“Spirulina” sounds more like the name of a disease than like an incredibly healthful superfood, but it packs such a powerful nutritious punch that the United Nations formed a committee aimed at using it to fight malnutrition.
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Made from blue-green algae in a powdered or tablet form, spirulina provides a wealth of potential benefits, from giving you plenty of nutrients with few calories to fighting against free radicals, inflammation, and even cancer. Here are just a few of the many ways that taking a daily spirulina tablet can improve your health.
1. It’s A Nutritional Powerhouse
A single tablespoon of spirulina provides you with 11% of your recommended daily amount of iron and 8% of your recommended daily amount of protein, including all of the essential amino acids that your body doesn’t make naturally.
This makes it a spectacular non-animal source of iron and protein, helping vegetarians and vegans to get their dietary needs and letting omnivores cut down on their meat intake.
However, the benefits of spirulina don’t stop at its protein package. That same tablespoon of spirulina gives you more than 10% of the thiamin and riboflavin you need every day, and also provides trace amounts of potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Even spirulina’s fats are healthy. Spirulina is an excellent source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that helps with brain function, skin and hair growth, and bone and reproductive health.
2. It’s Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammation, And Anti-Aging
One of spirulina’s most powerful benefits is its antioxidant property. Antioxidants slow the growth of free radicals, the substances in your body that break down cells and DNA to make your body more vulnerable to diseases, inflammation,and the effects of aging.
Spirulina is a rich natural source of phyocyanin, an antioxidant that can slow down free radicals by as much as 83%.
3. It May Reduce Your Risk Of Oral Cancer
In general, cancer studies with spirulina are promising but inconclusive; rats who took spirulina supplements were significantly less likely to develop liver cancer than rats who did not, but these exciting results haven’t been tested on humans yet.
However, we know that spirulina can help people with one particular type of cancer: oral cancer. In a 1995 study, people who had precancerous lesions in their mouths were given either spirulina or a placebo. The lesions completely disappeared in nearly half of the patients who took spirulina, as opposed to only 7% of the patients who took the placebo.
4. It Lowers Your Bad Cholesterol Levels
The culprits in heart disease are two specific types of cholesterol: LDL and triglycerides. These cholesterol types clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Two separate studies, one of Korean patients with Type 2 diabetes and one of Greek patients with high cholesterol, have shown that taking spirulina supplements can significantly lower your levels of both of these “bad” types of cholesterol.
What’s more, the Greek study also looked at levels of HDL–the “good” cholesterol that actually helps to remove LDL from your arteries and found that spirulina doesn’t affect those levels at all.
Essentially, it takes away the bad cholesterol while leaving the good cholesterol alone, letting spirulina and HDL work together to make you healthier.
5. It Gives You Energy, Strength And Endurance
Spirulina doesn’t just make you feel better in the long run; it helps you to have more energy and endurance right now. In two separate studies, athletes were given either spirulina or a placebo before exercising.
In both studies, the athletes who took spirulina were able to run longer on a treadmill than the ones who did not, and in one of the studies, the athletes who took spirulina actually burned more fat than the ones who didn’t.
Energy, nutrition, weight loss, and a host of disease-fighting benefits. What’s not to love?