Spirulina is designed to increase performance, help with weight loss and ward off diseases. But how healthy is the microalgae really? In the following article, you will learn everything about Spirulina, from the ingredients of the algae to its effects until the risks of consumption.
What is the Spirulina Algae?
Spirulina are multicellular microorganisms of the genus cyanobacteria, also called blue algae. The elongated, spiral algae grow to only a few millimeters in size and are also called “microalgae”. They settle in salty inland waters and prefer tropical or subtropical climates, so they are mainly native to Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa and Australia.
The assignment of the Spirulina to the genus of blue algae depends on its color. In addition to the green plant dye chlorophyll, the microalgae contain other color pigments, which give them a bluish tint. While Spirulina is gaining in popularity in the West, it has long been established as a food and useful plant in its original range.
Nutritional Values of Spirulina
While spirulina is seen primarily as a valuable food supplement in the USA, the microalgae is often a traditional part of the diet in its areas of origin. Spirulina is an extremely essential energy supplier, especially in countries with a critical food reserve, as the nutritional desirability of the algae shows. 100 grams of dried spirulina provides just under 290 calories.
Almost 300 calories for 100 grams of algae powder – these numbers may seem to be a deterrent at first. However, a look at the nutritional table shows that spirulina is a high-quality food for your body in every way. 100 grams of the algae contain:
- 60 percent of proteins
- 20 percent carbohydrates
- 5 percent fat
- 5 percent of minerals
The list shows: Spirulina not only contains all the nutrients that your organism requires to survive, but the proportion of the respective substances also predestines the algae as a component of a balanced and healthy diet.
You can find out below what nutrients these are and why Spirulina is so healthy.
Ingredients of Spirulina
A look at the nutrient content of Spirulina tells us why the algae is such a useful energy supplier. Here you will learn everything about why the ingredients of Spirulina are good for your health, and why you should introduce the microalgae into your daily diet.
Proteins and Essential Amino Acids
The extremely high protein content of Spirulina is particularly striking. More than half of the algae consists of proteins. These form the first group of three macronutrients that your body inevitably needs to survive.
They are one of the basic building blocks of your organism and are used, among other things, to form hair, skin and nails. Without proteins, your body could not build tissue, nothing would function at the cellular level. Conversely, protein is especially important if you want to build up body tissues in a targeted way, and it is an integral part of the diet when building muscle.
Essential amino acids are the substances from which proteins are produced. Although you depend on them, your body can’t make them on its own.
That’s why you need to take them regularly through food. Spirulina is an excellent source of amino acids.
Carbohydrates suffer from a bad reputation. They are considered “fatteners” and are, therefore, shunned by many people. Dietary styles such as the “low carb” diet are based on the idea that you should severely limit or even stop your consumption of carbohydrates.
If you want to lose weight quickly, it is perfectly fine to practice such a diet over a shorter period of time. Nevertheless, you should be aware that carbohydrates are misjudged by their bad reputation. As a matter of fact, they are, along with proteins, the macronutrients your body needs to survive.
Thus, carbohydrates should definitely be part of a healthy and balanced diet in the long term. It depends, however, on the type of carbohydrates. These differ in their chemical structure. While “simple” carbohydrates, which consist of only one molecular ring, occur mainly in sugary foods and in fact endanger your figure, “high-quality” carbohydrates are optimal energy suppliers in addition to proteins.
They are particularly characterized by the fact that your body can use them particularly well and gain a lot of energy from them, which means that they will fill you long and persistently.
Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Another component of Spirulina is fat. The difference with many other foods is that it is extremely high-quality fat that your body desperately requires to function. The fat content in the microalgae consists for the most part of unsaturated fatty acids. Although these fatty chemical compounds are essential to your body, it cannot make them itself, just like essential amino acids, thus, you must absorb them through food, instead.
Spirulina is a supplier of unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 acid or omega-6 acid. Both substances, in turn, contain organic matters that have been shown to have a very positive effect on health, including against cardiovascular diseases.
If you add linseed or linseed oil to your diet in addition to the algae, you can effectively prevent heart rhythm disturbances via your nutrition.
