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Spirulina: Benefits, Nutrition, Risks and More

Spirulina is a type of blue green algae that has become very popular for use as a nutritional supplement.

It’s been highly touted for its many potential health benefits. In fact, few supplements have as much scientific backing as Spirulina.

But what exactly are the reported Spirulina benefits? Are the benefits of Spirulina really all they’re cracked up to be? Is Spirulina safe for human use?

Today I’ll answer all these questions and more, so read on!

Spirulina Benefits

spirulina powder

Although not all of the reported benefits of Spirulina are necessarily backed by data, many are supported by scientific evidence. But to discuss all of them would make up a very long list.

Today I’ll talk about a handful of the biggest benefits of Spirulina.

1. Spirulina Is Super Nutrient Dense

Ready for your surprise of the day? Spirulina contains more than twice the amount of protein per gram as a typical cut of beef!

Spirulina is also a good source of antioxidants, as well as certain minerals like iron, copper, and manganese.

That’s why Spirulina is among the most nutrient dense of all the superfoods, and can play a major role in helping you get your daily fill of several key vitamins and minerals!

2. Spirulina Has Been Shown to Have Potential Anti-Cancer Properties

Of course, supplementing with Spirulina definitely doesn’t guarantee good health, and you should still have regular checkups with your doctor.

But recent research suggests that Spirulina may play a role in fighting against the onset and spread of cancer.

Several studies have shown Spirulina to be at least a somewhat effective anti carcinogen!

3. Spirulina May Improve Physical Strength and Endurance

spirulina helps endurance in gym weight workout

If you frequently feel like you aren’t able to keep up with your workout in the gym, Spirulina might be able to help.

At least one study has linked supplementing with Spirulina to enhanced strength and endurance in the gym!

So if you’re unable to finish your workout or pump out those last few reps, consider giving Spirulina a try.

4. Spirulina May Positively Impact Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugar levels play a critical role in overall health and wellness, impacting everything from sleep, to weight loss, to the way you feel and more!

Supplementation with Spirulina has been shown to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels!

5. Spirulina Helps to Promote Healthy Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol has a significant impact on heart health, and high levels of bad cholesterol can lead to a myriad of potential dangers, including heart attack and stroke!

In addition to proper diet and exercise, Spirulina may be able to help you keep your cholesterol in check and under control

Research shows that daily Spirulina supplementation may play a role in promoting healthier cholesterol levels.

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Organic Spirulina Powder

organic spirulina powder

Spirulina is widely marketed for human consumption in basically two forms, Spirulina pills and Spirulina powder. As with most supplements, the powdered form is thought to be superior to the pill (or capsule).

The general thought here is that, while a pill or capsule has to be broken down before the supplement is able to be absorbed, a powder allows for nearly immediate absorption.

This allows the supplement to start working more quickly.

Choosing organic is also a good idea. Supplements made from organically sourced ingredients help you to avoid pesticides and other chemicals that you definitely are better off without.

Spirulina vs Chlorella

Another algae that’s become quite popular for use as a supplement is Chlorella. While it’s very similar to Spirulina, there are several differences between the two.

For starters, Chlorella is green in color compared to the blue green hue exhibited by Spirulina. This is due to the presence of different pigments.

Chlorella has a higher chlorophyll content, the pigment which gives it the green color. Chlorophyll is considered to have strong detoxifying qualities.

Chlorella also provides a unique compound known as chlorella growth factor, which may have healing properties that are beneficial to damaged cells and tissues.

Spirulina on the other hand has a high phycocyanin profile. Phycocyanin is the blue pigment in Spirulina which is known for its powerful antioxidant properties.

Spirulina also provides the omega 6 fatty acid GLA. Omega 6 fatty acids are renowned for their many potential benefits which include supporting healthy cholesterol levels, contributing to hair and bone health, and promoting optimal brain function.

Despite several differences however, these supplements are relatively similar to one another.

Both Spirulina and Chlorella are considered superfoods, meaning that they’re very nutrient dense and are considered to be beneficial for promoting overall health.

Types of Spirulina

Lake where spirulina grows

When you’re shopping for a Spirulina supplement, you might come across several differently named types of Spirulina.

Blue Spirulina

What is commonly referred to as Blue Spirulina is actually an extract of Spirulina that contains a high amount of the blue pigment phycocyanin.

As an extract, it contains this pigment in concentrated quantities, but does not offer all the other benefits provided by a supplement composed of Spirulina in its complete form.

Hawaiian Spirulina

If you’ve done much online Spirulina research, you’ve probably come across Spirulina Pacifica. This particular strain of Spirulina is grown and harvested in Hawaii and is primarily sold by one company.

It’s generally regarded as being among the highest quality Spirulina supplements available due to rigorous testing and very high farming standards.

Spirulina for Weight loss

If you’re trying to lose weight, Spirulina may be able to help. It’s a low-calorie source of many vitamins and minerals that can help you to meet your daily needs of these things while still cutting calories.

Spirulina may also have appetite suppressing qualities. Studies show that phenylalanine, which is present in Spirulina (in small amounts), may indirectly help to suppress appetite by signaling the release of CCK, a hormone that helps you feel full.

In addition, Spirulina can help keep your blood sugar levels steady. This is super important when you’re trying to burn fat because high blood sugar levels make your body prone to holding onto its fat stores.

While Spirulina may not be a magical fat loss pill, it can definitely play a part in helping you to lose weight.

And in the effort to fight the fat, every little bit helps!

Is Spirulina Safe?

spirulina algae

A number of questions have been raised about the danger of Spirulina and the potential for unwanted side effects. Most of these concerns surround the possibility of exposure to BMAA and microcystins, both of which are harmful to humans.

Microcystins are toxins commonly found in many types of blue-green algae. Human consumption of microcystins can cause liver damage which may become severe if left untreated, and can even be fatal.

BMAA is a neurotoxin which is found in blue green algae, and which has shown a possible link to ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Even though these symptoms definitely sound pretty scary, Spirulina is widely considered to be generally safe.

While these toxins are relatively common in many lake algae, commercially harvested Spirulina usually undergoes extensive testing to ensure the absence of microcystins, BMAA, and other harmful substances.

Spirulina is still sold on virtually every supplement shop shelf around the world and is considered to be quite low-risk when purchased from a reputable seller.

However, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor prior to starting a new supplement, especially if you have an underlying medical condition.

Spirulina Dosage and Nutrition Facts

The recommended dosage of Spirulina varies greatly from 1 tsp. daily to as much as several tbsp.

A daily serving of 1 tsp. is a good place to start, and then based on personal research and how your body reacts, you may or may not want to increase your dosage.

The following nutrition facts are for a 10g serving (somewhere between 1 tsp. and 1 tbsp.) as reported by the Department of Agriculture.

spirulina nutrition

Conclusion

On the path to building a strong healthy body from the inside out, supplements can definitely help

With any supplement, you should thoroughly research the product to assess any potential risks and benefits before you begin. It’s also a good idea to check with your doctor before you start.

And if you’re looking to add a new supplement to your regime, Spirulina is worth checking out!

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Lisa Danielson

Lisa Danielson

Vegan Nutritionist

Major advocate for all things green and vegetarian. With the nickname “Veggie Lisa”, I am here to help you love veggies as much as I do! With my tips and tricks for preparing delicious veggies, you’ll never think plants are boring again.


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