A type of microscopic blue-green algae, spirulina is a superfood rich in many nutrients that’s been in use since the 1970’s. Spirulina provides a variety of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage. Studies have examined the effects of spirulina on fighting infection, protecting the liver, curtailing allergic reactions, supporting gut health, and reducing risk for age-related eye disease.
Because it is so nutrient dense, easily digested, and available in many forms, it has become quite a popular nutritional supplement for use in smoothies, cereals, and baking.
Spirulina is rich in the following nutrients:
- B complex
- Vitamin E
- Gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid)
Spirulina is available as a powder, flakes, and tablets. The serving size will vary by the form being used, which can affect the density of different nutrients in a given serving.
Research on spirulina is still in the early stages, with limited studies done in human clinical trials. Even so, the research to date does shows that the superfood nutrient activity of spirulina has beneficial effects in the following areas:
Spirulina is over 60% protein, making it an excellent supplement when used in combination with other protein sources such as nuts, legumes, and lean meat/poultry. Spirulina cannot be used as a sole source of protein because vast quantities would need to be ingested. Spirulina protein supplements may have soy, whey, or other sources of protein added to the powder, so please read labels.
Gut Health. In test tubes, spirulina has boosted the growth of L. acidophilus and other probiotics. More research is needed to determine how well spirulina supports human gut health.
Allergic Response. Animal and test tube studies suggest that spirulina may protect against allergic reactions by curtailing or even stopping the release of histamines, which are the substances that produce a variety of allergy symptoms (e.g., runny nose, watery eyes, hives, etc.). It is not yet known if spirulina can have the same effect in allergy treatment for people.
Eye Health. Zeaxanthin, an important nutrient linked to eye health, is found in high concentration in spirulina. More research is needed to determine if spirulina supplementation can reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
There are many different spirulina species, only some of which are identified on the packaging for over-the-counter products. Spirulina maxima (cultivated in Mexico) and Spirulina platensis (cultivated in California) are the most popular. Most of the spirulina consumed in the United States is grown in a laboratory. Additionally, if not carefully sourced, spirulina can become easily contaminated through the environment in which it is grown. It is best to consult with your holistic practitioner about using spirulina to ensure that you receive a pure source, taken in the right amount for your needs.
Mount Sinai Health System. “Spirulina Information | Mount Sinai – New York.” Accessed August 7, 2022. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/spirulina
Haupt, A. “Health Benefits of Spirulina” Forbes, posted 16 Jan 2022. Accessed 7 Aug 2022: https://www.forbes.com/health/body/health-benefits-of-spirulina/
Forbes Health. “Health Benefits Of Spirulina,” Accessed August 7, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/health/body/health-benefits-of-spirulina/