What is Spirulina? 9 Health Benefits of Spirulina

Spirulina is one of the most popular health foods (and superfoods) around. But what is spirulina? And what health benefits come from adding spirulina to your diet? We're presenting you 9 health benefits of spirulina.

Rebecca Höfer Jun 09, 2022
What is Spirulina? 9 Health Benefits of Spirulina

What is spirulina?

Spirulina is usually described as blue-green algae, but it’s technically a cyanobacterium. Cyanobacteria get their name from the bluish pigment phycocyanin, which they use to capture light for photosynthesis. Because of this, spirulina also contains chlorophyll.

Spirulina grows in both fresh and saltwater and can be consumed by both humans and animals. This green superfood is available as a powder (you can find it in both our Super Green mix and Skinny Protein mix), as flakes, or as tablets.

Although spirulina is gaining popularity in the health food world, the algae originated 3.5 billion years ago — it’s one of the oldest known fossils! Spirulina was also a primary source of protein for the Aztecs. They would harvest the spirulina from Lake Texcoco and sold the “Tecuitlatl” in cake form. Although there’s no concrete evidence, legend has it Aztec messenger runners took spirulina on their marathons.

Spirulina: "Pond scum" that packs a nutritional punch

Call it what you want, but spirulina is more than worthy of its superfood title. While this blue-green algae may look like slimy pond scum, it’s actually one of the most nutritious and nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

To start, spirulina is 60% protein (more than two times the protein found in red meat). It contains 18 amino acids, including all essential amino acids and 10 of the 12 non-essential amino acids.

Spirulina is also a great source of phytonutrients, copper, iron, manganese, potassium, B vitamins, iodine, and Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).  Another reason why spirulina has earned its superfood title: it’s a sustainable food source. In addition to requiring 10 times less water than other vegetables, spirulina can be harvested year-round and is able to withstand extreme temperatures.

Spirulina also has the potential to end world hunger. According to economist Urs Heierli, Ph.D., just 1 gram of spirulina per day can correct malnutrition in a small child within a few weeks. This idea is also supported by the United Nation.

Nutritional facts of spirulina

Cyanobacteria, such as spirulina, which have existed for billions of years, are true nutritional wonders. They contain around 60% protein, which puts them in the top class of not only plant based protein sources but overall! In addition, the protein from the blue-green algae also contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. But the little algae is also great when it comes to minerals and vitamins: It naturally contains calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium and beta-carotene. In addition, the content of B vitamins and vitamin E is relatively high. Unlike other seaweeds, spirulina contains little iodine, which makes daily consumption harmless.

Spirulina and pregnancy

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, certain nutrient requirements rise, such as iron. The recommended intake of iron for an average adult is 10-15 mg/day. During pregnancy 30 mg/day and during breastfeeding 20 mg/day. Microalgae such as spirulina can make a valuable contribution to a healthy diet and supply, also during pregnancy. Additionally due to its high protein amount, spirulina strengthens the body and muscles and supports cell repair thanks to the contained antioxidants.

Spirulina vs chlorella

Spirulina and chlorella are unicellular algae. Even though both are green, only chlorella is also a green alga from a biological point of view. Spirulina, on the other hand, belongs to the blue-green algae, and indeed a light blue hue is mixed in with the predominant dark green.

Unlike spirulina, chlorella can only survive in freshwater. However, due to its high division rate, it is spread there almost worldwide. The fact that chlorella has long been used as a food in some regions of the world is due to the algae's combination of nutrient richness and rapid reproduction.

Spirulina ranks slightly higher in terms of nutrients. Furthermore, spirulina has very thin cell walls so that the nutrients can be absorbed easily in the gut. The thicker cell walls of chlorella are often artificially broken up in the production of food supplements to increase their bio availability in the body.

The bottom line? Both algae contain valuable nutrients you don’t want to miss out on. And since we don’t want  you to have to decide between the two, we’ve packed both of them into the Super Green mix


Top 9 health benefits of spirulina

1. Spirulina detoxes heavy metals

Spirulina is a powerful detoxifier that helps remove toxins, such as heavy metals, from the body. (This is one of the reasons why we include Super Green and Skinny Protein in our detox bundle!) 

What are heavy metals? Heavy metals are a group of 23 elements that can be dangerous, even in low concentrations. This group includes lead, arsenic and mercury, just to name a few. Too much heavy metal in the body can be toxic and cause poisoning.

According to a 2016 review, spirulina’s anti-toxic properties are “due to its high antioxidants content, mainly phycocyanin...

