Table of content
1Health Benefits of Spirulina
2Disadvantages of Spirulina
3Top 100 Spirulina Recipes
4About Spirulina
5Spirulina vs. Chlorella
6History of Spirulina
7Q&A About Spirulina
8Nutritional Information

1. Health Benefits of Spirulina

1. Spirulina is rich in vitamins and minerals.

High in Vitamin B1:

Vitamin B1 (known as thiamin) plays a key role in helping the body convert carbohydrates into energy.  Thiamin also assists in muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve signals.  One tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains 11% of the RDA of thiamin.

High in Vitamin B2:

Like all of the B vitamins, B2 (known as riboflavin) also helps the body produce energy from carbohydrates.  In addition, riboflavin promotes antioxidant protection and aids in iron metabolism.  Studies have also shown a connection between higher levels of B2 and cataract prevention.  One tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains 15% of the RDA of riboflavin.

What other vitamins are present in spirulina?

Spirulina contains B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folic acid), all essential vitamins for energy metabolism in the body. Vitamins C, E, and K are also present in spirulina and they act as valuable antioxidants.

Spirulina is an excellent source of iron.

Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, a protein in our red blood cells that is essential for oxygen transport throughout our bodies.  One tablespoon of spirulina contains 2.03 mg of iron.  That is 25% of the RDA of iron for adult males.

What other minerals are present in spirulina?

Spirulina is an excellent source of zinc, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: One tablespoon of dried spirulina contains a healthy assortment of essential vitamins     and minerals.

2. Disadvantages of Spirulina

1. Choose a reputable brand to avoid toxic contamination.

Know your sources!

Spirulina is safe in general, even in high dosages, provided it is harvested from non-contaminated ponds or other bodies of water.  Like any blue-green algae, it can accumulate toxins from a polluted environment, particularly heavy metals and microcystins.  Microcystins are toxins that have been linked to liver cancer. Contaminated algae is especially dangerous for children and can cause liver damage, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, weakness, thirst, rapid heartbeat, shock, and even death.  

Organic, trusted brands of spirulina can certify that their product is grown in safe conditions and is free of all toxins.

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Spirulina is a safe food supplement as long as it is cultivated in a toxic-free environment.

3. Top 100 Spirulina Recipes

Green pasta dumplings
Done in 1 hr 15 mins • 883.4 kcal

4. About Spirulina

What is spirulina?

Spirulina is a blue-green algae, or more specifically, a cyanobacteria.  Cyanobacteria obtain their energy through photosynthesis, converting light energy (usually from the sun) into chemical energy.  Cyanobacteria were an important evolutionary bridge between bacteria and the first plants on earth.

Spirulina has been on the planet for over 3 billion years and it still occurs naturally in tropical and sub-tropical lakes around the world.  Spirulina thrives in warm, mineral-rich waters that are too alkaline to support fish or other forms of microorganisms.  Spirulina (arthrospira) gets its name from the way its cells are organized in spiral-shaped cylindrical filaments.  

Spirulina’s history as a food source.

Spirulina is one of the rare bacteria that is edible, and it has served as a food source for humans for centuries.  In Africa, spirulina was harvested from Lake Chad and its surrounding lakes and ponds as long ago as the 9th century.  The Aztecs living near Lake Texcoco in 16th century Mexico called it Tecuitlatl, or “the stone's excrement”.  Like the Africans, they dried it and made it into cakes. For centuries, it remained a food that was cultivated locally.  Large-scale commercial production of Spirulina did not begin until the early 1970’s.

