It is considered a superfood and in recent years it has become the star ingredient in numerous food supplements, even being incorporated into haute cuisine recipes. It is spirulina, a marine microorganism similar to an alga, to which multiple good properties are attributed, most of which are still under study. Although not a drug, spirulina may have beneficial health effects, which are the focus of current research, but it may also trigger adverse reactions, especially when ingested in significant amounts.
What is spirulina
Although we know it as an alga, spirulina is actually a type of cyanobacteria or microalgae (unicellular algae), with a spiral shape and a greenish-blue hue. It grows mainly in large freshwater lakes and is now also cultivated in artificial basins. Its consumption dates back centuries, although it is currently when it has become popular as a food with a high nutritional value. Of the foods that nature gives us, it is one of the foods that contains the most protein (between 60% and 70% of its dry weight is protein) and also contains significant amounts of minerals such as: iron, selenium, zinc, as well as such as vitamins C, D, E and some of group B.
As if this rich composition of nutrients were not enough, spirulina algae is a good source of fiber, which provides satiating properties, and powerful antioxidants, which are beneficial for curbing the action of free radicals, which cause oxidative stress, premature aging and cell damage. Finally, spirulina keeps in its composition unsaturated fatty acids and the essential amino acids that the body needs for its proper functioning.
Spirulina is considered a powerful food source due to the possibilities offered by this microalgae for the nutrition of the future. It is not for nothing that NASA itself has included this food in the diet of astronauts.
What is spirulina for?
It is the rich composition of spirulina that determines its different benefits and uses, with which you want to take advantage of its beneficial health properties.
Experts agree that the high concentration of quality protein together with the moderate intake of carbohydrates make it a food that provides energy and vitality, and may be advisable to improve situations of fatigue and tiredness, both physical and mental. In addition, it must be remembered that protein is essential in the formation and maintenance of muscle mass, so it is also used successfully as a supplement in sports and physical activities that require high performance. Here you can learn more about How to take spirulina to increase muscle mass.
Recent research indicates that spirulina could have other uses aimed at improving general health and combating certain ailments such as:
In anemias derived from low levels of iron in the body (iron deficiency anemia), supplements based on spirulina can be of great help, since algae is one of the few foods that are not of animal origin that provide iron in interesting amounts. In addition, it is an iron that can be easily assimilated by the body, because spirulina also provides the vitamin that makes it possible, pro-vitamin A or beta-carotene. The result of its habitual consumption is a greater presence of hemoglobin in the blood.
Improved cardiovascular health
As with other foods of marine origin, the presence of healthy fatty acids in spirulina, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, make it, in principle, an ally of cardiovascular health. In this sense, recent studies such as The Hypolipidemic Effects of Spirulina (Arthrosporic Platensis) Supplementation in a Cretan Population: A Prospective Study  collected by the American National Library of Medicine suggest that spirulina could be effective in controlling blood lipid levels, favoring a decrease in bad cholesterol and especially triglycerides. It is considered that the control of lipids, which could be exerted by supplements with spirulina, would also be effective in achieving a reduction in blood pressure in cases of hypertension
Although the ability of spirulina to control and maintain the correct blood glucose levels is still under study, some first results indicate that, in certain types of diabetes, it could contribute to achieving it, mainly due to the presence of antioxidants and phycocyanin, the pigment responsible for the color of the algae, which is also a protein that enhances the anti-inflammatory properties of spirulina. It must be insisted that the benefits of spirulina to regulate diabetes have not been sufficiently scientifically confirmed, although research is advancing. Those same anti-inflammatory properties suggest that the seaweed could also be beneficial when it comes to treating conditions such as arthritis.
Spirulina for weight loss
As in the previous case, it has not been shown that seaweed helps to lose weight, although, given its high fiber content and its diuretic, depurative and antioxidant properties, it could be included in moderate amounts in a diet whose objective is weight loss.
Other benefits of spirulina algae
Strengthening the immune system, combating certain allergies by acting as an inhibitor of the histamine that the body generates in response to an allergen, or helping to maintain good eye health, are also some of the properties and perhaps possible future uses that spirulina could have.
How to take spirulina
Spirulina can be beneficial, always in moderate amounts and if there is no contraindication that discourages its intake. This microalgae can be consumed fresh, as if it were another ingredient present in any salad or vegetable or pasta dish. In fact, it is more and more common to find recipes that include it as an ingredient.
In addition, as a food supplement, you can find it in different presentations. The two most common are: capsules or tablets and spirulina powders, which you can take dissolved in water, in juices, infusions, purees, sauces… You also have it in flakes, as if they were a cereal, perfect to take with a glass of milk or added to yogurt.
In any case, it is always important to follow the recommended dose of spirulina, without exceeding it in any case. Before taking it, it is advisable to consult with the doctor about the suitability of including it in the diet. If there is no problem, you can start taking it in minimal amounts, no more than 1 gram once or twice a day, to verify that there are no adverse effects such as: dizziness, headaches or digestive discomfort.
The dose can be increased to 5-8 grams/day or even more, always taking into account personal characteristics. The exact amount will not be the same in the case of an elite athlete who wants to improve his performance, then in a person trying to combat anemia. To be clear about the beneficial amounts and also how long you can take spirulina (although it is not a medicine, it is always a good idea to let the body rest after taking it for between 3 and 4 weeks), consultation with a specialist is essential.
Before taking spirulina, it is advisable to make sure that it is not contraindicated by any factor that negatively affects our health. If you are wondering who should not take spirulina, the people who should not take it, either as a precaution or because it could aggravate any ailment, are:
- Pregnant women or women with breast-feeding babies.
- People who are being treated with anticoagulant medications, since spirulina could increase their effects, increasing the risk of bleeding.
- Allergic or intolerant to any of the components of the algae (caution those with allergies to fish and shellfish).
- People suffering from an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or sclerosis (adverse symptoms could be increased).
- Patients with gout or high uric acid
- Patients with phenylketonuria or any other metabolic disorder.