The immune boosting, skin brightening and energy lifting health benefits of spirulina are not to be ignored. And yet, despite offering essential fatty acids, high levels of hard-to-get vitamins and trace minerals, rare antioxidant phytopigments and a complete profile of the essential amino acids, many health enthusiasts remain wary of this nutrient powerhouse.
There’s no denying it—spirulina can be intimidating. Not only is the nutrient-rich blue-green algae dark green in color, it’s rumored to taste like pond water if consumed alone. But luckily, you can now find spirulina in powders that can be easily added to smoothies, and tablets that barely come into contact with taste buds.
Much deserving of the oft-abused term “superfood,” there are countless reasons to go above and beyond to consume a high-quality source of spirulina daily, but here are the 7 research-backed benefits I find most compelling, plus some of the easiest ways you can incorporate more spirulina into your daily diet.
7 Reasons to Reach for Spirulina
1. Supports a healthy immune system
Several studies have confirmed that spirulina is an effective immune booster – one even found that it exhibited a protective effect against the flu virus. But one breakthrough study found that supplementing with spirulina may boost immunity and ameliorate anemia, particularly for senior citizens, by increasing white blood cell count and increasing indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase enzyme activity.
2. Curbs Allergies
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you’ll be glad to know that adding some spirulina to your favorite warm-weather smoothies could help your body naturally curb the inflammatory reactions that cause allergies. One study found that those taking spirulina experienced relief from allergy symptoms ranging from nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching.
3. Supports cellular detoxification and boosts energy
Spirulina is alkalizing to the body, which boosts liver function and improves your body’s ability to rid itself of toxins. In addition to this, it contains chlorophyll, a compound known for its ability to rid the body of heavy metal contaminants.
If fact, Dr. Mercola notes that spirulina is such a potent detoxifier that sleepiness may be experienced the first time someone tries spirulina. He says the initial sleepiness is “caused by the detoxification process and may indicate your body is exhausted and needs better rest.”
Not to worry though, after just a day or two all spirulina converts report feeling refreshed and energized, even through the mid-day lull. In fact, Dr.Oz even uses spirulina in his energy boosting ice cubes for its ability to release sugars from cells so that they can increase energy rather than convert to fat.
4. Nourishes and protects the liver
Not only does the powerful blue-green algae detox the body, it may also protect the liver from diseases or damage caused by certain medications. One study found that taking spirulina while taking another drug restored hepatic function and normalized serum markers of liver activity.
5. May help keep cholesterol levels in check
Research published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that taking spirulina had a significant impact on cholesterol levels. The authors of the study concluded that spirulina had a “powerful” effect on lowering blood lipids, especially on triglycerides.
6. Promotes heart health and helps maintain normal blood pressure levels
Many studies have confirmed spirulina’s antihypertensive effect, so a 2013 study dug deeper and set out to determine whether or not spirulina’s active pigment compound, phycocyanin, could improve endothelial dysfunction in metabolic syndrome. They found that the phycocyanin-fed groups exhibited a dose-dependent decrease in blood pressure, and that spirulina’s active compound phycocyanin may be beneficial for preventing endothelial dysfunction-related diseases in metabolic syndrome.
7. Enhances cognitive function and protects the brain
Spirulina’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties seem to be incredibly effective in the brain. One study found that supplementing with spirulina preserved dopamine levels and protected against signs of neurotoxicity. Another found that its ability to protect against free radical damage in the brain may prevent memory dysfunction, noting that Glutathione peroxidase activity significantly increased in the spirulina group compared to the control. The authors of this study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, concluded that spirulina “may prevent the loss of memory possibly by lessening A? protein accumulation, reducing oxidative damage and mainly augmenting the catalase activity.”
3 Easy Ways to Consume More Spirulina
Whether you’re a vegetarian looking for a complete protein source or a wellness enthusiast who aims to support health using the most nutrient dense foods available, consuming spirulina has never been easier, or tastier. There are several ways you can boost your intake of spirulina, but if you can find ways to include the algae with complementary foods and nutrients, such as chlorella, astaxanthin and fruit extracts, the power of spirulina is even more enhanced.
1. Add your favorite spirulina powder to smoothies.
By far the easiest option, adding spirulina to your favorite morning or afternoon smoothies can take your daily nutrient intake up several notches and help boost your energy levels throughout the day.
It’s important to purchase an organic spirulina or green foods blend, as toxic contaminants have been found in lower quality products. Two options to consider are Synergy Greens Powder, which is an excellent choice because it also contains probiotics and a variety of fruit extracts, or Starwest Botanicals Organic Spirulina Powder.
Need some delicious smoothie ideas? Check out our “Spirulina Smoothies” board on Pinterest for several.
2. Get bold and creative by using spirulina in a few recipes.
While slightly more difficult to obtain the therapeutic doses that proved to be so effective in clinical trials, cooking with spirulina certainly stands to boost your daily nutrient intake and offer a plant-based source of complete protein. You can find recipes for everything from chocolate bites to energy bars to pasta. To check out a few of the spirulina recipes we’re eager to try, head over to our “Spirulina Recipe” Pinterest board where you can find tons of culinary inspiration. Bon appétit.
3. Get down to business by taking a tablet.
Does the green powder still make you a bit nervous? Fear not. Spirulina tablets can offer a nice boost of the nutrient, and are typically small and coated for swallowing ease.
You can typically find an organic spirulina tablet at your local health food store, but if possible, look for one that also includes a powerful antioxidant such as astaxanthin; these types of nutrients complement spirulina’s detoxing and immune boosting benefits.