100 grams of spirulina has a mineral content of more than 5 percent. This makes the microalgae an extremely worthy source of minerals that affect the functioning of your body in a variety of ways. Spirulina can, thus, help to meet your daily target for minerals and prevent the formation of mineral deficiencies.
The mineral calcium is primarily known to strengthen bones and teeth. In fact, the mineral is a major component of your bone structure, helping to keep your skeleton healthy and resilient. In addition, calcium also fulfills other important functions in your body. It, furthermore, influences the performance of nerves and muscles, is involved in metabolism and blood clotting.
Calcium deficiency is, therefore, not only manifested by disturbing symptoms, but it can also seriously damage your health. Depending on breeding conditions, 100 grams of spirulina provides 400 to 700 milligrams of calcium – effectively aiding to meet an adult’s daily requirement of 1000 milligrams of calcium.
100 grams of microalgae not only have plenty of calcium, but they also contain between 400 and 500 milligrams of magnesium. This portion is perfectly sufficient to meet an adult’s daily magnesium needs.
This mineral is primarily responsible for the function of muscles and cells. It supports the communication of muscle and nerve cells and thus contributes to successfully implementing movement sequences and supporting your muscles in the interplay of contraction and relaxation.
Magnesium is of particular importance in terms of its influence on the heart muscle. A magnesium deficiency can not only lead to movement disorders, aching muscles, and convulsions, it can also impair the function of the heart in a dangerous way in the worst case.
Iron is mainly needed for blood formation, oxygen transport within your body and for the production of enzymes. What sounds simple is essential. If you suffer from an iron deficiency, a serious follow-up disease such as anemia quickly occurs. Your physical performance is greatly diminished, while your health is increasingly weakened.
Despite these drastic consequences, iron deficiency is widespread. Women, in particular, are at risk of losing too much of the mineral as part of their monthly menstruation cycle.
Therefore, with the onset of puberty, particular attention should be paid to the iron balance.
Because it is a trace element, your body only needs the mineral in a small amount every day.
100 grams of spirulina contains 50 milligrams of iron, which is perfectly sufficient to meet the daily requirement of an adult woman with 15 milligrams per day. Note: Pregnant and lactating women need 18 mg of iron per day!
In addition to numerous minerals, various vitamins are also present in spirulina, which your body needs to function properly.
Spirulina owes its green-blue coloration to various plant dyes, which are also called beta-carotene. These beta-carotenes are important for your organism because your body can convert them into vitamin A if necessary. Vitamin A primarily affects vision, but also your immune system, cell formation, and fertility.
Especially women wishing to have children should, therefore, have their vitamin balance checked and ensure that they are optimally supplied with the nutrient before the begin of pregnancy.
Vitamin B12 is mainly responsible for the formation and function of blood and nerves. A lack of vitamin B12 can, therefore, be manifested both on the physical level by weakness and discomfort as well as on the psychological level by increasing hysteria and at the same time decreasing stress resistance.
The proportion of vitamin B12 in spirulina is particularly relevant because the vitamin is predominantly present in animal products.
Those who refrain from consuming animal products have a few plant sources in spirulina together with chlorella and sea buckthorn in order to feed the vitamin in a natural way.
Because vitamin B12 is also needed for the formation of DNA, adequate care for the mother and child should be ensured, especially during pregnancy.
Vitamin E is also known as the “cell protection vitamin”. One of the most important tasks of vitamin E is to take action against so-called free radicals. These are harmful molecules that attack your cells and cause them to age prematurely or alter them adversely.
Cell mutations and subsequent diseases such as cancer can be the consequence. In addition to its protective function for the cells, vitamin E also acts as an anti-inflammatory and, together with vitamin C, contributes to strengthening your immune system.
Spirulina is not only rich in beta-carotene, vitamin B12 and vitamin E, but also the nutrient folic acid is present in the microalgae. Since it is a natural form of folic acid, in this case, it is also called folate. Folate or folic acid is essential for blood formation, growth and fertility.
