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- What Is Blue Majik and Is This Colorful Food Trend Healthy?
- Here, Dr. Group offers up everything you need to know about spirulina—and how to safely add it to your diet.
- Why spirulina is trending right now
- The benefits of spirulina
- Beware of shady spirulina
- How to pick a safe spirulina
- What is ‘Blue Majik?’
- Wait, so what’s the diff between Blue Majik and spirulina?
- So, what are the benefits of Blue Majik?
- How do you use this stuff (and what the heck does blue-green algae taste like)?
- Should I try this?
- What Is Spirulina?
- Nutrition Facts
- Products and Dosage Recommendations
- Risks and Side Effects
- Spirulina vs. Chlorella
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Sakara’s Detox Bars with blue spirulina. Photo: @sakaralife/Instagram
We’re living in a time when most of us, if we’re being totally honest, learn about new wellness tactics, “superfoods” and workout ideas largely through social media. And because of that, the trends that tend to catch on and spread most rapidly are the ones that make for good eye candy. If something is visually arresting, you can bet it’ll be all over your Instagram feed; it’s this phenomenon that gave rise to the proliferation of matcha, turmeric, aerial yoga and oh-so-much unicorn-sparkle bullshit. But in some cases, pretty, Instabait wellness may actually have some legitimacy. Take, for example, Blue Majik.
The name alone is insane. It sounds like some exotic drug strain — if you watched “Breaking Bad,” it’s just a hop away from Walter White’s “Blue Sky” meth — or maybe a Mr. Sketch scented marker, but it’s actually neither of those things. Rather, it’s the latest colorful supplement to permeate the wellness industry.
Blue Majik is a form of microalgae spirulina, and its bright-blue hue is natural. While traditional spirulina, itself a vivid green, has been popular in health food stores for years, Blue Majik has begun to get attention more recently. “Blue Majik is a supplement that has recently become very popular, partially because of its striking blue color and because it offers many potential health benefits,” says Brooke Alpert, a registered dietitian and the author of The Diet Detox. According to Alpert, its potential health benefits include improving digestive health, boosting thyroid function and reducing inflammation.
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Beyond that, “Blue Majik is rich in vitamin B12, vitamin A and iron, which are all part of a balanced and healthy diet. Vitamin B12 is essential for nervous system function and the creation of red blood cells. Vitamin A supports healthy eye function and a healthy immune system. Iron and other minerals help build strong bones and teeth, blood, skin and hair. Using Blue Majik as a supplement to improve your overall health and bodily function could be beneficial to some,” says Alpert, who also adds that it’s “a great choice for vegans and vegetarians who may have more difficulty getting enough B12 and iron from a plant-based diet.”
While Alpert believes the ingredient certainly has vast potential in the health and nutrition realm, there are some in the wellness industry who are even more gung-ho about it. “To say that this powerhouse ingredient is a superfood is an understatement,” says Simone Shepard, VP of product development at Juice Generation, which sells a Blue Majik-spiked Holy Water juice blend that also features pineapple, coconut water and holy basil. “Blue Majik has risen amongst purveyors of health drinks and foods because of its richness in amino acids and antioxidants. It boasts a powerful deck of nutrients: protein, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins A, K, B12, iron and manganese.”
As for why it’s garnered so much attention in the Insta realm? That part’s pretty simple: Look at it. It’s bright-blue — a color not often found in food, outside of cotton candy or Blue Raspberry Warheads, anyway — and it lends that same electric hue to anything you put it in. But unlike some of the gimmicky things that good on the ‘gram despite having questionable actual functionality (glitter-laden face masks, we’re looking at you), Blue Majik does truly seem to deliver nutritional benefits in addition to being pretty.
In terms of how to incorporate it into your diet, Alpert suggests taking a cue from Instagram and blending it into smoothies or smoothie bowls — but she also says an easy option is simply to add it to a green juice, shake and drink. But wellness, diet and nutrition brands have also begun to get creative with it, incorporating it into products (in addition to the aforementioned Juice Generation example).
“We use blue spirulina in our blue nut mylk, a plant-based mylk that pairs with our seaberry muesli,” says Sakara co-founder Danielle DuBoise. “It’s one of our most-beloved menu items — you’ll definitely find pictures of it on Instagram.” Sakara also features the ingredient in its Detox Bars, a more recent fall launch for the brand. “The stunning teal color of the bar looks otherworldly but is 100 percent natural thanks to Blue Spirulina. It’s a great plane snack, hangover cure or way to detox from stress and the environment,” she says.
Sakara’s Blue Majik Mylk. Photo: @sakaralife/Instagram
DuBoise and her co-founder Whitney Tingle believe deeply in the nutritional powers of the ingredient. “Research shows phycocyanin, the active pigment-protein complex in Blue Spirulina, can remove heavy metals, protect cells from DNA damage caused by aging and the environment and reduce disease-causing inflammation throughout the body,” says Tingle. “It also helps boost immunity, encourages an ideal pH balance and is rich in beautifying minerals.” Well, damn.
