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What is Spirulina?

Bare Basics, Nutrition Topics

Spirulina health benefits, nutrition, and recipes | Nutrition Stripped

How do I begin introducing you to spirulina? For starters, if you’ve ever seen spirulina it’s a dark blue-green algae dried powder that’s grown in water…two things most people would find completely unappetizing to eat (understandable). Spirulina is used in many different cuisines, but it’s probably most popular within the plant based communities as it’s very high in protein and other wonderful nutrients. I’m here to give you an introduction and quick lesson on all things spirulina (also for more detail simply click the linked text for direct research on the topic). Afterwards, I hope you seek it out to at least try once!

What is spirulina? Spirulina is a type of blue-green micro-algae that’s grown and harvested from very alkaline water sources. It was long used by the Aztecs as a food source because of its potent nutrient content. Spirulina is commonly found in several forms: tablets (which are chewable), fine powder, flakes, and pills or capsules. When purchasing spirulina, keep in mind to purchase only organic varieties that are processed at very low heat to retain the maximum nutrition. Since spirulina is grown in and comes from water, it’s surrounded by free toxins floating in the water and is more susceptible to contamination of heavy metals. These toxins, called microcystins, can mostly be avoided by purchasing from a trusted brand who grows it organically. Notice I say mostly – there are some studies (and more here) that show some less than beneficial side effects of spirulina.

Not only do I love the nutritional punch that spirulina provides, but I also love its array of other health benefits such as: antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties, immune function improvement, protection of the liver, reduction of allergic reactions, increased muscle endurance and oxidative stress, reduced oral cancer, possible support in fighting infections and antibiotic related illnesses.


Nutrition Stripped nutrient breakdown of SPIRULINA:

  • Protein | 50-70% by weight of bioavailable, easy to digest protein. Per 100g contains 57g of protein (!!!)
    • Compare to 100g of chicken, which contains 16g of protein OR 100g of nature’s “golden protein” the egg, which contains 13g of protein. You see the protein power of spirulina now!
  • Amino acids | contains all amino acids, including essential amino acids, making it a complete protein
  • Healthy fats | mostly in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids | linolenic acid, 0.8g/100g
    • Omega-6 fatty acids | linoleic acid, GLA 1.2g/100g
  • Vitamin B12 | Special Note: the form of B12 found in spirulina is a psuedovitamin B12, therefore is not a reliable source of B12 for humans as it’s inactive. The B12 is considered an analogue, which does not have the same bioavailability as animal sources of B12.
  • Vitamin A, D, K, E
  • Vitamin B | B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), folic acid, B5
  • Antioxidants | carotenoids } beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin
  • Chlorophyll
  • Copper | 6/1mg/100g
  • Iron | 28mg/100g
  • Magnesium | 195mg/100g
  • Potassium | 1.3g/100g
  • Manganese | 1.9mg/100g
  • Zinc | 2mg/100g

This is not a complete list, but here are a couple brands I enjoy:

I typically store spirulina in the freezer or refrigerator to retain it’s freshness as much as possible. If it doesn’t come in a dark glass bottle, I suggest purchasing one or at least keeping it in an air tight container made of glass in the freezer or refrigerator away from light. Spirulina is a delicate algae full of antioxidants, nutrients, and chlorophyll, all of which you need to preserve. Following these steps will help to do so.

Spirulina health benefits, nutrition, and recipes | Nutrition StrippedPictured: Powdered spirulina…and me playing with my food?

Spirulina Tips:

  • Natural food dye | You can use a little spirulina powder as a natural food dye for a greenish-blue color
  • Drink water | Make sure you have some water around you to swish your mouth around after you drink anything with spirulina as it has a tendency to stain your teeth while your eating it!
  • Spirulina Coconut Water | For a quick protein packed drink, I’ll mix about 1 Tbs. of spirulina into my coconut water. Talk about alkalizing!

If you follow Nutrition Stripped on Instagram, you know all too well that I love adding spirulina into my smoothies very often. Now you can understand why!

RECIPES WITH SPIRULINA:

Blue Green Spirulina Milk

Spirulina Energy Balls

Blue Morning Smoothie Bowl

Tropical Superfood Smoothie Bowl

All Bluebs Smoothie

Beauty Green Smoothie

Pistachio Ice Cream

Spirulina health benefits, nutrition, and recipes | Nutrition Stripped

Have you ever tried spirulina? If you use spirulina, what’s your favorite way to incorporate it into your eats? Share below, I love hearing your comments!

xx McKel

Share your thoughts

  • Can you recommend a brand that you like? I was a bit overwhelmed when I was checking this out in the health food store, hard to know which is the best kind.

    • Whoops, maybe I shouldn’t have jumped to the bottom. Sorry – just saw your list. 🙂

      • Haha that’s okay Meredith! Hope that helps you out and let me know how you like it! I’d love to hear 🙂

    • YOU CAN CHECK MINGS BRAND OR GNC

  • Danny Dychkowski

    I just ordered some for the D’s. Great post, thanks McKel!

    • Awesome! Let me know what you think, I’ll be posting more recipes and other ways to incorporate it into food. Thanks 🙂

  • Hi McKel, Just came across your blog. I just love the layout, very nice design.I enjoyed reading your spotlight on Spirulina. Its great that you mentioned that the vitamin B12 found in spirulina is a psuedovitamin and does not provide much benefit to humans. So many bloggers neglect to mention this, in-fact so do many of the manufacturers of Spirulina.

  • Hi McKel! You’ve mentioned that storage is so important and I wonder if that’s why the spirulina I have tastes so terrible. I purchased NOW Foods Spirulina powder on Amazon about a year ago and find there are really few ways to make it easy to gulp down. Do you know if the taste changes with improper storage? Or maybe it was an issue with inferior brand?

  • John Madrid

    I have used spirulina off and on thru the years, but now that I am older I appreciate the nutritional value of it to keep me going. I was using a spirulina in tablet form in the Philippines from Healthy Choices, I don’t know if that is available here in the US
    I really liked it. Now I am using a powder form that is hard to disolve in water and it doesn’t seem to be the same as what I used before as far as nutrition goes. Is anything mixed with it in the process, like an excipient?

    Thanks…. John M

    • Spirulina powder should dissolve fairly quickly in water, make sure you’re using a brand that’s high quality- I have links for my favorites in that post and try blending it with other foods. The nutrition should be the same as well. Hope that helps!

  • Rebecca

    Hi McKel,
    Thank you for the article. It was so informative!
    I have two questions regarding spirulina.
    1. Do you think spirulina is an effective probiotic if consumed daily? If so, how much?
    2. Does the nutritional value of the algae change if it is added to my morning green tea? (You think it will taste gross?)
    Thank you again, love love love your articles!

    • McKel Hill

      Great questions Rebecca and thanks for reading NS! 1) spirulina isn’t a probiotic, 2) I wouldn’t recommend adding it to tea, it’ll taste a bit too strong. Try adding it in smoothies and desserts!

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