You probably know spirulina for topping the list of the most recommended “superfoods”.
This bluish algae has a significant amount of essential nutrients, so its consumption is associated with different health benefits. Find out here which ones and how to add it to the diet.
What is spirulina?
It is known as spirulina or spirulina to the greenish algae with a spiral shape (hence its name) belonging to the genus Arthrospira, specifically two species: Arthrospira platensis (which is mainly found in Africa) and Arthrospira maximum (which is mainly found in Mexico and California).
In addition to its shape and color, the researchers emphasize that spirulina has the ability to survive in adverse conditions, for example, in very saline waters (which have between 30 and 270 g of salt per liter).
It is difficult to trace its origins and uses, as it is believed to be over 3.5 billion years old. However, the first records of its gastronomic use date back to the arrival of the colonizers in Central America and Africa.
As detailed in their newspapers, the locals collected from the lakes something that looked like exudate, left it to dry in the sun and then it was sold in markets to be baked.
Recent research found that spirulina is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, trace elements and vitamins, so its consumption is associated with different health benefits.
Does it help lower cholesterol?
Spirulina is known to help reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. On this, there are different studies that analyzed the doses to see these benefits.
While works like the one published in Journal of Medicinal Food, found that 2 g per day are necessary for two months to see results, others, such as the one published in Lipids in Health and Disease, indicate doses of up to 4.5 g per day for a month and a half.
Even research published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism noted that the doses required to observe reductions in cholesterol levels were 8 g per day.
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Beyond the doses, the researchers agree that the benefits of spirulina on the lipid profile are due to its rich composition in antioxidants, especially phycocyanin (its main active component).
Low blood sugar levels
The same study published in Journal of Medicinal Food found that consuming 2.2 g of spirulina per day produced a significant reduction in blood sugar levels.
According to the researchers, in some cases the use of spirulina has surpassed that of other diabetes medications, such as metformin.
However, it is always recommended to consume it under the recommendation and supervision of a health professional, since misuse or its combination with other diabetes medications can cause a dangerous decrease in blood sugar levels.
Antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory
Another science-recognized health benefit of spirulina is relieving chronic inflammation and oxidative damage. This is because it has different substances, such as phycocyanin, which have antioxidant properties.
This means that it allows you to combat the effects of free radicals, unstable molecules that affect healthy cell structures and increase the risk of various diseases.
Regular consumption of spirulina is also linked to other health benefits:
- Anticancer: thanks to the antioxidant effects of its active components.
- Helps to lose weight: thanks to the fact that it is a low-calorie food.
- Fight allergies: Linked to a significant reduction in the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever or seasonal allergies.
- Detoxifying: According to different studies, it can be used for treatments for poisoning by pollutants.
- Stimulating: can improve strength and physical endurance.
- Reduce pressure: relaxes blood vessels by stimulating the production of nitric oxide.
How to consume it
Traditionally, spirulina was consumed by baking it alongside bread or simply by itself. However, experts warn that its flavor resembles lake or sea water.
For this reason, the most attractive option to incorporate it into the diet is in powder form. This allows it to be combined in smoothies, juices, or with cereals during breakfast. Just be careful not to heat it, as this will reduce its nutritional properties.
Since spirulina powders or capsules are the most common ways to incorporate spirulina into your diet, experts advise that you should be careful when consuming it as it can interact with medications you are already taking.
Nor is its administration recommended to people with autoimmune diseases, pregnant women, lactating women or children, without first consulting with a health professional.
In addition, different studies found that people with gout or kidney stones should avoid it, since the algae can aggravate their condition. Too much of your supplements can also cause headaches, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Until significant scientific evidence from human trials is available, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should exercise extreme caution.
Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.
Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.
Sources consulted: Comprehensive Natural Medicines Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.