5. Spirulina vs. Chlorella

Spirulina has gained popularity as an ingredient in fresh green juices, but chlorella may not be so familiar. They are both derived from freshwater algae, and they are both rich in chlorophyll, the plant pigment that has been linked to cancer prevention, primarily because of its role in liver detoxification. The similarities stop there, however, with each superfood boasting its own distinctive benefits. With it’s dark blue-green color, spirulina is considered one of the best supplements around: It is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids, and is also a rich source of heart-healthy fatty acids and many essential vitamins and minerals, notably beta-carotene (it has 10 times the amount as carrots). Studies show that spirulina helps boost immunity, reduce allergic reactions, lower cholesterol and aid in weight loss. Deep green chlorella contains more chlorophyll than any other plant, making it the best option for detox diets (it’s primary claim to fame). While not as rich a source as spirulina, chlorella also contains abundant amounts of beta-carotene and other carotenoids as well as other vitamins and minerals, plant protein and healthy fats. Like spirulina, chlorella helps lower cholesterol; it also lowers blood pressure and supports hormonal functioning. Both can be blended into juices or smoothies, whisked into salad dressings or sprinkled over vegetables before roasting.   

6. History of Spirulina

From Local Origins to A Global Product

The world’s oldest food meets modern production methods.

Early Cultivation

Though spirulina has been on Earth for over 3 billion years, its use as a food source in previous centuries was limited to local areas where conditions allowed it to grow naturally.  In Africa, spirulina grows in the mineral-rich Lake Chad and its surrounding ponds. There, it has been a food source since at least the 9th century.  Local villagers dried the algae and made it into cakes, which they sold in the market.  Known as “Dihe” or “Die”, the cakes were stirred into broths.  Dihe are still made and eaten today.

Spirulina also featured in the diets of the Aztecs in 16th century Mexico.  According to an account of a soldier under the Spanish Conquistador Cortés, the Aztecs called it tecuitlatl, or “the stone's excrement”.  It was harvested from Lake Texcoco, and like African “dihe”, it was dried and made into cakes.

Scientific Discovery

Spirulina flew under the radar for the next 400 years.  As the population around Mexico City grew through the years, many lakes in the area were drained and spirulina fell out of the diet of most Mexicans.  In Africa, villagers around Lake Chad continued to make and eat dihe, but it remained a local food.  

In 1940, the French botanist Pierre Dangeard published a report on dihe in a little-known journal, noting that the blue-green algae of local lakes served as the main food for local flamingos.  Twenty-five years later, Jean Léonard, a botanist with a Belgian Trans-Saharan expedition, observed algal blooms in the area lakes and finally made the connection with the dried dihe cakes.  

By 1967, the International Association of Applied Microbiology declared spirulina a “wonderful future food source”.  Scientific analysis had revealed its rich nutritional value, and researchers were eager to gather more data about its possibilities as a source of protein.

7. Q&A About Spirulina

Is spirulina safe?

Spirulina is safe, provided it has been harvested from a non-contaminated source.  Reputable brands can verify the purity of their product.

Should people with any medical conditions avoid spirulina?

Spiriluna is not recommended for people with an autoimmune condition like lupus, MS, or rheumatoid arthritis, or those with PKU.  (See Disadvantages)

Does spirulina interact with any medications?

No contraindications have been found, but spirulina is not recommended for people taking anti-inflammatories or medications for blood clotting.

Is spirulina a good source of vitamin B12?

No.  Spirulina contains what is considered pseudovitamin B12.  It is biologically inactive in humans and provides no benefits.  

8. Nutritional Information

This is the nutritional information for one cup of spirulina (0.5 oz).

Calories 44g  
Calories from fat 10g  
Total Fat 1.2g 2%
     Saturated Fat 0.4g 2%
     Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0g  
     Monounsaturated Fat 0.0g  
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 157mg 7%
Total Carbs 3.6g 1%
     Dietary Fiber .5g 2%
     Sugar .5g  
Protein 8.6g  
Calcium 18mg  
Potassium 204.5mg  

9. Research

"Allergic Rhinitis." American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. ACAAI.  n.d. Web.

"Allergic Rhinitis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web.

"Antioxidants: In Depth." National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. NCCIH, 01 June 2010. Web.

"Blue-green Algae: MedlinePlus Supplements." Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web.

“Charter Treaty of IIMSAM.”  Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition. IIMSAM, 2014. Web.

"Cyanobacteria." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web.

"Essential Nutrients in the World's Healthiest Foods." The World's Healthiest Foods. The George Mateljan Foundation, n.d. Web