made the cultivation of spirulina possible on lands where other crops can hardly grow. The farming of Spirulina also helps prevent the erosion of soil. Spirulina being the most protein rich food and because of its fast multiplying rate it gives about 20 times more protein per acre than soya beans, 40 times more than corn and about 200 times more than beef.
2. Efficient Water Use
Spirulina uses comparatively much less amount of water per kilo than other crops. Spirulina also gives the chance for the recycling of water once it is harvested. So whatever water loss that takes place is only through evaporation and little bit through seepage in the ponds. Spirulina actually needs only 25% the water of Soya, 17% of corn and only 2% of that needed by beef.
3. Efficient Use of Energy
Spirulina uses very little of the generated or solar energy as compared to that by soya, corn or beef. The energy efficiency rate of spirulina is about 5 times higher than Soya, 2 times higher than corn and will you believe it, about 100 times higher than that of the grain fed beef.
4. Good Oxygen Generator
On an average the trees recycle about 1-4 tons of CO2 per hectare per year. But the super duper Spirulina recycles more than 6.3 tons of CO2 per hectare per year. On the other hand it produces about 16.8 tons of oxygen.