Gram for gram, the healthful benefits and attitude from Spirulina
Not everyone has heard about Spirulina. Its scientific name is Arthrospira platensis and it is a spiral-shaped small microscopic organism. Commonly, people call it chlorophyll or algae. There are several species of the genus, but Arthrospira platensis is the one most widely distributed. Probably all of us have at some time in our lives, seen that green scum-like stuff floating on top of ponds and dams, not really believing that it would turn out to be an invaluable and viable food source. Naturally, all the special processes of turning it into spirulina didn’t just happen overnight. Nevertheless, Spirulina has a rich history of starting off as that “scum”, to what it is today, enjoyed and accepted as a food packed with nutrients with many, many health benefits.
Humble beginnings to life-giving properties
Spirulina goes way back in time to the 14th Century, from the times of the Aztecs when they started eating it and harvesting it. They called it Tecuitlatl, which means ‘stone excrement’. Some proclaim that spirulina dates back even further, to the 9th century from the people of Chad during the Kanem Empire. The Chad people today, make cakes of spirulina called ‘Die‘, where it is harvested from the small ponds and lakes around Lake Chad.
Coming back to today, Spirulina is eaten and consumed by people from all over the world in their millions. Back in 1974, it was declared as an ultimate food for the future, this announcement coming from the World Food Conference. At that time; it was declared a food to help out with malnutrition in certain areas of the world. Later, as it became more noted in the established countries of the world, it was hailed as a superfood. Such a superfood it was, that it actually became the main constituent in the diet plans of the NASA astronauts who would eat it in space. It supplied all the nutrients they needed. When the world heard that NASA was using it in this way, it impressed them so much that spirulina grew into the superfood it is today – astronomical!
Let’s look at ways spirulina gets your green on
Spirulina is actually just one type of microalgae. It has some cousins too, namely chlorella, kelp and seaweed. Another fact is that spirulina is not really a plant at all; it is really a member of the world of bacteria; naturally found in salt water and other freshwater bodies. Many fish use it for their diet, adding to the food chain link.
Even though spirulina has created quite a buzz in the world of supplements, it’s not a discovery that is fresh out the box. It’s really been around for ages, people have just got to know about it today by its name, spirulina – the superfood. The reason it is touted as a superfood is simple, it comes crammed with heaps of the B vitamins, vitamin E, beta-carotene and minerals such as selenium, copper, and iron as well. It also contains gamma-linolenic acid or GLA, which is an omega-6 fatty acid.
Many people who take spirulina are vegetarians – they have found it an amazing addition to their diets because of the high concentrations of proteins which vegetarians are always looking to add into their diets, particularly vitamin B12 and iron. Usually, vitamin B12 is found in animal proteins and it is why the non-meat eaters are so drawn to spirulina. Omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients often found in fatty fish, also abound in spirulina. Others believe that the benefits of spirulina go even beyond that of nutrition. People are heard to take it because of its help with weight reduction; let alone other things such as ADHD and PMS. Research on spirulina goes on, and it looks to continue to be promising, proving to help in nasal allergies as well. And of course, others are always looking for that added energy which spirulina is supposed to offer as well. It makes sense, seeing as it is packed with the B vitamins, the catalyst for producing energy reactions in the body. There are some Japanese seniors who have only relied on Spirulina and water for more than 20 years proving just how beneficial and wholesome spirulina is for the human body.
To produce such an abundance of nutrients for us, spirulina needs to thrive itself
This particular strain of micro-algae, spirulina, grows naturally in warm water lakes that are alkaline in nature. These lakes have high PH values which sustain the large flocks of flamingos you often see wading in the water. It is these alkaline warm waters that are renowned for giving flamingos their beautiful and distinct pink colors. But besides their natural habitat of lakes, spirulina is also grown in artificial ponds and basins made by man. This is possible, as long as it has the right environmental conditions to accommodate the algae culture, the right sunlight, and temperatures. Covers for the ponds need to be provided so as to avoid cross-breeding and contamination. Salts also need to be added to soften the waters and to keep the PH values of the water alkaline. Spirulina likes saline alkaline water. It absorbs nutrients from the water and if the water is not pure and contains metals or pollution, these will come forth in the spirulina cells – then that spirulina will not be suitable for consumption.
How do I store it?
Storing spirulina in high temperatures, in moisture or pollution will reduce the best effects of the spirulina. When you buy it, you shouldn’t keep it longer than 6 months – in fact, it is recommended that you use it within 3 months. Always keep the packaging well sealed again after use. Don’t let it stand near any heat sources or be stored in strong light or sunlight.
