Eating vegetables for most kids could be really a challenging thing. But as adults, we know better. One of the most potent foods on the planet that produces a number of health benefits is just around the corner. Is eating algae appealing to you? Well, maybe it is weird until you realize that certain algae can give you the highest protein content. This kind of algae is called Spirulina.
What is spirulina?
Spirulina (S. platensis) is a natural “algae” (cyanbacteria) powder that is incredibly high in protein and a good source of antioxidants, B-vitamins and other nutrients are given that it is harvested correctly from non-contaminated ponds and bodies of water. This is one of the most potent nutrient sources available (1). Known as a nutrient-dense food, spirulina is packed full of vitamins, including vitamins A, C, E and B vitamins, as well as a whole host of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium (2). Vitamin C and selenium are both antioxidants that help protect our cells and tissues from damage. This algae is also an excellent vegan source of iron and contains high protein (3).
Spirulina, blue-green microalgae, grows in freshwater lakes and ponds and is recognized as one of the oldest life forms on earth, which Aztecs consumed it for hundreds of years for its abundant source of protein (4). Spirulina is a microscopic filamentous alga that is not only rich in proteins and vitamins but also essential amino acids, minerals and essential fatty acids like γ-linolenic acid (GLA). It has been designated as a health food by the World Health Organization (WHO), and it has the potential to become one of the best alternative treatments in the twenty-first century (5). Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) points out that it can be used as a treatment for the nervous system and metabolism, including weight loss, diabetes, and high cholesterol. And today, Spirulina is touted as “superfood” that has roused everyone’s interest. It is produced commercially and sold as a food supplement in health food stores around the world. Up to very recently, the interest in Spirulina’s nutritive value continues to grow.
9 Health Benefits of Spirulina
1. It combats allergic rhinitis and asthma
According to a recent study, Spirulina modulates immune function and improves allergy symptoms. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the effectiveness of spirulina for treating patients with allergic rhinitis and reveals that spirulina consumption significantly improves the symptoms compared to placebo. It reduces nasal discharge, decreased sneezing, and improved nasal congestion and itching (6). In addition, spirulina is nutraceutical algae that helps in controlling asthma. Spirulina is an excellent alternative for asthma treatment because it is a rich source of gamma linolenic acid and antioxidants (7).
2. It assists in keeping the eyes healthy
Spirulina contains a high concentration of zeaxantuin. Zeaxantuin is an important nutrient linked to eye health. As such, spirulina helps reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (8). Spirulina, like astaxanthin, is rich in antioxidants that are proven to offer valuable eye health support (9). In fact, spirulina has ten times the vitamin A and beta-carotene as carrots, making it the most naturally potent source of the carotenoid antioxidant available (10).
3. It boosts energy and immune system
Spirulina supports immune system health because it contains potent nutrients known as polysaccharides which are widely regarded to be a powerful immune system booster, assisting in the prevention of a wide variety of maladies (11). It has large amounts of beta-carotene, which helps to boost immunity; vitamin B12 and B complex, which are vital for healthy nerves and tissue; and phytonutrients which have a range of health benefits (12).
4. It fights cancer
Spirulina may contain anti-cancer properties and may be effective against a type of precancerous lesion of the mouth called Oral submucous fibrosis (OSMF) (13). Spirulina has a strong cancer chemo-preventive potential as it inhibits various pro-inflammatory pathways. Lipopolysaccharides of spirulina are known to suppress tumor growth by altering the expression of various cytokines (14). It also has anti-oxidant, anti-proliferative properties and is active against mutagens as well. It scavenges reactive oxygen species preventing the formation of a cancerous cell (15).
5. It helps fight anemia
A study is conducted among 40 older people with a history of anemia and reveals that spirulina supplements increase the hemoglobin content of red blood cells and improved immune function (16). The iron and folic acid supplementation definitely lead to an increase in the hemoglobin levels and thus to the alleviation of anemia. Spirulina has an astonishing content of iron and folic acid – approximately 100 times the RDA requirement (17).
6. It helps manage diabetes
Indian researchers find shreds of evidence that spirulina can help type 2 diabetes patients manage their blood sugar levels (18). A long-term study carried out over 30 years ago among 1,297 patients with type 1 diabetes produced an immense improvement over just one year, which proves to balance blood sugar levels and prevented the side effects of the disease (19). A 2013 study publishes the anti-diabetic effect of Spirulina on patients with diabetes wherein researchers used extracts of Phycocyanin from spirulina, the antioxidant that gives spirulina its strong blue color (20). The Phycocyanin found in spirulina stimulates the body’s insulin function, improves the peripheral tissue’s insulin resistance, and regulates the glock-lipid metabolism of the patient (21).
7. It helps to get rid of toxic substances from the body
Detoxification is the physiological removal of toxic substances from within your body – your lymph and circulatory systems detoxify your individual cells, while detoxification on a broader scale is mainly carried out by your liver, kidneys, and intestines while other organs such as your bowels, lungs, and skin also play a part in excreting toxins from your body (22). Spirulina helps your body detoxify naturally. It is known to be alkalizing to the body, which boosts liver function (23). It contains chlorophyll which is used for “detoxification” by helping remove toxins such as heavy metals and other pollutants from the blood. It is, in fact, often alternated with chlorella for detoxifying the body (24). It indeed offers immense detoxification support to the body.
8. It is a useful remedy for insomnia
A dose of spirulina may benefit people who suffer from sleep deprivation and other conditions such as sleep apnea that affects your ability to get rested. This is so because of amino acid believed to be found in spirulina that aids the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us get to sleep (25). Taking chemical forms of melatonin for people who deal with insomnia may cause serious long term problems for the body’s autonomous production of this hormone. Spirulina, however, helps the body to improve the natural production of this important sleep hormone (26).
9. It is beneficial to your gut
Spirulina contains prebiotic polysaccharides that have been found to improve probiotic growth. These polysaccharides in spirulina have specifically been shown to promote the growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, two of the most common probiotics taken as supplements (27). And also, a strong, diverse microbiota has been associated with a stronger immune system, more energy, better mood, and better overall health (28).
Spirulina deserves to be tagged as “superfood”. And in order to make the best out of what spirulina can offer, you need to learn more about it and ensure that you get the safest supplement in the market. And always remember to keep your physician informed about the dosage and the way your body reacts to spirulina. In case you notice any of the unwanted symptoms, pay your doctor a visit immediately.