Spirulina: the 100% beneficial seaweed
A complete file on spirulina: advantages, disadvantages, advice for using the dietitian, nutritional content, purchase advice, benefits, and tips.
Spirulina is a microalgae marketed as a food supplement because of its richness in minerals and vitamins. A quick overview of the amazing properties of this “superfood.” “
Among approximately 1,500 species of blue algae, 36 species are edible. The main species used to make food supplements is Arthrospira platensis, sometimes wrongly called Spirulina platensis
Spirulina, the seaweed of the Incas
Considered for years as a natural, healthy, and effective food supplement by a large number of people convinced by the results obtained following a cure, the use of spirulina actually dates back to very ancient times.
The Incas already consumed it as food in their own right. Kanembou women in Chad have been harvesting spirulina for a very long time, drying it for consumption with millet. The individual ration contains approximately 10 g of spirulina.
The spirulina (so named because of its spiral shape), belongs to the family of filamentous cyanobacteria and microalgae blue-green. This cyanobacterium has existed on Earth for over three billion years and is probably the oldest microorganism on the planet (1)!
A real superfood, it grows naturally in lakes near the equator, in India, Chad, and Mexico where local people consume it regularly.
Spirulina is sold in the form of a dehydrated blue-green powder, in the form of filaments, or in tablets.
Depending on its origin, spirulina contains between 55% and 70% of excellent quality proteins (thanks to their proportion of amino acids). This microalgae actually contains the eight amino acids that must be supplied to our body. Normally, they are only found together in products of animal origin, few in plants: micro-algae are exceptions to the rule.
Several studies show that spirulina or its extracts prevent or inhibit cancers in humans or animals. Indeed, spirulina interacts with the immune system which helps to stimulate it. Research shows that spirulina also has antiviral action.
Unsaturated fatty acids
Spirulina also contains an interesting amount of unsaturated fatty acids from the omega-6 family (gamma-linolenic acids).
One of the very interesting components of spirulina is chlorophyll. It has a positive influence on the production of red blood cells and purifies the blood.
In fact, chlorophyll, with its Heme nucleus (like that of our red blood cells) is capable of chelating the magnesium it contains (our red blood cells contain iron, not magnesium). This means that it is also capable of chelating other elements, such as toxins, and therefore “cleaning” the blood.
Phycocyanin, a spirulina-exclusive component, has also, detoxifying and stimulating properties for the immune system already proven (see below) and is still subject to further research to find new effects.
Trace elements and minerals
Spirulina contains zinc, selenium, manganese, iron, copper, chromium, and all minerals ( calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus ).
Spirulina helps to slow the aging of the skin thanks to its antioxidant molecules (gamma-linolenic acid, phycocyanin, tocopherol, carotene, selenium, and zinc) which prevent the formation of free radicals. The gamma-linolenic acid contained in spirulina brings suppleness, elasticity, and therefore softness to the epidermis.
The cell wall of Spirulina is very thin, unlike sea algae: nutrients are therefore quickly and completely absorbed by the body, and easily assimilated by children and the elderly.
The taste of seaweed, typical of spirulina, is not appreciated by everyone. Diluted in water, it predominates but is mixed with apple juice, for example, the taste disappears.
Among its many virtues, it can help lose weight by having a moderating effect on appetite, thanks to the proteins it contains and which are satisfying.
Spirulina does you good
The purifying activity of pure spirulina leads to a rapid and efficient evacuation of pollutants and lactic acid. It, therefore, allows an increase in energy and faster recovery after training or competition.
Spirulina, a natural dopant
A true concentrate of energy by its supply of iron, vitamin B12, beta-carotene, and spirulina is therefore of great interest for athletes, especially in terms of oxygenation of muscles, and essential fatty acids involved in the integrity of cells essential for the proper functioning of the immune system.
The role of phycocyanin
Chinese researchers have demonstrated that phycocyanin, this respiratory protein pigment unique to spirulina, intervenes in the bone marrow, the seat of erythropoiesis, by stimulating the evolution and differentiation of stem cells from red and white bloodlines ( 2).
This discovery is corroborated by a Japanese experiment conducted after the bombing of Nagasaki and another, Russian, after the explosion of the Chornobyl plant.
Spirulina against radiation
Japanese patients at Saint Francis Hospital in Nagasaki were treated by Dr. Tatsuichiro Akizuki on a strict diet of brown rice, miso, wakame and kombu algae, and spirulina, which saved them (3). In Belarus, between 146,000 and 1,600,000 children treated with 5 g of Spirulina per day for 45 days at the Institute of Radiation Medicine in Minsk saw their radiation rate drop!
Spirulina, a meat substitute
Sometimes presented as a “miracle food”, spirulina is, for its followers, a solution to hunger in the world.
With us, it is an ideal food for vegetarian diets because of its high protein content. Indeed, this micro-alga has demonstrated its effectiveness against malnutrition in children, in particular thanks to its exceptional protein content containing the main amino acids essential for the body.
Spirulina, an iron alga
It is an important deposit of iron (from 800mg to 1800mg per kg, or 20 times more than the wheat germ!), A mineral present mainly in food of animal origin like meat, organ meats, fish.
