Organic spirulina powder is often marketed as an all singing, all dancing supergreen that’s utterly indispensible in any healthy eating regime. Yet many who are considering purchasing organic spirulina powder for the first time are put off by both the ‘perceived’ high cost and some of the more exaggerated health claims. So, is organic spirulina really worth shelling-out for and what are the genuine health benefits that can be enjoyed from incorporating this increasingly popular superfood supplement into your daily diet? Let’s take a closer look.
Spotlight on spirulina
Organic spirulina powder is made from a special type of unicellular freshwater blue-green algae that has been a valued food source for thousands of years. It was treasured by the Aztecs for example, who supplied it to their warriors and athletes to boost their strength and endurance, as well as many other Mesoamerican tribes. Today it is cultivated all over the world, in countries like Chad where it is harvested directly from lake Chad and then dried into cakes called ‘dihé’, which are used to prepare a delicious local broth. And in the West it is rapidly gaining a reputation as a formidable, yet pricey superfood supplement that offers a number of potential health benefits.
Organic spirulina powder – what exactly are you getting for your money?
A premium quality, certified organic spirulina powder need no longer cost an arm and a leg, and remember that, as it’s highly concentrated, a little really does go a long way. Organic spirulina powder is packed with ingredients that are good for us and it typically contains generous amounts of:
In fact organic spirulina powder is a complete source of highly digestible protein and consists of an incredible 60 percent of this essential macronutrient, which supplies your body with energy. On average 1 teaspoon of organic spirulina contains around 2 grams of protein, making it an ideal alternative protein source for vegetarians or vegans.
Organic spirulina powder contains the vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and is a rich source of vitamin E. It also contains the so-called forgotten vitamin, vitamin K, which plays an important role in blood clotting, the building of strong bones and the prevention of heart disease, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.
Organic spirulina powder is comprised of up to 13 percent essential minerals and per calorie, boasts the same calcium, phosphorous and magnesium content as milk. It is also high in iron, copper and chromium, minerals that are known to help combat anaemia, chronic fatigue and high blood sugar levels.
The large amounts of chlorophyll found in organic spirulina powder act as an efficient blood cleanser, blood builder and oxygen booster.
Essential fatty acids
Organic spirulina powder contains essential fatty acids, such as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is important for healthy heart function, and sulfolipids, which can help to protect against HIV infection. It also possesses a high concentration of omega 6 fatty acids, which stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism and support a healthy reproductive system. As the human body cannot manufacture omega 6 fatty acids itself, we must obtain them from our diet, and the only food known to contain a higher ratio of omega 6 fatty acids than organic spirulina powder, is mother’s milk.
The essential amino acids in organic spirulina powder are believed to help balance brain chemistry by providing all of the elements required for healthy neurotransmitter function.
Organic spirulina powder is loaded with antioxidants, including phycocyanin – the phytochemical that’s responsible for the algae’s blue colour and can protect our body’s cells from the type of damage caused by free radicals.
Does organic spirulina powder really deliver on its promise?
There have been a number of animal and human studies into the beneficial effects of spirulina powder and, although it may not live up to some of the more outlandish claims, there are indeed a number of promising health benefits linked to its regular consumption. Three of these are analysed in more detail below.
Organic spirulina powder for strengthened immunity
Organic spirulina powder is arguably best known for its impressive immune boosting properties – its high chlorophyll content has a powerful detoxification effect on the body and is thought to help prevent cancer. According to ‘A Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies’ by homeopathic doctor Mark Stengler, “Spirulina stimulates natural killer cells and similar anti-immune components of the immune system that can help fight cancer cells.” And the first human study of spirulina-based cancer treatment in 1995 reported a total regression of pre-cancerous mouth lesions in 45 per cent of patients given an extract of spirulina for one year, whilst a 12 week clinical trial, involving 30 patients over the age of 50, witnessed improved immune blood markers in the majority of participants.
Organic spirulina powder and its anti-aging benefits
The supergreen is highly regarded for its potent anti-aging qualities too – it contains a variety of substances that can help combat free radicals and prevent our cells from aging, including beta-carotene, vitamin E and superoxide dismutase (SOD), which are known to promote radiant looking skin that’s free from irritation, allergies and unwelcome fine lines or wrinkles
Organic spirulina powder also contains GLA (gamma-linoleic acid), an omega-6 fatty acid that has been associated with an increase in bone density, making it an especially effective tool in combatting age-related osteoporosis. A study on women aged 65 plus and suffering from osteoporosis, revealed that those who took GLA supplements (in combination with another fatty acid called EPA) witnessed reduced bone loss, and some even benefitted from a corresponding increase in bone density, over a 3 year period. And another investigation by the Orient Medical Science University of Japan demonstrated how spirulina diet therapy proved 80% effective on some 480 cases of senile cataracts, diabetic retinopathies, and hypertensive retinopathies.
Organic spirulina powder for weight loss
More recent research is also suggesting that organic spirulina powder acts as a natural appetite suppressant and can therefore be used to control food cravings and encourage sustainable weight loss.
As already outlined, organic spirulina powder contains a large amount of highly digestible protein that can be absorbed up to four times faster than animal protein. Our body needs protein for energy as well as for the building and repair of muscles – enjoying large amounts of readily digestible protein in combination with regular exercise therefore helps to build lean muscle mass, increase our metabolic rate and ultimately burn fat. Yet despite being so high in protein, organic spirulina powder is still extremely low in calories, containing just 3.9 calories per gram of protein. This means that it can provide a large proportion of your recommended daily protein intake, without the calorific consequences that result from the consumption of other protein-rich foods, such as red meat.
In addition, the GLA found in organic spirulina powder helps to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels – too much insulin prompts the body to store any excess carbohydrates as fat and triggers hunger, which is why it is often called the ‘hunger hormone’.
And a 1996 study into the effect of the ‘supplementation of spirulina on hypercholesterolemic patients’ by the department of Food Science and Nutrition, Coimbatore, India, concluded that spirulina consumption resulted in significant beneficial effects, including weight reduction.
Incorporating the salutary supergreen into your daily diet
As part of a varied and balanced diet and in combination with a healthy lifestyle, it seems that organic spirulina powder really can make a useful addition to your healthy eating program. So, all that remains is to discover how to go about incorporating this salutary supergreen into your daily diet.
The unique flavour of organic spirulina powder is a somewhat acquired taste – mixing it into your favourite smoothies, juices and protein drinks, however, not only provides a quick blast of nutrients in one delicious serving, it also completely masks that inimitable spirulina flavour. Organic spirulina powder, which is increasingly used as a natural, blue-green food colorant, is also an extremely versatile superfood ingredient that can add a delightful hue to all manner of sweet and savoury rawfood recipes and snacks. And, due to its high protein content, it makes an excellent alternative to standard protein powders too.
Getting more organic spirulina powder for your wonga
When purchasing spirulina powder, choose for a certified organic product from a reputable health food store wherever possible, as these are guaranteed free from toxins, pesticides, genetically modified ingredients and other artificial nasties, and tend to retain more of their beneficial nutrients than inferior spirulina powders, meaning that you get much more for your money.
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