But — because we’re talking about a wellness craze here — don’t just start turning every single one of your smoothies, bowls and bars into Blue Majik smoothies, bowls or bars all willy-nilly. “There is still not a great deal of information about Blue Majik and there are no long-term studies that address possible side effects or negative health outcomes,” cautions Alpert, who also offers up the sage reminder to always, always consult with your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet.
She also notes that in some people, the supplement has been “shown to have some undesirable side-effects including nausea, upset stomach, fatigue and dizziness.” And there are some people who should steer clear of it for sure, according to Alpert: “Anyone who might have underlying health issues where the consumption of vitamin B12 or iron could be dangerous should avoid this supplement.”
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What Is Blue Majik and Is This Colorful Food Trend Healthy?
If you’re up-to-the-minute when it comes to foods trends (whether or not you actually participate in them), you’ve probably seen evidence of Blue Majik by now. Maybe you didn’t know there was a name for those bright blue açaí bowls you’ve seen on your feed or for that blue juice at your local smoothie joint, but this colorful powder is changing the food scene everywhere. (An easy way to get in on the magic are these Blue Majik lattes, which are great for when you want to switch it up from your go-to matcha green tea latte.)
So, what is Blue Majik, exactly?
First, Blue Majik is used as a common noun. But it’s actually a branded powder product that is claimed to be a unique spirulina extract. “Spirulina is blue-green bacteria sometimes called ‘blue-green algae,’ and a type of seaweed,” says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., author of The MIND Diet.
Blue Majik is pricey-$61 for 50 grams on Amazon-but the appeal is clear. “Naturally blue foods have a health halo: Think of blueberries or purple potatoes,” says Moon, which have science-backed nutrition bonus points. (Discover more different colored vegetables that pack a nutrition punch.)
But are there any health benefits behind that bright blue hue?
Should you try Blue Majik?
Because it’s derived from spirulina, which is packed with B vitamins, minerals, and a surprisingly nice dose of protein, there are some health benefits to the neon food trend. (BTW, did you know that the unicorn food trend also uses the blue powder?)
Plus, it gets its beautiful blue hue from C-phycocyanin, a protein that has been shown to have antioxidant qualities and to reduce inflammation, as shown in a 2016 study in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
It’s not all rainbows though. Moon says that since the blue-green algae is essentially a bacteria, it can upset some people’s stomachs and cause not-so-pleasant side effects such as “mild nausea, stomach upset, fatigue, and dizziness.” If you try Blue Majik and your body just isn’t loving the trend as much as the internet is, it’s definitely OK to skip out on this one. (Hey, you can always switch to a pitaya smoothie bowl instead.)
Learn how to eat Blue Majik.
You might think Blue Majik is only for smoothies and cold-pressed juices. But you can also use it in chia bowls, pasta dishes, sauces, and more. And you can always mix it into a spread such as light cream cheese and hop on that mermaid toast trend.
“Smoothies are a great way to mask the flavor” if you aren’t a seaweed girl, says Moon. “You could add a teaspoon to a green smoothie with spinach, pineapple, fresh ginger, and pomegranate juice,” she says. Or make a smoothie bowl and take a little extra time to scoop up the good stuff (but not before snapping a pic, duh).
Blue Majik chia seed pudding makes a quick breakfast that’s high in healthy fats and filling protein. Toss in some berries for antioxidants and fiber. Add it to oatmeal or Greek yogurt as another fun twist on a protein-packed morning staple.
But don’t forget to look beyond the glass or bowl. “Use the fishiness to your advantage, and add it to tomato sauces or pestos that will be used on fish,” says Moon. Or add pitaya powder and spirulina to sticky rice for one creative way to enjoy sushi that has nothing to do with raw fish.
You can use Blue Majik to make a sweeter sauce for pancakes, waffles, crêpes, and more. Add it to desserts such as a cheesecake or yogurt popsicles as it’ll blend well with the creamy, rich texture.
When all else fails, there’s always the toast trend to fall back on. Topping a slice with something sparkly, playful, and bright blue is always a fun way to kick basic bread up a notch.
- By By Isadora Baum
Now that golden milk has enjoyed its moment in the sun, many wellness influencers have moved on to another good-for-you beverage: blue algae lattes. Heralded by many as a superfood, spirulina has taken over cafe menus (remember when unicorn lattes were everywhere?) as the smoothie booster du jour. Other forms of algae, like chlorella or E3’s proprietary strain Blue Majik, are riding the wave of spirulina’s popularity.
But just as doctors were singing its praises, the buzzy ingredient was making headlines for another reason: Algae was called out as the reason why people became violently ill after eating Soylent bars. Um, yikes.
So what’s the deal—is it safe to sip your oh-so-Instagrammable blue latte with impunity? To find out, I tapped Global Healing Center founder Edward Group, DC and NP, who spent five years researching and studying various types of algae.
Here, Dr. Group offers up everything you need to know about spirulina—and how to safely add it to your diet.
