Spirulina algae: properties, benefits

Spirulina algae is very rich in nutrients and is even given to astronauts during their missions and prescribed to athletes and vegans. Discover the benefits and properties of this multi-use micro-algae.

Spirulina (Arthrospira), in spite of what is believed, is not an alga but a cyanobacterium, a prokaryotic and photoautotrophic organism, with a green-blue color, in the shape of a spiral that lives in fresh waters.

It grows naturally in very few areas of the world as there must be unique characteristics such as high alkalinity (pH 11), constant temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees and high concentrations of mineral salts. In these rare areas, man has actually known it since ancient times. In Mexico, in the 16th century, the Aztecs collected it from Lake Texcoco while in Chad it has been consumed since the 9th century.

In recent years, spirulina has gained a lot of fame, also thanks to the appointments received by the UN (1974) and the WHO which, respectively, have defined it as “Food of the future” and “Best food of the 21st century”. More recently it was NASA that turned the spotlight on this micro-algae, inserting it into the astronauts’ diet. Thanks to its characteristics and properties, the cultivation of spirulina algae has been included in numerous worldwide projects, aimed at combating malnutrition in developing countries.

Spirulina: properties and nutritional values

The main feature of spirulina is the high content of proteins (almost 60%) and minerals (in particular potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium and iron ), as well as the good presence of vitamins, in particular vitamin C and B2. It is essential to underline that spirulina proteins are of high biological value, being a source of all 8 essential amino acids!

The main fat present in spirulina is palmitic acid (saturated fat), while among the essential fats there is a greater predominance of Omega-6 (linoleic acid) than Omega-3 (α-linolenic acid). The sodium content in spirulina is high, above one gram per 100g. For this reason, careful consumption is necessary in certain diets.

Spirulina is often said to be a source of vitamin B12, but that’s not entirely true. Instead, it contains a pseudovitamin B12, which is not active in our body! Let’s now see the table with the nutritional values ​​of the spirulina algae.

Nutritional values ​​(dry spirulina)For 100 grFor 1 tablespoon (7 g)
Waterfall4.68 g0.33 g
Power290 Kcal20 Kcal
Proteins57.47 g4.02 g
Fat7.72 g0.54 g
of which saturated 2.65 g0.19 g
Cholesterol0 mg0 mg
Carbohydrates23.9 g1.67 g
of which sugars3.1 g0.22 g
Fibers3.6 g0.3 g
Potassium1363 mg95 mg
Sodium 1048 mg73 mg
Magnesium195 mg14 mg
Soccer120 mg8 mg
Iron38.5 mg2 mg
C vitamin10.1 mg0.7 mg
Vitamin B2 3.67 mg0.26 mg

Spirulina: what is it for? Here are the health benefits

There are numerous properties of spirulina, which make it useful in various contexts. This food is considered one of the most complete because it contains many elements that the body needs: essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, which provide energy, tone and vitality. Let’s see in detail what spirulina is used for and what benefits its regular consumption brings.

Energizing and invigorating

Spirulina supplementation in high doses (6 g per day for 4 weeks) improves sports performance, fat oxidation and the concentration of glutathione (GSH), a powerful antioxidant essential in the economy of muscle health and in reducing the risk of injury.

Hypotensive action and reduction of body mass

Recent studies, have shown that a 3-month supplement of 2 g of spirulina has a hypotensive and body mass reduction effect in overweight and hypertensive patients. The hypotensive action of spirulina seems to be caused by the increase in the expression of nitric oxide synthase at the endothelial level which acts by dilating blood vessels and protecting against cardiovascular risk. The intake of spirulina by hypertensive people must however be carefully evaluated by the attending physician, due to the high sodium intake.

Protects the heart

Spirulina helps reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), blood pressure and triglycerides, while promoting the increase of good cholesterol (HDL), thus protecting us from heart disease.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action

Some studies have demonstrated the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of spirulina in vivo. In particular, supplementation with spirulina works by reducing the concentration of IL-6, the marker protein of cellular inflammation.

