What is spirulina?
Spirulina is a dark blue/green colored fresh-water algae. Many people know it to be a veggie of the sea, but aren’t aware that it’s technically an algae! It’s nutritional benefits are similar to those of other sea plants such as chlorella or kelp. Spirulina is said to be one of the oldest life forms on earth, and has been eaten for centuries in Central Africa.1 (So no, Becky from spin class is not the first person to use it!) Mostly harvested from lakes in Africa and South America, this vegetable has natural healing abilities and a long list of superior health benefits.
Spirulina rose in popularity after it was used in space by NASA as a dietary supplement for astronauts.2 It was likely used due to its diverse nutrient content and many health promoting compounds. It’s a good source of iron, B6, vitamin A, B12, and anti-inflammatory properties.3,4 Additionally it’s a great source of protein.5
As you may already know from reading our plant based iron article, many plant foods contain antinutrients or other compounds that make absorption of vitamins and minerals tricky. Dark leafy greens contain oxalates and beans have phylates. These compounds hold onto vitamins and minerals, making them inaccessible to your body. Luckily, this isn’t the case with spirulina, it doesn’t have any inhibitors, and lacks cellulose cell walls. This means it’s nutrients can be absorbed and digested very easily.6 This is why many people who consume spirulina may feel energy shortly after eating it.
TIP: You can destroy antinutrients in legumes and beans by soaking or sprouting them and lightly steaming greens, or rub them with olive oil and lemon juice.
In several clinical trials spirulina has proven to help balance cholesterol to healthier levels among those suffering from type 2 diabetes and heart disease.7,8,9,10 Additionally, this super algae has shown to help alleviate the harmful affects of cardiovascular health issues, and actually helps promote healing.11
Some experts question the bioavilaibilty of B12 in spirulina.12 We’re all about transparency at Pranin, and we just want to be open about the conflicting evidence out there. Some say the B12 in spirulina can be absorbed and used in the body.13,14,15 There are studies and trials on both sides, and it’s hard to say how each of our unique digestive systems will absorb the B12 present in Spirulina.
Right now at Pranin Organic the highest source of B12 in our products comes from spirulina. Confirmed through our third party testing for nutrient levels, the current batch of our PureFood B contains 100% Daily Value of vitamin B12 per serving, which comes mainly from organic spirulina. We recommend that those who are worried about their B12 levels, to take our PureFood B daily for 30-120 days, and then get blood work done to test your B12 levels. If levels are still low, consider speaking to a healthcare practitioner about further action.
As mentioned above, spirulina is a source of many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These can provide lots of valuable health benefits. We are always elevating and innovating our powders, so if you’re worried about your B12 levels, contact us and we can recommend the best products for you.
3 – H.-N. Yang, E.-H. Lee, and H.-M. Kim, “Spirulina platensis inhibits anaphaylactic reaction,” Life Sciences, vol. 61, no. 13, pp. 1237–1244, 1997.
H.-M. Kim, E.-H. Lee, H.-H. Cho, and Y.-H. Moon, “Inhibitory effect of mast cell-mediated immediate-type allergic reactions in rats by Spirulina,” Biochemical Pharmacology, vol. 55, no. 7, pp. 1071–1076, 1998.
5 – Y. Ishimi, F. Sugiyama, J. Ezaki, M. Fujioka, and J. Wu, “Effects of spirulina, a blue-green alga, on bone metabolism in ovariectomized rats and hindlimb-unloaded mice,” Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, vol. 70, no. 2, pp. 363–368, 2006.
6 – J. C. Dillon, A. P. Phuc, and J. P. Dubacq, “Nutritional value of the alga Spirulina,” World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 77, pp. 32–46, 1995.
7 – Kamalpreet K, Rajbir S, Kiran G. Effect of supplementation of Spirulina on blood glucose and lipid profile of the non-insulin dependent diabetic male subjects. J Dairying, Foods and Home Sci. 2008;27:3–4
8 – Mani UV, Desai S, Iyer U. Studies on the long-term effect of Spirulina supplementation on serum lipid profile and glycated proteins in NIDDM patients. J Nutraceut, functional & medical foods. 2000;2:25–32
9 – Kamalpreet K, Rajbir S, Kiran G. Effect of supplementation of Spirulina on blood glucose and lipid profile of the non-insulin dependent diabetic male subjects. J Dairying, Foods and Home Sci. 2008;27:3–4
10 – Lee EH, Park JE, Choi YJ, Huh KB, Kim WY. A randomized study to establish the effects of Spirulina in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. Nutrition Research and Practice. 2008;2:295–300.
11 – Bermejo-Bescós P, Piñero-Estrada E, Villar del Fresno AM Toxicol In Vitro. 2008 Sep; 22(6):1496-502.
12 – https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/53/3/695/4731861?redirectedFrom=fulltext