Spirulina is a type of cyanobacteria (blue green algae or “sea plants”) that grows in tropical and subtropical regions, in certain lakes near volcanoes, which have predominantly alkaline water (pH of 8-14) and abundant mineral deposits. Vast reserves of this powerful biomass are particularly found in Mexico and central and east African nations.
They are bluish green in color, develop as filamentous tangled stacks, and are primarily of two strains – Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima.
Spirulina was first documented in ancient history as a green cake called “dihe” which was consumed by marathon runners in the Aztec civilization, for enhanced stamina.
Currently, apart from its raw and pure sources, it is also being extensively cultivated in cities worldwide. It is then dried and prepared as a food, food additive or dietary supplement in the form of tablets and powders, as it contains noteworthy amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
A natural low glycemic index food, spirulina is very rich in the vital trace element – iron, which is required for healthy blood cell formation in the body.
It is high on protein content as well, with the added advantage of its protein quality being excellent and supplying all the essential amino acids (substances that bind together to form proteins).
Being low on calories, carbs and cholesterol, it is also packed with the goodness of the B vitamins required for energy metabolism and healthy nervous system functioning.
Moreover, it contains significant quantities of the minerals – copper, potassium and magnesium, which help in fortifying bones and maintaining electrolyte (salt) balance in the body.
Therapeutic Uses Of Spirulina
Confers Antioxidant Benefits:
Spirulina contains the antioxidant phycocyanin which protects the internal cells and DNA from oxidative damage by harmful free radicals. Thus, it lends an advantageous anti-inflammatory effect to the body.
Controls Cholesterol Levels:
When ingested, spirulina acts on the body effectively lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, while raising the amounts of HDL (good cholesterol). Thereby, it helps in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Helps Manage Anemia:
Being loaded with iron, spirulina helps combat anemia (iron deficiency) and its associated symptoms such as fatigue and reduced immunity.
Improves Muscle Strength:
Spirulina is instilled with high amounts of protein, that contributes to building muscle mass, and enhancing endurance in periods of extreme physical activity such as while exercising in the gym or trekking on steep terrain.
Lowers Blood Sugar:
Upon consumption of spirulina, it acts to significantly lower the higher than normal blood sugar levels, and overall health is greatly improved. Hence, it is useful in treating and managing diabetes.
- If you are expecting a baby or breastfeeding, it is best to avoid consuming spirulina, as its effects during and after pregnancy have not been documented in detail.
- Spirulina obtained from wild territory has a downside of possibly being contaminated. Hence, always consult with your doctor and purchase only trusted and recognized brands of this supplement.
- Spirulina also contains high amounts of phenylalanine, an amino acid that people with a rare genetic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot process. Hence, spirulina is not safe for individuals affected by this condition.