Photo: Stocksy/Tatjana Ristanic
Why spirulina is trending right now
According to Dr. Group, there are literally thousands of different types of algae, but three are by far the most popular: spirulina (the main ingredient in those strikingly blue lattes), AFA, and chlorella. First, the good news on The Big Three: “They all have very high concentrations of nutrients and vitamins, including protein, iron, potassium, zinc, calcium, and B vitamins.”
Also, according to Dr. Group, 60 percent of algae is made up of protein. Soy has a comparable amount, but a major reason a growing number of food manufacturers are favoring algae is that all those added nutrients come with the protein. It’s like buying a pair of leggings, and finding out at checkout that you get a sports bra and tank for free.
Spirulina, AFA, and chlorella also serve as a magnet for toxins in the body—and they do an excellent job of flushing them out. Clearly algae is full of health benefits.
Photo: Stocksy/Nadine Greeff
The benefits of spirulina
Spirulina is trending for a reason—it really can do a lot of good for the body. The benefits spirulina include:
1. Being a powerhouse of nutrients including vitamins B1, 2, and 3, iron, magnesium, iron, and potassium: Studies show it really is one of the most nutrient-dense foods there is, qualifying it for full-blown superfood status. But scientific research also says that not all spirulina has the same amount of benefits; some spirulina sources are better than others.
2. Assisting the body in flushing out toxins, including heavy metals: Spirulina is such a powerful detoxifier that it’s sometimes used as a natural water filter, keeping out lead, mercury, and other seriously harmful toxins. The reason why it works so well is because it contains proteins and peptides that are particularly good at binding to the toxins and excreting them out of the body. That way, they aren’t being absorbed into your bloodstream and working their way into your system.
3. Boosts the immune system: You know how filling your room with houseplants can help you breath better? Plants aren’t the only green that have that effect—this vibrantly hued algae can as well. Spirulina contains a compound called phycocyanin, an antioxidant that fights off anything that could cause damage to your cells. If you feel a cold coming on—or everyone around you seems to be sick—it can’t hurt to work some extra spirulina into your diet to give your immune cells that added layer of protection.
4. Lowers blood pressure: That antioxidant effect works in favor for blood pressure, too, by helping increase blood flow. Spirulina increases the production of nitric oxide, a gas molecule that helps widen blood vessels. That way, blood flows more easily and the heart doesn’t have to work as hard.
5. Supports weight loss: First off, even though spirulina is full of nutrients, it only has 20 calories per tablespoon. It also contains an amino acid called l-phenylalanine, which has been linked to suppressing appetite.
6. Increases endurance for athletes: Are spirulina protein bars the next big thing? Maybe they should be. Studies show that taking it on a regular basis can up athletes’ endurance. Why? You better believe better blood flow is part of it. Think how hard your heart has to work when you’re trying to climb that Peloton leaderboard. Any boost in the blood flow department is going to help endurance when you need it the most.
7. Muscle strength: More of a CrossFit junkie? There’s some benefits for you, too. Studies have shown that athletes who take spirulina on a regular basis don’t get tired as easily when lifting weights as people who don’t take it. This, again, comes down to better blood flow. But reaping the rewards of all the nutrients—perhaps most notably the protein in this case—is a contributing factor as well.
8. Fights cancer: Yep, it’s that powerful. Studies have linked spirulina to boosting the immune system enough to fight off cancerous cells—oral cancer cells in particular. In one study, people who took spirulina every day had 45 percent fewer lesions the following year than those who didn’t.
9. Prevents reoccurring yeast infections: We’re going there. It turns out the little green giant can help balance vaginal bacteria. Just like how spirulina is a magnet for toxins like heavy metals, it also attracts candida cells and can flush them out of the body. And it isn’t just bringing balance down below; the same course of action can happen in your gut, too, to help bring balance there as well.
10. Helps fight allergies: If pollen, dog hair, grass, or other environmental factors are putting your allergies into overdrive, spirulina can jump into action, fighting ’em off. The recommended dosage: two grams a day to keep your eyes clear and nose from running. Who needs OTCs when you can go all-natural?
But not not all spirulina on the marketplace is worth shelling out for. Dr. Group offers up a big buyer’s beware…
Beware of shady spirulina
“ tested spirulina, AFA, and chlorella from all over the world and found that the majority of them were contaminated with different types of metals such as arsenic, aluminum, mercury, or lead,” Dr. Group reveals.
Why the scary levels of contamination? Blame the manufacturers. “A lot of companies use fillers, whether they’re selling the spirulina in capsules or using it as a food ingredient—like a flour; it’s not the spirulina itself that’s toxic, but what it’s being mixed with,” Dr. Group explains. “When you start mixing it with genetically modified maltodextrin, soy protein isolates, or other compounds, a lot of times that can cause contamination.”
Considering one of the core ingredients in those Soylent bars—besides algae flour—is soy isolate, it sounds like he may be onto something.
Despite the contamination risks, Dr. Group notes that “algae is one of the world’s most nutrient-dense foods—I would never want to deter someone from taking it.” The key is paying close attention to the source.
How to pick a safe spirulina
To make sure the smoothie booster is clean and pure, our expert advises sticking with companies that are organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free—which will limit cross-contamination a lot.
