What may seem like an herb, spirulina is actually classified as a bacteria that has exceptional health-promoting benefits. These blue-green algae known are most commonly recognized as one of the world’s most nutritious superfoods because it has benefits that cater to every bodily function and organ in your body.
Spirulina has been used for centuries. In fact, the ancient Aztecs used to consume it for its health advantages. Today, even NASA uses spirulina to reap its benefits.
Botanical Name and Family of Spirulina
Spirulina is scientifically known as Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima. It belongs to the Phormidiaceae family and is often referred to as algae and blue-green algae.
What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a cyanobacterium obtained from two species of Arthrospira. This is a diverse group of organisms resembling plants that are generally found in salt water. All over the world, Arthrospira is being cultivated for its widespread use as a dietary supplement. It is also used in poultry, aquarium and aquaculture industries.
This amazing blue-green alga is also known as a freshwater plant that is now popularly researched and talked about today. Spirulina is grown all over the world from Africa to Mexico and everywhere in between.
You may have even seen spirulina as an ingredient in your green smoothies and energy bars due to its distinct flavor and exceptional nutrient profile.
Active Ingredients Found in Spirulina
Spirulina contains mainly protein and is considered as a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids. It is also rich in the following nutrients:
- Linoleic acid
- Linolenic acid
- Arachidonic acid
- Vitamins B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
Spirulina also contains pigments such as beta-carotene, canthaxanthin, echinenone and chlorophyll and many other nutrients that our body needs.
Health Benefits of Spirulina
Spirulina is used as a dietary supplement because it is a rich source of proteins, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. It also contains vital antioxidants that help to prevent heart disorders and reduce cholesterol levels.
Aside from the mentioned benefits, spirulina also:
- Detoxifies heavy metals
- Reduces inflammation
- Prevents cancer
- Improves immune system
- Boosts energy
- Helps with weight loss
- Regulates blood sugar
- Promotes healthy gut flora
- Improves cognitive function
- Reduces cholesterol
- Lowers chances of stroke
Spirulina is also found to have anti-viral, antioxidant and anti-cancer effects. Studies show that this compound improves immune function and increases libido.
How to Use Spirulina
Spirulina is available in the form of a powder that can be added to smoothies or any food of your choice. It is also available in a capsule form that can be found at natural food stores or online retailers.
Side Effects of Spirulina
Spirulina proposes a wide list of health advantages that range anywhere from preventing cancer to aiding in weight loss, but it also comes with side effects that must be taken into consideration.
Over-consumption of spirulina can cause immune system activation and this may aggravate autoimmune diseases. Persons with phenylketonuria must not use this supplement because it contains phenylalanine. For this reason, you should consult your doctor upon taking spirulina to determine if it would be beneficial for you.
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Deng R, Chow T-J. Hypolipidemic, Antioxidant and Antiinflammatory Activities of Microalgae Spirulina. PMCID: PMC2907180. NIHMSID: NIHMS212516. Cardiovasc Ther. 2010 Aug; 28(4): e33–e45. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5922.2010.00200.x