This is why spirulina is very interesting for vegetarians, athletes, anemic, pregnant women and adolescents in the growth phase, and populations exposed to the risk of iron deficiency.
Reduce your meat consumption and adopt spirulina
It is not for nothing that it is also called sea steak: spirulina is even richer in protein (55 to 70%) than soy (35%)!
One of the proteins in spirulina is phycocyanin (15% of the total weight of spirulina), a combination of proteins with water-soluble pigments. Several studies have shown that phycocyanin has the effect of stimulating the immune system and that it plays a role in the production of red and white blood cells.
A handful of spirulina contains as much:
- protein than 35 g of beef,
- calcium than three glasses of milk,
- iron than three bowls of spinach,
- beta carotene as 18 carrots,
- vitamin B12 than 500 g of steak,
- vitamin E as three tablespoons of wheat germ.
Spirulina is, therefore, microalgae with exceptional nutritional content that does not require treatment or cooking and does not cause any pollution. This makes it one of the best solutions for the future of healthy food and for the protection of the environment.
How to consume spirulina?
The question that often arises is: can we consume too much spirulina?
The answer is no. Taking too much is useless, but completely safe. 100% natural food without additives, it has no side effects.
Long-term studies of spirulina consumption suggest that it is good to take two to five grams every day. Some people like athletes take 10 g. per day; ditto for those who have damaged nails for example.
Spirulina in Madagascar
It is used in Madagascar in schools to strengthen the diet of children who do not eat enough meat. In Antsirabé, not far from the Malagasy capital, a farm produces each year nearly 300 kg of spirulina.
Experts say that a daily dose of one to three grams of spirulina for four to six weeks is enough to cure a severely malnourished child. Spirulina consumption experiments have been successfully carried out and will be continued; children treated with spirulina gained an average of 3 kg.
Spirulina production: it’s good for the planet
- Given its high productivity, spirulina requires 30 times less area for cultivation than soybeans, 40 times less than corn, and 300 times less than beef.
- Spirulina consumes far less freshwater per kg of protein than any other food: 3 times less than soybeans, 6 times less than corn, and 50 times less than beef.
- Its production is very inexpensive in energy (including solar energy and the energy supplied). Energy efficiency (energy generated in kg/energy consumed by the kg) is 5 times that of soybeans, two times that of maize, and 150 times that of the meat of beef.
Consuming less meat and replacing it with spirulina can drastically reduce the consumption of freshwater related to the cultivation of fodder plants and the hydration of livestock, consume much less land for crops, and also decrease contamination of the environment by pesticides, etc.
The consumption of spirulina, therefore, has positive effects on deforestation and the safeguarding of biodiversity.
Less meat also less cholesterol and fatty acids, which is anything but negligible in terms of health (cardiovascular problems, obesity, etc.).
When to consume spirulina?
Here are the qualities which are lent to it by those who know it well and use it (doctors like Dr. Dupire, author of the book Goals: Malnutrition, and the NGO Antenna Technologies in Africa), in particular as a food supplement:
- help slow the phenomena of aging and oxidation,
- fight acne,
- reduce disorders related to intestinal diseases,
- boost the immune system,
- help lower cholesterol,
- help fight leukoplakia, which is a precancerous inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and which can, therefore, degenerate into cancer,
- regulate and lower insulin levels in diabetics,
- reduce the effects caused by gamma rays,
- fight anemia and protect against heavy metals.
Spirulina is used to fight against malnutrition: it has been used for this purpose for more than 30 years by the Geneva NGO Antenna Technologies to maintain good health for the children of certain tribes of Africa and Madagascar, like the Kanembous tribe in Chad which has cultivated natural spirulina for hundreds of years and sees their children in full health.
Who can consume Spirulina?
She has no known contraindications. Sportsmen, vegetarians… everyone can consume spirulina with profit.
In the case of regular use, you will notice results after one to three weeks of treatment, depending on your metabolism, your morphology, and your physical condition.
Is Spirulina good for athletes?
As it contains a lot of vegetable proteins, beta-carotene, and iron, spirulina can definitely be recommended for athletes as a dietary supplement.
Spirulina promotes faster recovery after training or competition and helps you feel energized. Spirulina also helps to avoid cramps.
The spirulina market
It has developed in niche markets. Alain Ducasse uses it for spirulina gnocchi for astronauts from the European Space Agency. Spirulina can be cultivated onboard space shuttles.
Several humanitarian associations see spirulina as a response to malnutrition in Africa. Codegaz, the staff association of Gaz de France, is said to have invested 88,000 euros in spirulina production farms in Madagascar.
The plant, easy to grow, could not leave insensitive to manufacturers of food supplements. Today we find capsules and even pasta with spirulina.
In France, the market is estimated between 40 and 50 tonnes per year. If the majority comes from China, and the United States, an SME from Camargue, Algosud, produces 100% French Spirulina.
3,000 tonnes are consumed per year, half of which comes from China.
Pregnant or lactating women should not consume spirulina, as a precaution. For everyone, it is essential to check the origin of the spirulina you buy because seaweed can be contaminated with heavy metals.