He also says to check out brands’ websites to see if they call out where their spirulina is sourced from and whether any testing has been done to verify that it’s clean. If they’re not touting that information, be wary. Because spirulina is so trendy right now, some people are using it to get rich quick, buying the cheapest spirulina possible (even if it’s from a shady supplier) and selling it at a premium price. Not everyone tests for toxicity—and those are the suppliers you need to be wary of.
And if you’re eating out? Your server should be knowledgable about what’s being served. If he or she can’t speak intelligently about it, buying premium goods might not be a priority for the cafe. This may be one instance where fully becoming a Portlandia character and knowing as much as you can about the path from ocean to table is worth the effort (and the awkwardness).
Originally posted March 29, 2017. Updated July 6, 2018.
While you’re adding more superfoods to your diet, you definitely don’t want to leave out the seven on this list. And while it won’t make you sick, chia seeds (that other buzzy ingredient) might be the cause of your bloating.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Pixy Stix. You know, those little candy straws filled with basically pure sugar dyed in a bunch of fun colors. I’m getting a sugar high just thinking about them…
So when I saw a supplement called Blue Majik that looks exactly like blue Pixy Stix (and turns everything it touches blue, too), I automatically thought it was some new kind of candy I had to try. For purely nostalgic reasons, of course.
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I love a smoothie bowl on a hot summer day 🌞💙🌱 #bluemajik #smoothiebowl #vegan #plantbased
A post shared by PAULINA 🌱 (@pabstlina) on Jul 1, 2018 at 7:35am PDT
Well, unlike Pixy Stix, it turns out that Blue Majik is actually supposed to be good for you—like, immune-boosting, superfood status good for you. And the formerly niche health food has gone mainstream enough that Juice Press even recently unveiled a new Blue Magic Smoothie.
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#JUICEPRESS BLUE MAGIC – this smoothie heals, energizes, detoxifies – and is packed with nutrient-dense superfoods like maca, spirulina extract and plant-protein #regram JP founder @marcusantebi
A post shared by JUICE PRESS (@juicepress) on Jun 27, 2018 at 5:12am PDT
If you’re not familiar with Blue Majik, there are a few things you need to know about it.
What is ‘Blue Majik?’
E3Live Blue Majik Powder amazon.com $38.00
Blue Majik is a proprietary extract of spirulina, a freshwater algae, from a company called E3 Live. The blue pigment comes from photosynthetic compounds in the algae, according to E3 Live’s website. Blue Majik is sold as a supplement in pill or powder form that you can mix into your drinks and smoothies (and at $62 per 50 grams of powder, it’s pretty pricey).
As far as nutrition goes, here’s what’s listed on the back of a bottle of Blue Majik powder for a one-gram serving:
- Calories: 5
- Sodium: 10 mg
No other information (carbs, protein, etc.) is listed, although the label does say that it contains about 2 percent of your recommended daily intake of calcium and over 100 percent of your RDA of vitamin B12.
Wait, so what’s the diff between Blue Majik and spirulina?
Blue Majik is an extract of spirulina’s pigment, phycocyanin. The spirulina powder that’s sold in stores is made from the whole plant (which again, is a type of algae).
Nutritionally, spirulina itself is high in protein while being low in calories. Here’s the full nutritional breakdown, per two-tablespoon serving:
- Calories: 41
- Fat: 1 g (0.4 g sat)
- Protein: 8 g
- Carbohydrates: 3 g
- Fiber: 0.5 g
- Sugar: 0.4 g
- Sodium: 147 mg
It appears that the extract of spirulina (ya know, Blue Majik), has fewer calories and sodium than the complete plant, but may be lacking in the protein department by comparison.
And with powdered spirulina, you’ll also get a whopping 24 percent of your daily recommended intake of iron (more than spinach!), 12 percent of your daily recommended intake of potassium, just under 10 percent of your daily recommended intake of magnesium, and a small amount of calcium in each two-tablespoon serving. Spirulina also contains nutrients like B vitamins, and it’s rich in immune-boosting chlorophyll, says Christy Brissette, R.D., president of 80 Twenty Nutrition.
So, what are the benefits of Blue Majik?
The E3 Live website says that the Blue Majik supplement can “relieve discomfort” as well as support your joints, increase your energy and endurance, and give you antioxidant support.
Those are some pretty big promises, but there might be something to them, especially the antioxidant claims, says Brissette. “Some of the compounds in spirulina could also promote heart health by helping lower cholesterol and triglycerides,” she says.
A 2016 review showed evidence that the phycocyanin pigment from spirulina (the stuff that Blue Majik is made of, remember?) has some immune-boosting, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory powers. However, the review also concluded that further study is needed.
Brissette agrees, saying there isn’t much research out there to back up all these claims. So…the jury’s still out on the hype.
How do you use this stuff (and what the heck does blue-green algae taste like)?
Let’s get this out there right now: The taste of Blue Majik is “kinda funky,” Brissette says, adding that “it’s a bit like seaweed but with more sulfur.” That’s why it’s good to mix it into smoothies with a lot of fruit to help mask any overpowering flavors.