It is suggested that people take between 5-10 tablets a day for adults and between 3-5 tablets for children who are under 12 years of age. Spirulina is best taken only with warm or cold water; no juices or soft drinks, teas and coffees. Once you have taken your spirulina, you need to avoid alcohol, coffee, and soft drinks for about 30 minutes. Taking these drinks can destroy some of the valuable enzymes and nutrients. Increase your water intake as well when taking spirulina.
The benefits of taking spirulina
Everyone will benefit from taking spirulina, but there are some people who will benefit more than others. These are
- Children who don’t eat enough vegetables or sufficient balanced food intakes.
- Teenagers in rapid growth spurts who need a burst of nutrients – spirulina is highly suitable for this.
- Pregnant woman requiring the extra nutrients.
- Seniors who are unable to eat correctly and who have difficulty managing to get in three sufficient meals a day.
- Athletes and sports lovers who require extra nutrients for the extra energy required.
- Today’s modern people who rush around, not finding the time to eat good nutritional meals.
- Sick patients and other people who require the high nutrients to aid in their recovery.
- Anyone who is a vegetarian and requires extra nutrient sources.
That just about covers everyone, right?!
But there are a few people who should not really take spirulina. These are:
- Those who suffer from hyperparathyroidism.
- People with serious allergies when it comes to seaweed or seafood.
- If you have a high fever.
As Spirulina is a completely natural product and generally will not cause problems to the body, it is still best not to go overboard and take too much because it will just be wasted. There are some people who might be allergic and can experience some allergy symptoms when taking spirulina. Look out for these signs:
- A slight fever.
- Some dizziness, which, if it does occur, take less spirulina and if it does not improve, discontinue taking spirulina.
- Itching, skin rashes, hives, swelling of the face and mouth.
It is imperative that you buy your spirulina from trusted sources. Buying it from suspect sources can cause you to be contaminated by spirulina microcystins. In this instance, you need to get over to your doctor when you feel or see symptoms such as severe stomach pain, dark urine, yellow skin or eyes or ongoing vomiting.
A food and a medicine
We all realize that many diseases and illnesses happen to our bodies when we don’t take in sufficient nutrients. The illnesses that we develop are really the body telling us that something is wrong; there is an insufficiency of something causing an imbalance in the body. If we heed the warning and start replenishing the nutrients, often the symptoms go away. If they don’t, the body’s immune system weakens further and can cause even more problems. Usually, it is at this stage where people will consult their doctor who will prescribe some medication to assist. Spirulina isn’t a medicine but when you use it as part of your nutritional requirements as a supplement to the other food you ingest, you are helping to halt some of the nutritional deficiencies which can cause illness and disease. However, medical research has concluded that spirulina can certainly benefit our bodies. Let’s look at even more excellent benefits that taking spirulina can bring:
- First of all, it’s packed with nutrients, as mentioned above
Just one tablespoon of spirulina powder has only 20 calories in it. Apart from that, it consists of:
- 4 grams protein
- 2 grams carbohydrates
- 1 gram fat– Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
- 11% of your daily iron dose
- 21% of your daily dose of copper
- 11% of your daily dose of Vitamin B1
- 15% of your daily dose of Vitamin B2
- 4% of your daily dose of Vitamin B3
- Smaller amounts of manganese, magnesium, and potassium
- Not forgetting polyphenols and antioxidants included as well
- Reduces stroke
No one wants to ever have a stroke; that’s how serious it is. It reduces the quality of your life to a huge extent and is even deadly. At one time, there were no real ways of preventing stroke, but today, we know that a good diet can prevent it. Spirulina is known to reverse the damage that a poor diet has wrought on the body; what with all the antioxidants – it combats oxidative stress that damages our DNA and cells. We know this can lead to other horrible diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
- Energy levels are boosted
Energy is something we all long for; to leap out of bed in the morning, full of life; energy that lasts through the day and doesn’t catch up with us till late. Foods supply energy and spirulina is one such food, producing great sources of energy. When spirulina and lime juice are combined, you really do optimize your energy levels because the duo combination unlocks sugar from your cells.
- Cholesterol under spirulina management
The 3 basic types of cholesterol are triglycerides (fat cells), LDL cholesterol (for producing hormones) and HDL cholesterol (which control the other two). Heart disease happens when there are high triglycerides or LDL-cholesterol in your body. Any damage to your artery walls can cause heart disease, clots, stroke and the like. Spirulina helps to regain control over the cholesterol levels in the body, actually preventing LDL cholesterol from becoming hardened plaque.
