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 microscopic organism is 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 a single-cell organism clustered together, forming the shape of a spiral or a helix.
What is Spirulina? a Blue-green algae
You have probably heard of other sea algae and seaweeds like Nori, Dulce and Chlorella; for example, those all fall under the same definition and mean ‘vegetables’.
Not spirulina; however, spirulina is what’s called Cyanobacteria. ‘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. Are you 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 microalgae that grows and thrives in warm, 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 gives it the common name of spirulina.
Cell wall made of protein
One of the common attributes that vegetables (like those described above) and plants share is their cell wall being made of cellulose.
As you know, humans cannot 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 making the plant’s cell wall, which humans cannot digest.
High bioavailability for digestion
Spirulina, being a bacteria, its cell wall isn’t built from cellulose but from a complex of sugars and proteins (Peptidoglycan).
Such structure, unlike 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 and effortlessly, and that, in other words, means that spirulina’s content is much more bioavailable for us.
That is, in short, what spirulina brings 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 which 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 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 extremely easy to digest.
What is spirulina? Spirulina is a safe blend of micro and macronutrients, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and phytonutrients with abundant goodness encapsulated in one tiny cell with high bioavailability.
Excellent properties have a 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 offer various benefits to 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.
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
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 develop stem cells and is considered a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Spirulina has a meagre caloric value – about four 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 to break down a protein.
Spirulina contains the eight essential amino acids needed for the human body.
- Spirulina is rich in chlorophyll which contains 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 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.
- Chlorophyll is considered a superfood because of its strong antioxidant and anticancer effects. Chlorophyll benefits the immune system by forming 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/)
- 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 strengthening the immune system.
- Spirulina is rich in various vitamins, including vitamin A (beta-carotene), C, E, and B-complex vitamins.
- Spirulina contains many important minerals, including iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium and more.
Daily Spirulina intake helps prevent disease and maintain health
Spirulina reduces inflammation and adds to the health of the brain and the nervous system.
It contributes to cleansing toxins from the body and improves digestive function and metabolism. It also benefits the health of the vision system, the heart, and the liver.
So, what is Spirulina? It’s a superfood that boosts immunity, reduces allergies, and energizes. Importantly, athletes use it for enhanced performance and speedy recovery.