Again, you can buy Blue Majik as capsules, tablets, or powder, and it’s also an ingredient in some types of kombucha, juices, and in raw brownies and energy bites at raw food restaurants, Brissette says. And, given that it’s so freaking pretty, it looks awesome in smoothies and smoothie bowls.
Keep this in mind, though: You don’t want to cook this stuff. Heating it up will destroy some of the enzymes that could make it beneficial, Brissette says.
Should I try this?
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before taking Blue Majik. Ditto if you have an autoimmune disease or are on immune-suppressing medications, Brissette says. You should avoid Blue Majik and spirulina if you have phenylketonuria, a genetic disorder where your body can’t process an amino acid called phenylalanine that’s present in spirulina and spirulina-derived products, says Brissette.
If you do decide to try it, Brissette recommends making sure it’s organic and checking where it’s sourced from (spirulina grown in the U.S. or Europe is generally going to be cleaner and lower in contaminants than if it’s grown in India or China, she says). Spirulina (and Blue Majik by association) has been known to cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in some people, and can even make anxiety and insomnia worse. “Don’t take it at night just in case,” Brissette says.
Ultimately, Blue Majik is “fun to try” but you don’t need it to be healthy. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and getting your antioxidants from blueberries can pretty much do the same thing, Brissette points out.
Korin Miller Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more.
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No. To my mind, spirulina and other blue-green algae supplements are unsafe. For years, I have been warning against consuming them. My main concern is the neurotoxins that spirulina and related organisms may contain.
The possible connection between one compound and a fatal nervous system disorder (ALS-PDC) with the combined features of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and ALS, emerged from a study of Chamorro villagers in Guam. Researchers identified the responsible neurotoxin – BMAA (β-methylamino-L-alanine) – in the cycad seeds the Chamorros use to make flour for a kind of tortilla. BMAA is produced by blue-green algae, including those species that live in the roots of cycad plants on Guam, making their seeds toxic.
Animal studies have shown that monkeys fed fruit to which BMAA was added developed brain changes – neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid deposits – nearly identical to those found in the brain tissue of Chamorros who died from the ALS-PDC. Notably, except for those who have chosen to live with the Chamorros, other inhabitants of Guam have not developed it. Aging is the major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease worldwide. The causes of ALS and Parkinson’s disease are unknown, but it is possible that environmental toxicity is a factor, including, in some cases, BMAA exposure.
Research has also shown that BMAA can accumulate in fish and shellfish in South Florida and other areas where algae blooms occur, raising the possibility that it can enter the human food chain in many places with potentially serious health consequences.
We’ve known for years that some blue-green algae contain another group of toxins, microcystins, at levels considered unsafe. Microcystins accumulate in the liver, where they can cause irreversible damage, especially in children who have been exposed to high levels. A 2011 German study that analyzed 13 commercially distributed algae products found harmful toxins in all of them. What’s more, spirulina growing in waters with high concentrations of mercury and lead absorbs these heavy metals. In addition to liver damage, contaminated spirulina can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, rapid heartbeat, shock and death.
Spirulina is widely marketed as a “superfood” and protein source, available commercially in capsules, tablets, and powder, as well as in some foods (energy bars) and smoothies. It is promoted as a preventive or treatment for a wide range of health problems: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, and more. However, the science addressing its nutritional benefits is scant at best. Some laboratory and animal studies have indicated that spirulina potentially has antiviral and anticancer effects, boosts the immune system and protects against allergic reactions, but we have no proof of any of this in humans. Be aware that because spirulina is not regulated by the FDA, there’s no way of knowing that products are free of contaminants. And protein from spirulina costs about 30 times as much per gram as protein from other sources.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Paul Alan Cox et al, “Dietary exposure to an environmental toxin triggers neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid deposits in the brain.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B, January 20, 2016. rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1823/20152397
It’s blue-green, absurdly healthy but often overlooked or misunderstood. Spirulina may not be from Pandora, but it grows in our version of that magical moon, Hawaii, along with other exotic locations around the globe.
This blue-green algae is a freshwater plant that is now one of the most researched and, alongside its cousin chlorella, most talked about superfoods today. Grown around the world from Mexico to Africa to even Hawaii, spirulina is renowned for its intense flavor and even more powerful nutrition profile.
While you may have only seen it as an ingredient in your green superfood beverages, energy bars and natural supplements, the health benefits of spirulina are so profound that taken on a daily basis they could help restore and revitalize your health. To date, there are over 1,800 peer-reviewed scientific articles evaluating its health benefits. Plus, thanks to its impressive nutrient profile, aid programs around the globe have even started popping up to set up spirulina production in areas struggling with malnutrition.
So what exactly is this exotic ingredient and how can it impact your health? Let’s take a closer look at spirulina, plus why you may want to consider adding it to your routine.
What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a type of blue-green microalgae that is able to grow in both fresh and salt water and is consumed by humans and other animals. There are two species of the spirulina plant, including Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima. Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima are cultivated worldwide and used both as a dietary supplement (in tablet, flake and powder form) and even whole food — and even for livestock and fish feed.
