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Spirulina Health Benefits Explained: What Is Spirulina?

Powdered spirulina.

There are way too many ingredients and substances out there which claim to turn you into an honest-to-goodness Superman and solve all of your problems. I’m exaggerating, of course, but the point still stands. Spirulina has been called a “superfood” and a “miracle from the sea,” and there are many who swear by it. The goal of this post is not to knock it off of its well-earned status, but to give more of an overview. It could very well be that in some cases, it is a miracle to those who incorporate it into their lives. But to each his own.

What Is Spirulina?

Green liquid.

Spirulina is a microalgae.

Spirulina is cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae) in micro form, in other words it is a microalgae. It has been used as a food for many centuries. Like most good things which some mistake for fairly recent discoveries, it is a food which has been part of the human (and animal) diet for many years, and has been quite prevalent with societies old and new.

Every now and then, some “healthy” influencer or celebrity will endorse something, and suddenly there will be a real surge in the demand. When it comes to healthy supplements, I am pretty much for it. I don’t care who endorses or speaks highly of it, as long as people become more aware of their options. Nothing wrong with that. As for those who claim it is THE answer? I don’t buy into it. I am of the opinion that if anyone tells you they have the answer, you should probably distance yourself a bit, and be more objective. Spirulina is indeed a healthy substance, and I am happy it is getting around more these days, but what exactly are its alleged health benefits?

What Is Spirulina Good For?

First off, spirulina contains many vital nutrients – protein, vitamins, and minerals. It has been said to be one of the most nutrient-dense substances on the planet. The microalgae also contains a lot of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which go to work on protecting your body from harm. It has also been said to be a substance which can help maintain proper blood sugar levels, lower harmful fats and LDL  (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and increase the amount of HDL (“good”) cholesterol found in the body.

Some studies have shown that spirulina has anti-cancer properties, more specifically pertaining to cancer of the mouth, and that the microalgae has the ability to lower blood pressure by helping the blood vessels dilate. When the blood vessels are more relaxed, there is less chance of hypertension and related conditions.

It is important to note that studies can be manipulated to show any number of results, and that the way things go down in a clinical research lab is not always the way they occur in real life. Because of that, there is still insufficient evidence to support all of these claims. Studies are still being done on this plant, and we are all waiting to see what results they’ll yield in the future.

With that being said, there’s a reason why spirulina has been harvested by Aztecs, and why it’s still being harvested and used by modern-day societies. Simply put: it is one of the healthiest foods in existence, no less. Now, there is a debate over the bio-availability of spirulina, in humans anyway. There is an ongoing discussion regarding how much of the nutrients that it contains actually make it into your body and your bloodstream once you begin digesting it.

Spirulina Powder Explained

Birds eye view of green powder in pot and on spoon on marble background.

Spirulina in powder form.

Most people who consume spirulina get it in powdered form. Spirulina powder has several advantages over other methods of consumption. One is that it can be added to food as is, like smoothies, yogurts, drinks of all sorts, and as a topping to pretty much whatever you want. You can even add it to a small glass of water and throw it back like a shot.

Another advantage it has over tablets or capsules, is that it’s pure spirulina (if you buy it from a proper supplier, that is), as opposed to tablets and/or capsules which add several substances to the spirulina in order to condense it to its pill form. A disadvantage of spirulina powder is that it doesn’t agree with some folks. Much like wheat grass, it is an acquired taste, and does not always feel good (nor tasty) on its way down.

Spirulina Capsules Explained

As far as health benefits go, there’s no difference between the capsules and the powder. Each has a specific advantage, and the spirulina capsules’ one is that it can be taken with a glass of water and that’s it. It’s simply a matter of convenience and perhaps taste, since in powdered form you taste the algae itself. Another main advantage of capsules is that they come in pre-packaged doses. That way, you can monitor your intake, be sure that you are getting enough, and avoid overdoing it.

Some of the substances used to create spirulina capsules may be sourced from animals (e.g. gelatin), so any vegans out there would do well to remember that they may need to inquire as to the source of the capsule’s coating when they purchase spirulina in that form.

Spirulina Side Effects Breakdown

Pregnant stomach holding flowers to stomach.

Pregnant women should avoid spirulina.

You take the good with the bad, I always say. Spirulina does have some side effects, which may present themselves to those who consume it. Also, note that any substance may turn on you if you consume too much of it, regardless of its health benefits. Everything you put into your body should be taken in moderation. That’s the golden rule, in my opinion anyway, when it comes to health and proper dieting. Even water will kill you if you have too much of it. Who should avoid spirulina altogether?

  • Expecting and nursing women. The studies on spirulina are still ongoing, and the effects on fetuses is still inconclusive. This means that it’s recommended that they avoid spirulina, unless ordered to take it by a physician or healthcare provider.
  • Individuals with autoimmune diseases. An overactive immune system and spirulina don’t mix, because spirulina boosts the immune system. Because of that, it may actually worsen the symptoms of such diseases.
  • Patients who take blood thinner meds, and who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) on a regular basis for pain. Spirulina may interfere with medication meant to slow blood clotting, like the ones mentioned above.

Due to these spirulina side effects, it’s best to consult a physician if you are planning on incorporating spirulina into your diet on a regular basis, be it in powdered form, capsules, or tablets.

Conclusion

Is spirulina all it’s cracked up to be? Usually, yes. Not surprisingly, I might add. It’s a precious food and a wonderful addition to your diet, if you do it right. You may begin taking it and see no effect or change whatsoever. It could very well be that it’s not for you. Don’t force it. Just because it works for some people, it doesn’t mean that you will have the very same experience.

Having said that, it’s totally worth a shot. Literally! Getting a taste for it may take time. If you find that you’re not at all into the earthy flavor, then get it in some type of pill form. You’ll still be getting the amount you need. Even though the bio-availability is still something of a question mark, you need to remember that it’s not a new invention or discovery by any stretch of the imagination. Spirulina has been a part of the human diet for many centuries, and it just be the right time to get on board!

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