When it comes to so-called “super foods” it is hard to know what’s legit and what’s not. A quick google search will turn up hundreds of foods that promise you the world and more. But fear not! We sorted through the options, checked them against peer-reviewed science and found one that actually lives up to (most of) the hype. Super Spirulina! Let’s chat about what it is, and how it might help you stay healthy.
What is spirulina?
Spirulina is a dark green alga that grows naturally in mineral-rich alkaline lakes. It’s incredibly rich in nutrients like protein, essential amino acids, minerals, essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants—all things your body needs daily to thrive. Heck, NASA has even used spirulina to support astronauts’ health during space explorations.1 Who needs space food when you have super-algae ready to go?
So what prompted the (literal) rocket scientists at NASA to feed spirulina to their best and brightest? A long list of health benefits. Here are just a few:
1) Ease your allergies
Spirulina has been shown to inhibit the release of histamine, a chemical produced by your white blood cells when they attack a potential allergen.1 While it’s good that your body is trying to protect you, too much of anything tends to be a problem. Spirulina may help keep this reaction in check and those mild sniffles at bay (although more research is needed).
2) Support a healthy heart
Spirulina may help maintain a healthy balance of LDL cholesterol (aka the “bad” cholesterol) and HDL cholesterol (aka “good cholesterol”) in your bloodstream.1 Well balanced blood chemistry is good news for your ticker.
3) Give your gut a helping hand
Your digestive system is home to trillions and trillions of bacteria that together make up your gut microbiome. These are the good guys that help digest your food, make certain vitamins and keep your gut generally healthy. A disruption in your microbiome can cause all kinds of issues with your digestive system, your heart, your sleep—even your mood. Spirulina may help address these issues by increasing the growth of the beneficial bacteria in your gut.2
4) Defend your cells from damage
Spirulina is rich in antioxidants that help reduce free radicals, substances that can cause damage to your body when they start to build up in large amounts.3 By taking on these microscopic bad guys, spirulina may support your long-term health.
5) Punch up your protein
Spirulina is an excellent source of plant-based protein, delivering about 50-70 grams of protein per 100 grams of dried algae. Compare that to 13 grams of protein per 100 grams of whole egg. Now that’s a lot of bang for your buck!
How much spirulina should you take?
So how much spirulina do you need each day to get all these benefits? That’s harder to answer than you might think. Studies have reported benefits from dosages as low as 400 mg daily and as high as 5,000 mg per day.1,2 To hedge your bets—especially if you want to use it as a source of protein—you might want to consider a dosage at the upper end of that range. Since spirulina is widely available as a supplement, in drink powders and as an ingredient in prepared foods, hitting that high number can be easy. One tablespoon of dried spirulina contains about 5 grams of protein!
When should you take spirulina?
If you’re looking to use a spirulina supplement on its own, you can take it on a full or empty stomach at any time of day. But if you plan to combine it with other supplements, it’s best to take it with a complete meal and plenty of water. This maximizes the absorption of all the nutrients involved.
How do you make it delicious?
Try adding a tablespoon of spirulina powder to a smoothie or yogurt bowl; combine a few teaspoons with nutritional yeast, garlic powder and pepper and sprinkle it on popcorn; or add a tablespoon of spirulina to baked goods as a natural food dye!
Hayley is a Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Florida State University and a Master of Science in Dietetics from the University of Rhode Island. Hayley is dedicated to empowering individuals to achieve their nutritional goals through evidence-based practices.
Interested in supplements, but not sure where to start? Reach out to one of our experts, or take our free nutrition assessment, to learn exactly what nutrients would work best for your diet and lifestyle.