Spirulina also contains chlorophyll, which helps cleanse the body of toxins.

2. Spirulina cam boost your immune system

People search for natural ways to protect their immune systems from the common cold and flu every fall and winter. One way to boost your immune system naturally is to eat more fruits and vegetables. But adding spirulina can also help.

According to a 2000 UC Davis study, “adding spirulina to cultured immune system cells significantly increases the production of infection-fighting cytokines.”

A more recent study published in “Cellular and Molecular Immunology” found that spirulina supplementation increased the hemoglobin content of red blood cells and improved immune function in older adults

3. Spirulina may have anti-cancer properties

Over 70 peer-reviewed studies show that spirulina is a powerful cancer fighter — especially against oral cancer. Two different studies found just 1 gram of spirulina per day reduced precancerous lesions by 45% and improved symptoms. Other studies show spirulina can reduce the growth of tumors.

4. Spirulina is anti-inflammatory

Like most superfoods, spirulina is high in antioxidants, especially phycocyanin. Not only does phycocyanin give the blue-green algae its blue color, it’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown this antioxidant scavenges and fight the free radicals that cause oxidative damage.

5. Spirulina reduces bad cholesterol

If you’re looking for a natural way to reduce your LDL cholesterol (aka the “bad” cholesterol), you may want to consider spirulina.

In a 2014 study published in the “Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture,” researchers gave 52 participants 1 gram of spirulina every day for 12 weeks. When they retested their lipid panel, the results showed triglycerides were lowered by, on average, by 16.3% and LDL by 10.1%.

A 2016 meta-analysis found similar results: adding spirulina to your diet can significantly reduce total cholesterol and lower your LDL while increasing your HDL.

6. Spirulina lowers blood pressure

Many people suffer from high blood pressure, which is often referred to as a “silent killer” because it doesn’t produce any symptoms.

High blood pressure can wreak havoc on your body, causing everything from heart disease to stroke to kidney failure. Luckily, spirulina can help combat high blood pressure.

One study showed that eating a small amount of spirulina every day (2 grams), improves blood pressure as well as endothelial function in overweight patients.

7. Spirulina can improve sinus issues

Sinuses or allergies got you down? You may want to reach for spirulina instead of an over-the-counter drug!

Research shows that spirulina reduces inflammation in the nasal passageways (also known as allergic rhinitis).

One study, in particular, found that 2 grams of spirulina a day significantly reduced symptoms, such as sneezing, nasal discharge, congestion, and itching.

8. Spirulina boosts your energy

The Aztec messenger runners may have been on to something when they took spirulina on their marathons.

Although the evidence is limited, one study suggests spirulina may enhance endurance performance. Another study found that spirulina supplementation “induced a significant increase in exercise performance.

9. Spirulina fights Candida

Another benefit of spirulina is its antifungal properties. Spirulina can help prevent candida buildup, which leads to yeast infections. The cyanobacteria promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, which stops Candida from growing.

Spirulina powder: Where to get it

Nowadays you don’t need to dive into the depths of a bond in search of the algae - you can find powdered spirulina in most health food stores or online. However you should be cautious because spirulina is not created equal! A lot of the algae is contaminated with pesticides, particularly powders from China which are not processed as gently and carefully as needed.

And let’s be honest - spirulina itself is great but how about adding a little MORE benefits to your powder? Exactly what we thought when we created the Super Green mix! It contains highest quality and third-party tested spirulina from Chile and Italy, in addition to wheatgrass, barley grass, moringa, baobab and chlorella (Spirulina’s best friend). All these super nutritious greens complement each other in their powerful benefits so you can get more out of your spoonful of superfood powder. It is high in Vitamin C, fibre and one 5g portion equals a portion of greens. Simple as that! Try mixing it into fruity smoothies or drink it straight up as a wellness shot to boost your immunity and well being. 

Spirulina recipes

Want to give a go at spirulina? Discover here 4 delicious recipes to integrate spirulina to your daily diet and reap all its benefits:

  1. Vegan Cashew Cream Cheese: Meet your new favourite dip! This vegan cashew cream cheese recipe is so tasty, you’ll forget it’s actually good for you.
  2. Green Detox Smoothie: You feel bloated, tired, out of balance? It might be time for you to detox - and what best for that than a delicious green detox smoothie?
  3. Super Green Smoothie: Start your day the right way with this refreshing and nutritious Super Green smoothie.
  4. Green Shots: Fuel up your days with green shots, a quick way to rehydrate and nourish your body!