Spirulina is a rich source of many important nutrients. It is famed for its high content of phycocyanin, a plant-based pigment-protein complex and strong antioxidant that possesses many health benefits.
Research has shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of phycocyanin can help protect the brain, offer pain relief, and protect our cells from free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive particles that damage our DNA, proteins, and cell membranes. Inflammatory processes have been linked to a wide variety of health problems and seem to stand at the beginning of almost every disease.
Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to asthma, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and many more serious conditions. Phycocyanin has been found to not only reduce inflammation in the body but also to block tumour cell cycles and tumour growth. In fact, this immune enhancing protein continues to be the focus of cancer treatment research.
Heart disease risk reduction
Research has also found that Spirulina can help reduce the body’s absorption of bad LDL cholesterol which helps improve blood levels, reduce blood pressure, and ease the strain on the heart that can over time lead to heart disease and stroke. It can also reduce triglyceride levels which are fats in your blood that can cause the hardening of arteries leading to heart disease, pancreatitis, and diabetes. Spirulina increases the production of nitric oxide in your body, this promotes relaxation in the blood vessels and can also help reduce blood pressure and heart disease risk.
Immune system boost
With a rich array of vitamins including E, C and B6, spirulina is also a powerful immune system booster. Studies found that spirulina also boosts the production of white blood cells and antibodies that fight bacteria and viruses in your body. These studies also suggested spirulina can fight herpes, flu, and other viruses. More research is currently underway.
Spirulina can help with reducing the symptoms of allergies. Studies have shown consuming spirulina helps reduce congestion, sneezing and itching in participants with seasonal and environmental allergies.
Spirulina also contains zeaxanthin, a type of organic pigment called a carotenoid. It’s related to vitamin A and found in the human eye (macula and retina) along with lutein. Zeaxanthin is thought to function as a light filter, protecting the eye tissues from sunlight damage, which may reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related vision loss.
Spirulina detoxifies your skin and encourages faster cell turnover which helps skin heal quicker and promotes a healthy glow. Thanks to its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects, this miraculous alga also helps with swelling and acne. Furthermore, spirulina’s high phycocyanin and carotenoid content can help to prevent premature ageing.
Micronutrients in Spirulina:
Spirulina contains both essential and non-essential amino acids in moderately high amounts. The essential amino acids in Spirulina are leucine, tryptophane, methionine, phenylalanine, lysine, thionine, isoleucine and valine. Essential amino acids are organic compounds which are needed in biological processes. They are the main component of all tissues in the body. Essential amino acids are not produced naturally by the body and need to be ingested from the food we consume.
Spirulina also contains non-essential amino acids such as cysteine, histidine, proline, tyrosine, glycine, serine, arginine, alanine, aspartic and glutamate. Non-essential amino acids play an important role in the human body. Both non-essential and essential amino acids are used as a source of protein needed by body’s cells. In addition, they can be converted into glucose as a source of energy.
Minerals and trace elements
Spirulina is a good source for iron and copper but also contains potassium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, magnesium, and sodium.
Spirulina has high levels of B vitamins such as biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and vitamin B3 as well as vitamin E, and vitamin A.
Phytochemicals, flavonoids, antioxidants
The contained phycocyanin can fight free radicals and inhibit production of inflammatory signalling molecules, providing impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Spirulina is also a rich source of secondary phytochemicals such as alkaloids, terpenoids, steroids, saponins, phenols, and flavonoids, which contribute significantly to the alga’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Unsaturated fatty acids
Spirulina contains both the unsaturated omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids in a beneficial ratio of 1.6 to 1. Our western diet is often low in omega 3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is important for preventing and treating diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) play a crucial role in brain function, and normal growth and development. As a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), omega-6s help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.
Interesting facts about spirulina
Gram for gram spirulina may be the single most nutritious foods on the planet. It is a genus of cyanobacteria and one of the oldest lifeforms on earth. The rich blue green colour of spirulina comes from phycocyanin a pigment-protein complex with many health benefits outlined earlier in this text.
Occurrence and cultivation
The spirulina alga loves heat and direct sunlight. It occurs naturally in tropical and subtropical regions where it grows in shallow, alkaline saline waters such as shallow lagoons or salt lakes and forms an intense blue-green colored algae carpet consisting of millions of microalgae.
Today, Spirulina is produced in many regions of the world, including in Europe and Germany.
Valued already by the Aztecs
Spirulina was harvested extensively by the Aztecs up until the 16th century and was used by them for its medicinal properties and as an energy boost for messengers who ran long distances with important communications.
Being 60 percent protein, Spirulina is a great source of vegan energy. In fact, it has more protein than meat, fish, poultry, and soy beans. Furthermore, it has a higher content of beta carotene compared to most other natural sources. Beta carotene is an important vitamin A source, which also has antioxidant properties. It contains all eight essential amino acids and if that wasn’t enough it also contains ten non-essential ones. No wonder, the benefits of spirulina were revered and utilized by the Aztecs.