- Cancer benefits from taking spirulina
Studies show that spirulina helps fight cancer, particularly oral cancer. This microalgae has been shown to possess anticancer properties.
- Spirulina detoxifies you from heavy metals
When we talk about heavy metals here, we’re talking about poisons in your body caused from bad food, water, and the environment. Spirulina not only can combat it, but it is a God-send against allergies as well, which can seriously affect your enjoyment of life. Spirulina is noted as even being able to prevent histamine release, protecting you all the way as you fight allergies. Scientists in Bangladesh discovered that around 3% of the Bangladeshi people displayed signs of heavy metal (arsenic) poisoning. The scientists gave 24 of these people just 250 mg of spirulina and 2 mg of zinc twice a day. Their verdict: was “a tremendous improvement”. Notwithstanding the heavy metals, spirulina does an excellent job of generally detoxifying the body of all toxins and chemicals, reducing health problems and restoring the body to function to its fullest capacity.
- Reduce your blood pressure with spirulina
There are millions of people all over the world who suffer from this deadly disease, and spirulina is known to be able to lower your blood pressure. To keep your blood pressure down is vitally important because high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease diabetes, and others.
- Lose weight taking spirulina
Because spirulina is so rich in protein and other valuable nutrients, when consuming it, you feel fuller for longer, thereby helping you to curb your appetite.
- Take spirulina to reduce the side effects of antibiotics
Even though antibiotics are there to kill any viruses, bacteria, and fungi in your body, that means they don’t hesitate in killing off the good bacteria as well. The good bacterium is meant to keep your digestive tract healthy and protect your body from illness and infection. Spirulina promotes the growth of good bacteria to keep your immune system as well as your digestive tract optimized. Very good news!
Today, in our modern industrialized society, we humans eat foods that don’t meet our required nutritional volumes and not only that, a lot of the foods we eat today contain dangerous ingredients. These are things like artificial sweeteners, color additives, artificial tasters, and flavors, trans-fats and the like. A lot of this stuff is processed by machines – do you wonder why people are ailing and dying before their time. Our lifestyles are definitely different than that of our predecessors before us and the truth is, it is difficult to get hold of foods that don’t have chemicals in, i.e. unless you have your own piece of ground where you can grow your own natural foods. Our lives are at stake by the food choices we make and wrong choices can lead us to aggravated conditions and chronic and fatal diseases. Obesity is one that is visible to the naked eye but others are silent killers.
You can try and heal yourself. Remember Hippocrates said, “Let the food be thy medicine” – he was right because there is healing power in nature. Sometimes we can’t afford the right food, sometimes not even knowing what we need. Don’t ignore spirulina; it has the capacity to replenish the nutrient deficiency your body might be experiencing as well as cleansing it at the same time. With spirulina, you can regenerate your body faster, allowing it to heal itself.
Spirulina, the superfood, often referred to as an ‘untreated’ food – packed with the most nutrients available on planet Earth today. Those that follow a diet such as the Paleo diet will agree that if a food was not available around the time of the early cavemen, then we should not be eating it today. It is only natural, nutrient-dense foods which are consumed on this diet. And since spirulina is a form of plant microalgae, packed with nutrients, it is highly accepted on this diet, showing its long history as a wonder food. Not only for the body, not only for health but also for beautiful skin, ideal for skin masks and skin peels, spirulina cleanses out the skin pores and nourishes the skin – the effects are definitely to be seen. With the whole range of health benefits that come from being associated with spirulina, one cannot help to be impressed. Spirulina well deserves the attention it receives for all its purposes. Not only that, it is safe to use with no significant side effects. Therefore and rightly so, it can certainly be considered as one of the best food supplements, ever, and you will truly be hard pressed to find a food that is more superior, nutritionally.
In closing, here is something to kick start your ‘walk’ with spirulina. Spirulina sends you, with love, a healthy snack to get you started: And it takes a mere 10 minutes.
– 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels
– 3 tablespoons coconut oil
– 1 tablespoon healthy spirulina powder
– Salt and pepper, for taste
Heat up the coconut oil in a saucepan. You can test the heat by tossing in a couple of popcorn kernels in the oil. If they pop, the oil is ready to receive the popcorn. Add it all, covering with a lid. As the popping starts seriously, take the pot aside for about 20 seconds, switching off heat. Then place it back on. When popping has come to an end, empty popped popcorn into a bowl, ensuring there is no excess oil. Then season with salt and pepper, sprinkling some of the spirulina powder over. Toss and serve. Here’s to spirulina health!