So what is spirulina good for? There are tons of spirulina reviews out there, claiming that this amazing algae can do everything from boost metabolism to stabilize blood sugar and prevent heart disease.
Research continues to uncover more and more potential benefits of spirulina, and studies have shown that adding spirulina to your routine could help detox your body, boost energy levels and even enhance brain function.
Not everyone can get their hands on the optimal Hawaiian variety, but fortunately, spirulina that’s standardly produced includes very significant health benefits for people who regularly consume it. By regularly, I strongly recommend that you taking spirulina daily for the following reasons.
1. Detoxes Heavy Metals (Especially Arsenic)
Affecting people all over the globe, chronic arsenic toxicity is a problem. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. is one of the countries affected by inorganic arsenic that is naturally present at high levels.
Arsenic toxicity is an even bigger problem in the Far East. In the words of Bangladeshi researchers, “Millions of people in Bangladesh, India, Taiwan and Chile are consuming a high concentration of arsenic through drinking water, and thousands of them have already developed chronic arsenic poisoning.”
In fact, up to 3 percent of the entire nation of Bangladesh showed clinical signs of arsenic poisoning alone. As Bangladeshi researchers pointed out, “there is no specific treatment” for arsenic poisoning, which is why they evaluated alternatives like blue-green algae.
After giving 24 patients affected by chronic arsenic poisoning spirulina extract (250 milligrams) plus zinc (2 milligrams) twice daily, they compared the results with 17 patients who took a placebo and found that the spirulina-zinc combination worked. Ultimately, the participants experienced a 47 percent decrease of arsenic in their body. Spirulina against arsenic? Spirulina wins! Make it part of your heavy metal detox.
2. Eliminates Candida
According to researchers, “Candida species belong to the normal microbiota of an individual’s mucosal oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract and vagina.” What does that mean? Well, without a healthy microflora balance in our body, we are simply much more susceptible to sickness and disease.
In fact, leaky gut syndrome and improper digestion are directly connected to microfloral imbalance. Not only is invasive candidiasis the leading cause of mycosis-related death in the U.S., candida overgrowth has become the hallmark sign for most autoimmune diseases today.
Because of our shift toward a diet rich in sugar and unnatural ingredients, antimicrobial resistance and ineffective antifungal drugs, we have seen a significant rise in yeast infections since the 1980s.
Thankfully, spirulina appears to be able to help. Several animal studies have shown that it’s an effective antimicrobial agent, particularly for candida.
Specifically, spirulina benefits have been shown to promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, which in turn inhibits candida from thriving. Additionally, the immune-strengthening properties of spirulina can help the body eliminate candida cells. Spirulina against candida? Spirulina wins!
3. Improves HIV/AIDS
Up until recently, epidemiologists have been puzzled trying to understand why people in Japan, Korea and Chad have relatively low HIV/AIDS rates. One possible explanation, revealed in a 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Phycology, may be the amount of algae that people in these areas regularly consume!
When researchers took 11 HIV patients who have never taken antiretrovirals, they split the participants into three groups: one that was assigned to eat 5 grams of brown seaweed every day, one that was to eat 5 grams of spirulina, and one that ate a combination of both. After the three-month trial period was complete, two key findings were discovered:
- Absolutely no adverse effects were experienced from both seaweed varieties and the combination.
- CD4 cells (T-helper white blood cells that fight infection and are used to stage HIV) and HIV-1 viral load (another HIV biomarker) remained stable.
The results were so promising that one participant volunteered to continue the study for an additional 10 months, and this participant actually benefited from “clinically significant improvement in CD4 and decreased HIV viral load.” Therefore, spirulina deserves a place in natural HIV treatment.
4. Helps Prevent Cancer
According to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, “A number of animal and test tube studies suggest that spirulina increases production of antibodies, infection-fighting proteins, and other cells that improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic illnesses such as cancer.”
This doesn’t come as a surprise as more than 70 peer-reviewed articles have been published in the scientific literature evaluating spirulina’s ability to affect cancer cells.
In an article published this past April, Czech Republic scientists pointed out that, in addition to its ability to control blood cholesterol levels, “Spirulina is also rich in tetrapyrrolic compounds closely related to bilirubin molecule, a potent antioxidant and anti-proliferative agent.”
When tested on human pancreatic cells, these researchers discovered that, “Compared to untreated cells, experimental therapeutics significantly decreased proliferation of human pancreatic cancer cell lines in vitro in a dose-dependent manner.” Essentially, this proves that consuming spirulina appears to be a potential natural cancer treatment.
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
Phycocyanin is a pigment found in the spirulina that scientists have discovered possesses antihypertensive effects (it lowers blood pressure). Japanese researchers claim that this is because consuming the blue-green algae reverses endothelial dysfunction in metabolic syndrome.
This could be extremely promising for Americans because metabolic syndrome has rapidly become one of the main causes of preventable disease today, as it raises one’s risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
6. Reduces Cholesterol
Along those same lines, spirulina benefits have also been shown to prevent atherosclerosis and lower cholesterol levels.
