These blue-green algae, commercially marketed as a superfood claims numerous benefits. It claims popularity right from its use by Aztecs in the ancient period through its use as a dietary supplement by NASA astronauts in the modern age.
Let us look at some nutritional benefits of spirulina:
According to Food Engineering and Technology Department, Institute of Chemical Technology, University of Mumbai, its high in nutrients like vitamins, B3, B6, B9, Vit C, Vit D, Vit A and Vit E, minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, chromium, magnesium, and copper. protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids like Gamma Linolenic Acid. Its rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, Phew?
Moreover, it claims to: Boost the immune function, is anticarcinogenic, it reduces cholesterol, increases intestinal lactobacilli and provides protection from radiation.
One of its most attractive benefit which the fitness world goes gaga about is its astounding protein content. Spirulina contains 65-70% of protein! adding to that, its a complete protein containing all the 8 essential amino acids.
What else does one need to thrive healthily? All in one tablet, indeed an amazing superfood!
On the other hand, a high amount of protein produces a fair amount of ammonia in the body after spirulina is metabolized and converts into urea posing a threat to the kidneys resulting in weaker kidneys and indication of kidney stones.
Is it safe?
the DSIEC (Dietary supplement information expert committee ) of the united states has recently assessed event reports from human clinical trials and animal studies regarding its safety and its given a green signal by awarding spirulina a class A safety rating!
United Nations World Food Conference of 1974 has declared spirulina as the best food for the future.
But, on the other hand, many medical studies have put forth concerns related to unknown microbe contamination. Secondly, since its blue-green algae growing in water, the concern for heavy metal contamination like lead mercury and nickel is of great concern as even small quantities of such metal can be proved fatal. Children are at higher risk.
A study cautions about spirulina grown near Japan and China which may be contaminated with radioactive isotopes.
This leads us to the question of buying safe and trustworthy spirulina. Buying organic spirulina would be a safer option as certified organic is safer than the natural sources for the fear of contamination.
What would be the recommended safe dosage?
A recommended intake of 2 to 3 grams per day taken at regular intervals. Higher doses would not pose a threat but patients suffering from phenylketonuria and autoimmune disorders should totally avoid it.
Spirulina Pill vs powder?
Generally, powders are a preferred source when we discuss on the issue of absorption, the problem with pills is that they are difficult to disintegrate and hence fillers are added which results in the addition of chemicals which means one needs to consume more tablets to touch upon the same dosage of a powder. On the other hand, tablets are more shelf stable.
Adding this green power food to smoothies, sauces or dips or sprinkling on salads is a good healthier option.
Spirulina and vitamin B12 bioavailability
According to research by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Spirulina is not a natural source of vitamin B12. it has a certain pseudovitamin B12 which is biologically inactive in humans. Moreover, it has been found that the B12 found in spirulina could actually hinder the actual B12 absorption from food by the body.
Biologically active B12 is only found in animal sources, which is a reality check.
Take Home Message
Ending on a personal note, after having an overlook, it may be suggested to stick to regular sources of protein like eggs, dairy and meats rather than shelling out a bulk for commercially grown supplements especially when children are the target group.
Encouraging farmers and locally grown produce sound practical.
Zainab is a Dietitian/Diabetes Educator who firmly believes that Diets can fail, but realistic lifestyle changes never do. She is also passionate about Sustainable Food sources and is always inventing newer ways of reducing Food Wastage. She believes as Food Educators, Dietitians has a bigger role to play than just drafting Diets.