Aesthetic action

The benefits of spirulina also extend to the aesthetic sector. In particular, thanks to its antioxidant properties, spirulina is an ally in the health of skin, hair and nails and is used in the cosmetic field for the creation of anti-aging, anti-acne, anti-dandruff and regenerating treatments. Furthermore, we can consider the spirulina algae a real nourishment for dull and devitalized skin, it provides hydration and helps the skin to regain a normal hydrolipidic balance.

Fights malnutrition

A study showed that supplementation with spirulina for three months would work by improving various growth factors such as weight and height and increasing levels of iron, ferritin and hemoglobin. Also set up a program to provide spirulina to malnourished children. The impact of the program can be seen on the website which reported a 46% reduction in cases of malnutrition among children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Recent studies that need further confirmation, suggest that spirulina would also improve cognitive performance and boost the immune system, making it particularly useful in people with AIDS and HIV.

When to take spirulina? Here’s who it is for

With very few exceptions, spirulina supplementation is recommended for anyone interested in improving their health, thanks to the numerous beneficial effects it presents.

  • Vegetarians and Vegans: being an excellent source of vegetable proteins, spirulina cannot be missing from the diet of vegetarians and vegans who, due to their food choices, present a greater risk of running into a protein deficit;
  • Sportsmen, athletes and very active people: thanks to the invigorating action, the intake of spirulina is particularly recommended in those subjects who have a very active metabolism, who undergo important muscular efforts and, consequently, require rapid energy recovery. One of the very first athletes to use this extraordinary micro-algae was the Olympic champion, world record holder in athletics (’68 and ’72);
  • Iron deficiency: in case of anemia or in all those conditions (including physiological) that require a greater supply of iron such as pregnancy, the intake of spirulina is particularly useful, as this micro-alga has an excellent supply of this mineral (2.79 mg on 100 g);
  • Lack of vitamins and minerals: spirulina is an ally of healthy nutrition, useful for integrating vitamins and minerals which, in particular periods of the year, may be lacking or need to be implemented.

Spirulina: tips on how to use it

First of all, let’s see how much spirulina to take : to take advantage of all its benefits, the recommended daily dose is 5/7 grams. Spirulina powder can be added to many recipes and preparations: juices, extracts, desserts, fresh homemade pasta, baked goods but also in salads and sauces (sweet or savory).

For more practical people, who need a quick intake, it is advisable to take spirulina in tablets, drops or tablets or in powder to dissolve in a glass of water.

In addition to food use, it is possible to add micro-algae in the preparation of beauty masks, wraps or do-it-yourself face creams.

Spirulina: contraindications

If taken in the right doses (maximum 1 tablespoon per day, equal to 7 g), spirulina has no particular contraindications. It can be taken at any age and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, but it is still advisable to consult your doctor before use. Since spirulina is an important source of iron, it is not recommended for people suffering from hemochromatosis, a genetic disease characterized by the hyper-absorption of the microelement by the intestine, causing excessive accumulation in the body.

Like all micro-algae, spirulina can also be contaminated with harmful substances, possibly present in the water, such as cyanotoxins, bacteria and heavy metals (lead, arsenic and mercury).

Spirulina and thyroid

Spirulina is not a seaweed, but a freshwater micro-algae, so it does not contain iodine in its natural environment, if not in trace amounts. For this reason it is good to buy spirulina only from serious and certified companies (preferably Italian and organic so as to be able to maintain a direct line with the producers) that replicate these natural conditions and do not supply iodine in the culture medium. Spirulina is therefore safe for people suffering from thyroid pathologies but we recommend, in addition to the careful choice of the supplement, also the consultation by your doctor to evaluate possible interactions with the drugs you are taking.

Price and where to buy

Dried spirulina can be purchased in pharmacies, herbalists, supermarkets (mainly organic) and online, in the form of powder, tablets, tablets and drops. Thanks to the notoriety it has acquired, many companies have added it as an ingredient in several of their products; an example are pecorino with spirulina, baked goods with spirulina (wraps, crackers, biscuits..), bars with spirulina, pastas (dry or fresh) or even beer with spirulina.

The market price of this micro-algae is very variable and depends mainly on the quality of the ingredient itself. The cost per kilo for spirulina, 100% organic and certified pure, reaches around 500 USD.

It should be noted that it is easy to find very cheap spirulina, but it is essential to make sure that it is a quality product that otherwise does not guarantee any beneficial effect but even a potential harmful action.


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