Not only can a lack of folic acid prevent the development of a pregnancy, but it can also lead to deformities of the child during pregnancy. Women of childbearing potential should, therefore, pay particular attention to their folic acid balance, which they can replenish naturally with the help of spirulina.
Spirulina owes much of its green color to the plant dye chlorophyll. While the medicinal effects of chlorophyll have not yet been sufficiently researched, numerous positive testimonies suggest that the green dye could indeed promote health.
Chlorophyll, together with vitamin E, is supposed to work against harmful molecules called free radicals, promote blood formation and prevent the development of nutrient defects. The plant dye should also perform against bad breath.
Although its health-promoting effects have not yet been sufficiently proven by scientists, it is clear that chlorophyll as a component of spirulina cannot harm your health under any circumstances.
It is also present in other foods such as wheat grass, which are classified as safe and healthy. To read more about the benefits of wheatgrass, continue reading here:
Effects of the Spirulina Algae
Considering the healthy nutrients of spirulina, it is no wonder that microalgae is now considered a real superfood and is often referred to in a connection with chia seeds, matcha tea, goji berries and moringa. But, what effects can you hope for from the precious ingredients of spirulina? You will find out below.
Strengthening of the Immune System
Your immune system is your body’s main defensive wall against pollutants and pathogens. A functioning immune system is, therefore, a key factor in ensuring your health and increasing your physical well-being. If you are adequately supplied with the necessary nourishment, it is much easier for your organism to ward off germs and bacteria. By supplying yourself with vitamin A as well as vitamin E and chlorophyll, spirulina helps to keep your body’s defenses strong and healthy.
Spirulina is not only full of immune-boosting nutrients, but the other ingredients of the microalgae also promote your health. Be it minerals that strengthen bones, muscles and nerves, or vitamins that are responsible for blood formation, growth and vision. If you think of your body as a machine, this machine works particularly well when each part is in place and well maintained.
Exactly according to this principle, your general well-being and functioning increase if you are optimally supplied with nutrients. With its wealth of vitamins and minerals, spirulina can do just that and make you physically and mentally fitter, more resilient and more powerful.
Prevention of Nutrient Deficiencies
An optimal supply of nutrients increases your physical well-being. Your physical and mental strength makes you more resistant to stress and pathogens and helps you to meet the challenges of everyday life well prepared. It, thus, allows you to do exactly the things that are missing when you suffer from one or even several nutrient deficiencies.
If you are not adequately equipped with a vitamin or mineral, this deficiency often manifests itself not only in unpleasant symptoms but can seriously threaten your health. Regular consumption of the nourishment-rich spirulina helps you to prevent nutrient deficiencies of all kinds and to compensate for existing shortages in the supply.
Support for Muscle Building
The high protein content of spirulina makes the algae particularly interesting as food to support an active lifestyle. Whether you prefer to practice gentle sports such as yoga or pilates, or whether you like to push your limits in competitive sports, a healthy and well-developed musculature will help you achieve better results and improve your physical well-being.
Especially if you want to build muscle in a targeted way, a high-protein diet is a crucial measure. Spirulina can be a valuable addition here and help you achieve your fitness goals.
Help with Weight Loss
Also, if you want to lose weight long-term and healthy, Spirulina is a useful addition to your diet. The carbohydrate content of microalgae is too high to decrease quickly with the aid of spirulina. However, because they are extremely high-quality carbohydrates, they, in combination with the numerous proteins of spirulina, ensure that you feel a long-lasting feeling of satiety.
The use of spirulina and other saturating foods can, therefore, help to better organize your eating behavior, prevent hunger attacks and counteract binge-eating, i.e. uncontrolled eating.
Side Effects of Spirulina
The fact that spirulina is a healthy supplement within your diet is no surprise after looking at the nutritional values and ingredients of the blue algae. However, there are some factors to keep in mind if you want to enjoy spirulina healthily and safely.
Spirulina as a Long-Term Helper?
Thanks to its extremely high content of nutrients and proteins, spirulina supports to make you healthier and more efficient in the long run as part of a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet. You should bear in mind, however, that if you eat spirulina permanently, you should not consume more than a few grams per day (approximately 5 to 10 grams).