A recent animal study published in The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology took rabbits, fed them a high-cholesterol diet (HCD) containing 0.5 percent cholesterol for four weeks, and then fed them a HCD with 1 percent or 5 percent spirulina for an additional eight weeks.
After the eight-week trial was complete, LDL levels decreased by 26 percent in the group eating 1 percent of spirulina and 41 percent in the group eating 5 percent spirulina, which heavily suggests that the more we eat, the more benefits we will receive! Serum triglycerides and total cholesterol were also significantly reduced.
7. Lowers Chance of Stroke
In the study above, researchers also discovered that the spirulina supplementation lowered intimal aorta surface by 33 percent to 48 percent, which suggests that it can prevent atherosclerosis and subsequent stroke.
It’s important to remember that this clinical trial was conducted on animals that were still eating a HCD, and it highlights that regular spirulina consumption may literally reverse some of the damage done by eating a poor diet. You can only imagine the heart health benefits that would be experienced in those individuals who have a balanced diet!
8. Boosts Energy
When you look at the chemical composition of spirulina, it’s no wonder that people who regularly consume it have an abundance of energy. Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends combining 1 teaspoon of spirulina powder with 12 ounces of lime juice and freezing the mixture in ice cube trays for a healthy boost.
According to Dr. Oz, spirulina and lime enhance energy performance because they unlock sugar from our cells and, when frozen, the cold from the ice boosts metabolic energy while giving our bodies a “wake-up call.”
It’s important to note that this has not been studied in clinical trials, although there are many anecdotal reports that spirulina may boost energy levels.
9. Alleviates Sinus Issues
Known as allergic rhinitis, spirulina benefits the body by reducing the inflammation that causes people to experience sinus problems, according to numerous studies. Compared to placebo trials, spirulina is effective at reducing itching, nasal discharge, nasal congestion and sneezing.
10. Offers Neuroprotection for Brain Disorders & Memory Boosting
In a 2012 study, a spirulina-enhanced diet given to rats provided neuroprotection in an α-synuclein model of Parkinson’s disease. This did not occur with the control diet. In a 2015 study, the effects of spirulina on memory dysfunction, oxidative stress damage and antioxidant enzyme activity were examined with mice. It was found that Spirulina platensis may “prevent the loss of memory possibly by lessening Aβ protein accumulation, reducing oxidative damage and mainly augmenting the catalase activity.”
While both studies are preliminary and involving animals, they hold promise for humans afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, other neurodegenerative diseases and those with memory problems.
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The major reason why many nutrition experts prefer spirulina to chlorella? Dietary spirulina is arguably the most nutrient-dense food on the planet. It’s why taking dietary spirulina supplements is essential to good health. Taken as an average of different spirulina species, just one ounce delivers the following nutrients:
- Calories: 81
- Protein: 39 grams
- Dietary fiber: 1 gram
- Sugars: 0.9 gram
- Total fat: 3 percent DV
- Saturated fat: 4 percent DV
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 230 milligrams
- Omega-6 fatty acids: 351 milligrams
- Copper: 85 percent DV
- Iron: 44 percent DV
- Manganese: 27 percent DV
- Magnesium: 14 percent DV
- Sodium: 12 percent DV
- Potassium: 11 percent DV
- Zinc: 4 percent DV
- Phosphorus: 3 percent DV
- Calcium: 3 percent DV
- Selenium: 3 percent DV
- Riboflavin: 60 percent DV
- Thiamin: 44 percent DV
- Niacin: 18 percent DV
- Pantothenic acid: 10 percent DV
- Vitamin K: 9 percent DV
- Vitamin E: 7 percent DV
- Folate: 7 percent DV
- Vitamin B6: 5 percent DV
- Vitamin C: 5 percent DV
- Vitamin A: 3 percent DV
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Products and Dosage Recommendations
A common question when first trying out this incredible ingredient is: how much spirulina should I take daily? Although there’s no standard spirulina dosage, most studies have found a beneficial effect when consuming 1–8 grams per day. For reference, one tablespoon of blue spirulina is about 7 grams.
Can you overdose on spirulina? Taking even large amounts of spirulina is unlike to cause serious harm, but it may result in digestive issues like nausea, diarrhea, bloating and cramps. Therefore, it’s best to start with a lower dosage and slowly work your way up to assess your tolerance.
When it comes to how to take spirulina, the options are endless. Spirulina capsules and spirulina tablets can be found at many health stores and pharmacies for a quick and convenient way to get in your daily dose. Organic spirulina powder is also available and can be easily combined with other superfoods to create a nutritious and delicious spirulina smoothie.
Should spirulina be taken on an empty stomach? There are lots of different recommendations out there for when and how you should take spirulina, but it’s likely to be equally beneficial however you decide to take it, whether that’s before, during or after your meals.
Risks and Side Effects
Many people wonder: is spirulina safe for kidneys? Or is spirulina bad for your liver? And if not, what are the side effects of spirulina?
