Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a greenish-blue microalgae named for its spiral shape. It is one of the most popular super foods of present days produced all around the world. This freshwater aquatic plant is preferred due to its intense flavour and its extremely high content values, which are backed by more than 1,200 researches published in peer-reviewed literature.
The use of Spirulina goes back to the Mayan times. According to the records, there are historical evidences that Mayans knew and consumed this herb between 300 and 900.
Its natural habitats include Africa, Asia, Central and South America where the plant grows in tropical and subtropical, slightly alkali-rich waters with high carbonate content. Its production around the world, however, is indispensable as there is a huge need for the plant due to its exceptional properties.
What Spirulina contains
Dried Spirulina contains 5% of water, 24% of carbohydrate, 8% of fat and 50-70% of protein. Its protein content is quite exceptional, even the best vegetable protein sources have only half of this level (e.g. soybean flour contains only 35% of crude protein).
100 grams of Spirulina in dried powder contain 290 calories and it is rich in several essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Spirulina has a lipid content of 8% which provides fatty acids necessary for the body (e.g. gamma-linolenic acid, alpha linolenic acid, linolenic acid, stearic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid).
Nutritional value of spirulina (100 g)
1.213 kJ (290 kcal)
7.72 g (2,65 g/2.78 g)
Super food with super effects
It is included in super food groups due to more than 2000 enzymes and 60-70 % by weight of plant protein because in addition to its vitamin, mineral, amino acid, enzyme and protein content in easily digestible and natural form necessary and vital for the human body, it has several other beneficial effects:
- Helps in heavy metal detoxification
- Has microbial effect against Candida
- Reduces blood pressure
- Reduces harmful LDL cholesterol level, boosts HDL cholesterol level
- Energizes the body
- Helps losing weight
Spirulina against malnutrition
Regarding its high nutritional value, researchers looking into malnutrition showed a high interest in Spirulina and several studies delved into the effects of spirulina among malnourished populations.
In a study published in Maternal and Paediatric Nutrition, in the volume of 2016, 87 malnourished and anaemic patients were in the focus. The researchers gave half of the children vitamins and minerals for 3 months while the other half were given Spirulina. Regarding children receiving it, significantly greater improvement was observed in body weight gain, body iron levels, and haemoglobin than among children receiving traditional vitamin and mineral supplements.
Spirulina contains several compounds that have antioxidant properties including phenolic compounds, focianines, tocopherols and beta carotene. Antioxidants are compounds that help coping with cell and DNA damage that are responsible for the development of various diseases (e.g. cancerous diseases, heart diseases and other chronic diseases). Antioxidants also support athletes to combat oxidative stress induced by exercise, which also contributes to muscle fatigue. In study among athletes study, in which nine male runners consumed spirulina for four weeks, it was found that performance of the runner after the intake of spirulina increased compared to those who did not receive supplement or got placebo.
Hernández Lepe MA, Wall-Medrano A, Juárez-Oropeza MA, Ramos-Jiménez A, Hernández-Torres RP. (2015): [SPIRULINA AND ITS HYPOLIPIDEMIC AND ANTIOXIDANT EFFECTS IN HUMANS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW]. Nutr Hosp. 2015; 32(2): 494–500. Published online 2015 Aug 1. doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.2.9100
Gutiérrez-Salmeán G, Fabila-Castillo L, Chamorro-Cevallos G (2015): NUTRITIONAL AND TOXICOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF SPIRULINA (ARTHROSPIRA). Nutr Hosp. 2015 Jul 1;32(1):34-40. doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.1.9001.
Hosseini SM, Khosravi-Darani K, Mozafari MR. (2013): Nutritional and medical applications of spirulina microalgae. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2013 Jun 1;13(8):1231-7.
Ismail M, Hossain MF, Tanu AR, Shekhar HU (2015): Effect of spirulina intervention on oxidative stress, antioxidant status, and lipid profile in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:486120. doi: 10.1155/2015/486120. Epub 2015 Jan 22.
United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release