This means that you can use the blue algae to help meet your daily nutrient needs – but overall you should consider the microorganisms as long-term, permanent helpers, and do not expect spontaneous miracles of large amounts of the powder.
Avoid Spirulina in Phenylketonuria
As healthy as spirulina may be, those who suffer from the metabolic disorder phenylketonuria should avoid the power algae. In phenylketonuria, the amino acid phenylalanine cannot be broken down correctly. As a result, it accumulates in the body and is converted into harmful substances that, in the worst case, can cause severe mental developmental disorders and epilepsy.
In the meantime, phenylketonuria is usually discovered and treated in newborns. Sufferers should, however, be careful when consuming protein-containing foods. And because spirulina contains plenty of protein, including the amino acid phenylalanine, sufferers should avoid eating the algae.
Contamination of Spirulina
If you want to give spirulina a chance due to its healthy ingredients, you should be careful to choose a high-quality product. In the best case, you can use organic bred algae. One of the biggest risks associated with the purchase of spirulina is that impurities are caused by improper production. In the case of highly contaminated products, the algae can be contaminated with pollutants, heavy metals, and harmful microorganisms.
The higher the quality of production, however, the lower the risk of contamination. Therefore, check the origin of your spirulina preparation and inform yourself about the manufacturing conditions. In particular, Asian products or conspicuously cheap preparations should be thoroughly inspected before purchase.
Spirulina for Sale
Spirulina is gaining popularity, but the opportunities to buy are still limited. The largest selection can still be found on the Internet. The selection of preparations is now wide-ranging: Spirulina is available as tablets, capsules, as powder, pure or combined with other active ingredients. When purchasing, you should pay attention to the quality of the products.
Ecologically sustainable products are preferable in principle, but overall it is sufficient to pay attention to the origin and the price. Remarkably cheap preparations should be thoroughly checked before purchase to avoid contamination.
Spirulina as a Powder: Tips for use
Spirulina is available either in compressed form, i.e. in the form of tablets and capsules, or loosely as a powder. Especially for beginners, the powder has some advantages.
While most products have a dedicated guide to taking them, powder allows you to experiment slowly with different doses to find the perfect amount for you. The powder also makes it easier to mix spirulina into a glass of juice or a smoothie if you don’t like the taste.
If you resort to powder, you should be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage amount. In principle, although there is no set limit for spirulina supplements, most vendors recommend taking doses of a few grams daily, often throughout the day. Stick to this information, because in case of overdose, unpleasant side effects such as digestive problems, bloating and convulsions can occur.
Spirulina as Tablets: Tips for use
Spirulina as tablets or capsules are right for you if you don’t want to experiment with the dosage or don’t like the taste of the algae. The tablets can be swallowed down quickly, easily and safely with sufficient liquid and unfold their healthy effect in your body without spoiling the smoothie in the worst case.
In addition, you will often find combined active ingredients in tablet form. If you want to support your muscle building with spirulina, you can choose a preparation with another protein-rich active ingredient. If, on the other hand, you want to compensate for a nutrient deficiency, you can resort to a combination of spirulina and the corresponding nutrient.
With tablets, you should also observe the dosage specifications of the manufacturer and pay close attention to avoid an overdose.
Spirulina and Chlorella
Whether powder or tablet, spirulina is often offered in combination with Chlorella. The Chlorella algae is also considered a health tip and is known for its bright green coloration. At first glance, chlorella and spirulina seem to be hardly different except for their color shades.
But, while spirulina are multicellular bacteria, chlorella are single-celled organisms, a completely different type of life form.
Nevertheless, the effect of both entities harmonizes so well that they are often combined with each other. Chlorella is also rich in proteins. It also contains many minerals, vitamins, and unsaturated fatty acids. And Chlorella has the ability to bind substances from its environment, thus, making pollutants harmless. Chlorella and spirulina, therefore, not only complement each other, they even reinforce one another.
If you want to improve your nutrient balance and strengthen your health, it is, therefore, worth taking both microorganisms together. Because that way you get twice the amount of healthy nutrients with little effort.
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