You may have heard of spirulina before, as its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. Known for its potent flavour and deep green colour, it is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. We know that it’s good for us, but do we really know why, or what it is for that matter?
Spirulina is an all-natural blue-green microalgae (or cyanobacteria if we want to get technical) that grows in water. It has a robust nutrient profile and contains a laundry list of vitamins and minerals. Spirulina has been reported to do everything from balance blood sugar, to help with allergies to speeding up weight loss. We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 reasons to try spirulina.
Antioxidants are substances that inhibit oxidation, meaning they protect our bodies from the damage that free radicals cause. Spirulina is high in an antioxidant called phycocyanin, which reduces the inflammatory response in the body as well as protects our cells against DNA damage. Not only can spirulina fight against oxidative damage, but it can help impede cancer cells from spreading by destroying them before they have the opportunity to multiply. Phycocyanin also acts as a catalyst in stem cell production. Stem cells have a unique ability to transform into any type of cell that is required by our bodies, meaning spirulina is a key driver behind regeneration of white blood cells, muscle cells, or whatever else your body might require at any given time.
Lowers blood pressure
It’s been said that stress is related to 99% of all illnesses. Spirulina works to combat stress and depression by lowering one’s blood pressure, because it contains antihypertensive compounds. It’s also been found to reverse some of the key activities that lead to metabolic syndrome, which are a group of risk factors that increase our risk of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Already living with diabetes? Spirulina has been shown to regulate blood sugar and even act as a natural alternative to diabetes medication.
As we just mentioned, spirulina contains a compound that reduces inflammation. This can be helpful for those who are suffering from allergies, as a common symptom is nasal congestion, which is caused by inflammation. Spirulina also aids in allergy relief in another way, by blocking histamines, which are released in response to allergic reactions. Histamines trigger the contraction of smooth muscle, like what can be found in our throats, as well as dilates capillaries. This activity is also helpful in those suffering from mild or moderate asthma.
Coming in at 20 calories per tablespoon, spirulina is surely one of the most nutrient dense foods out there. It contains a variety (and large amounts) of both macro and micronutrients. It is considered a complete source of protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. This is especially important for vegetarians and vegans as the vast majority of complete protein sources are animal products. Veggies also love spirulina because it is very high in iron and B vitamins – two nutrients that many plant-based eaters lack. Both iron and specifically Vitamin B1 and B12 are necessary in keeping energy levels high and in the digestion of fats and proteins. Gram for gram, spirulina also contains 26x more calcium than milk!
Accelerates Weight Loss
As we just mentioned, spirulina is incredibly nutrient dense, a characteristic that promotes weight loss. Nutrient deficiency is the number one reason why people tend to overeat. Have you ever eaten a piece of pizza and felt hungry an hour later? After eating junk food, your body has been temporarily tricked into believing that it received all of the raw materials it needs to keep functioning. Once your body realizes that it requires more nutrients, it secretes ghrelin, the hunger hormone. This will cycle will continue until it is broken by consuming nutritious foods that will trigger leptin, the satiety hormone.
Protein is another hunger killer, and makes up about 65% of spirulina; one tablespoon contains 4g. Protein helps to maintain muscles (which are metabolically active, and burn more calories than fat) and curbs hunger. Spirulina has also been said to increase the rate at which fat is metabolized during exercise. We recommend incorporating spirulina into your breakfast or lunch, to reap the most benefits of this hunger-crushing superfood early in the day.
You might be asking yourself, what’s the catch? Spirulina sounds like it’s too good to be true. It must have a shortcoming. Well, spirulina doesn’t have the most pleasing taste. Some have even likened it to pond water. That being said, a little swampy-tasting water never hurt anyone, and the benefits to consuming it far outweigh the single con. So go ahead and grab a glass of the green stuff and take the next step towards revitalizing your health.
The Author: Daina Kenins
Daina is a lover of all things health & wellness related; a health food connoisseur, an avid marathon runner, a certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher and a spin studio manager. She is ambassador for healthy eating and loves to create and share recipes on her instagram page @thepaleobean.