What is spirulina?
So what is spirulina? Spirulina is a tiny organism living in fresh alkaline bodies of water (Alkaline means ‘not-acid’ or pH above 7). The size of this tiny organism is in between 300 to 500 microns (0.3 – 0.5mm). Such a small size is hard to see with the naked eye but certainly possible. You could see spirulina with your eyes, with no instruments very closely even on a cloudy day. Spirulina is actually single-cell organism clustered together forming the shape of spiral or a helix.
You probably heard of other sea algae and seaweeds like Nori, Dulce and Chlorella, for example, those are all falling under the same definition and mean ‘vegetables’. Not spirulina, however, spirulina is what’s called Cyanobacteria. The word ‘Cyano’ means ‘relating to the colour blue’, especially dark blue. Where ‘bacteria’ is a single-celled organism. Spirulina belongs to the group of good bacteria and calling spirulina cyanobacteria is like calling it blue-green algae. Still, confused? Don’t worry we’re getting there, keep reading.
Spontaneously occurring blue-green micro-algae
In other words, what is spirulina? Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis/maxima) is a naturally occurring blue-green micro-algae which grows and thrives in warm water alkaline lakes (i.e. a non-acid environment with high pH). Wild grown spirulina sustains flamingos in the East African Rift Valley lakes and has the strength and ability to thrive in conditions where other algae cannot grow (e.g. the high pH). It is a single-celled organism that turns sunlight into micro-nutrients supporting life and providing energy. It is one of the early life forms originating more than 3.6 billion years ago, and its spiral shape is what gives it the common name of spirulina.
One of the common attributes of vegetables (like those described above) and plants share is their cell wall being made of cellulose. Humans, as you well aware, are unable to digest cellulose (like chlorella for example) because we don’t produce the appropriate enzymes meant to break down those relevant molecular links called Beta Acetal. The latter is building the cellulose molecular structure and they are in their turn building the plant’s cells wall which cannot be digested by humans.
High bioavailability for digestion
Spirulina, being a bacteria, its cell wall isn’t built from cellulose but from complex of sugars and proteins (Peptidoglycan). Such structure, unlike the cellulose, makes it available to our human enzymes to break, digest and absorb the spirulina and its abundance of nutrients. Such absorption is done quickly, effortlessly and that, in other words, means that spirulina’s content is much more bioavailable for us.
That is in short what is spirulina and bring us to ask what are spirulina’s health benefits?
You probably heard more than once that spirulina is a complete food and the richest in nutrients. These aren’t empty claims. These claims are supported by numerous scientific researches, some of them are available for you to review at the bottom of this short article. For example, spirulina offers more protein than beef, more iron than spinach, more beta-carotene (vitamin A) than carrots and more calcium found in milk. Additionally, spirulina is a great source of phytonutrients and phytochemicals (i.e. antioxidants). Those are a source of the human body’s natural protection, they are low in fats and they are extremely easy to digest.
What is spirulina? Spirulina is a safe blend of micro and macronutrients, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, proteins, phytonutrients with an abundance of goodness encapsulated in one tiny cell with high bioavailability.
Astounding properties, variety of benefits for the human body
Spirulina has amazing properties and in many ways can be considered a Super Food. It contains the most remarkable concentration of nutrients known in any food, plant, grain, or herb. It is composed of 60 – 71% highly digestible vegetable protein, has extremely high concentrations of beta-carotene, the vitamin B complex, iron and trace minerals, and the rare essential fatty acid GLA – Gamma-Linolenic Acid which people who have not been breastfed do not have. It has a balanced spectrum of amino acids, cleansing chlorophyll, and the blue pigment, phycocyanin.
All the essential vitamins and minerals a body requires can be provided by spirulina, these provide a variety of benefits for the human body, like nourishment, mental clarity, assisting in cancer recovery, depression help and many others. Several scientific studies show Spirulina to have the ability to inhibit viral replication; in particular, it was found that 5-10 mg/ml of spirulina will inhibit the HIV-1 virus otherwise known as the AIDS virus.
Benefits of spirulina – main advantages
- Spirulina contains about 100 different nutritional values.
- Spirulina contains a nutritional component found only in it called Phycocyanin. Phycocyanin is a protein that helps the brain to developed stem cells and is considered to be a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Spirulina has a very low caloric value – about 4 calories per gr.
- Fresh spirulina or freshly frozen spirulina are odourless and have no aftertaste.
- Fresh Spirulina offers a high absorption rate in the human body (high bioavailability). This is because it does not require the dissolution and extraction of energy for the breakdown of a protein.
Spirulina contains the eight essential amino acids needed for the human body.
- Spirulina is rich in chlorophyll which containing great amounts of magnesium. “On a molecular level, the structure of chlorophyll is very similar to heme, which is a part of haemoglobin present in human blood. Heme, which is what makes blood appear bright red once exposed to oxygen, is bound to proteins forming haemoglobin. Haemoglobin carries oxygen to the lungs and other respiratory surfaces to be released into tissues throughout the body.
- The primary reason chlorophyll is considered a superfood is that of its strong antioxidant and anticancer effects. Chlorophyll benefits the immune system because it’s able to form tight molecular bonds with certain chemicals that contribute to oxidative damage and diseases like cancer or liver disease.” (Dr Axe Food is Medicine, Chlorophyll Benefits: The Plant Pigment that Heals + Detoxes Better than All Others., https://draxe.com/chlorophyll-benefits/)
- The chlorophyll, the powerful antioxidant with its antibacterial properties, helps clean the blood and liver system and contributes to the creation of rich blood (by encouraging the formation of red blood cells), thus improving the body’s energy and vitality and instantly strengthens the immune system.
- Spirulina is rich in various vitamins those include vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin C, vitamin E and the B-complex vitamins.
Spirulina contains a long list of important minerals, including iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium and more.
Daily Spirulina intake helps prevent disease and maintain health
Spirulina reduces inflammation, adds to the health of the brain and the nervous system. It contributes to the cleansing of toxins from the body, improves digestive function and metabolism. Benefiting also the health of the vision system the health of the heart and the liver. Spirulina helps the functioning of the immune system, it contributes to reducing various sensitivities and allergies, it reduces fatigue and increases the energy level of the body. Additionally, it improves the performance of athletes and contributes to rapid recovery after physical exertion (Spirulina is considered as a dietary supplement for athletes and as a food additive that aids in the rehabilitation of sports injuries)