Despite the multitude of spirulina health benefits, there are potential spirulina side effects to consider as well. In particular, there have been some published case reports of individuals who had autoimmune reactions after using spirulina. There is a theory that this may be caused by the activation of an inflammatory agent, TNF-alpha, which could be more significant in people predisposed to autoimmune disease.
However, other lab and research studies suggest that spirulina might suppress this inflammatory protein, so more research needs to be completed to evaluate the potential danger of spirulina for those with autoimmune disorders.
If you have an autoimmune condition, it’s a good idea to take this supplement under the supervision of your healthcare provider.
When considering where to buy spirulina, be sure to always purchase from a reputable retailer. It’s absolutely critical to make sure that the quality and purity of the spirulina that you consume is of the highest standards. Particularly, like anything that comes from the sea, be certain to only purchase blue-green algae that is free from contamination.
According to WebMD, contaminated spirulina can cause the following:
- Liver damage
- Stomach pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shock and even death
Also, some sources suggest that pregnant women and children should not consume algae. Contact your natural health care provider to confirm whether or not you should be using spirulina supplements.
Spirulina vs. Chlorella
Because they are both similar microalgae species, it’s easy to understand how scientists confused chlorella and spirulina back in the 1940s.
In spite of their stark differences, people commonly mistake one for the other even today. Here are the four main differences that are important to understand:
First of all, spirulina is a spiral-shaped, multi-celled plant with no true nucleus. It’s blue-green in hue and can grow up to 100 times the size of chlorella. Comparably, chlorella is a spherical-shaped single-celled microorganism with a nucleus and is solid green.
2. How It’s Grown
Second, the growing conditions differ considerably. Spirulina grows best in low-alkaline conditions — particularly, fresh water lakes, ponds and rivers. It also requires an abundance of sunshine and moderate temperatures.
Chlorella, on the other hand, grows in fresh water typically occupied by other organisms, which makes it more challenging to harvest.
Third, the ways in which both spirulina and chlorella can be eaten are also very different. Because of its hard, indigestible cellulose wall, for instance, chlorella requires mechanical processing to make it worthwhile for human consumption. Otherwise, the body won’t be able break down and metabolize its nutrients.
The process can be quite costly, which explains why chlorella is usually more expensive than spirulina. On the other hand, spirulina has a completely digestible cellulose wall and can be immediately consumed and digested with ease.
Finally, although both are considered superfoods, spirulina and chlorella differ in their nutritional content. Arguably the healthier of the two, spirulina contains more essential amino acids, iron, protein, B vitamins, and vitamins C, D and E.
With that said, chlorella still holds an abundance of health benefits. My personal go-to, however, is spirulina.
Believed to have been a staple for the Aztecs, recorded history dating to the Conquistadors confirms that spirulina cakes were regularly sold as far back as the 16th century. One of the most elaborate explanations we have from this time comes from Cortez in his book, “Conquest of Mexico:”
They make it into cakes like bricks, which they sell, not only in the market (of Tenochtitlan) but carry it to others outside the city, and far off. They eat this as we eat cheese, and it has rather a salty taste, which is delicious with chilmolli (a pungent sauce). They say that so many birds come to the lake for this food, that often in winter some parts are covered with them.”
Referred to as “Tecuitlatl,” spirulina was a primary source of protein for the Aztecs for several hundred years and Lake Texcoco remains an abundant fountainhead of this Superfood still today.
First mentioned by Dangeard in the 1940s, history tells us that Central Africans near Lake Chad have been cultivating spirulina since they first inhabited the region in the 9th century.
Referred to as “die,” an article was written in 1959 highlighting this fascinating food, yet researchers confused it with chlorella. It wasn’t until a Belgian Expedition in 1969, however, that scientists finally discovered the true value of spirulina.
Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica
As one of the most nutritious, concentrated whole foods known to humankind, Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica provides more nutrition gram per gram than any other spirulina on the market. Just one 3-gram serving, for instance, contains:
- 60 percent protein and an excellent source of vitamins A, K1, K2, B12 and iron, manganese and chromium
- A rich source of health-giving phytonutrients such as carotenoids, GLA, SOD and phycocyanin
- 2800 percent more beta-carotene than carrots
- 3900 percent more iron than spinach
- 600 percent more protein than tofu
- 280 percent more antioxidants than blueberries
- Spirulina, a blue-green algae grown in some of the most beautiful places in the world, has been well-researched for its many potential benefits.
- What is the benefit of spirulina? Some of the most significant health benefits include detoxing heavy metals, eliminating candida, fighting cancer and lowering blood pressure.
- Each serving contains a good amount of spirulina protein, plus important vitamins and minerals like copper, iron, riboflavin and thiamine.
- This algae has a rich history. Although there are several distinct differences between chlorella vs spirulina, the two are often confused.
- Spirulina may cause autoimmune reactions in some who are susceptible to autoimmunity. It’s also not recommended for pregnant women or children. Be cautious where you purchase spirulina, as it may be contaminated if not bought from a high-quality source, leading to additional spirulina side effects.
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