What is Spirulina?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article

Spirulina is a blue-green algae which is used as a nutritional supplement in many regions of the world. Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are famous for thriving in very harsh conditions, and they often store large amounts of nutrients to sustain themselves when their environment is compromised. These stored nutrients can benefit people who consume spirulina, although studies seem to suggest that you would need to eat a rather large amount of this algae to get any benefits from it.

People in Mesoamerica have been using spirulina as a dietary supplement for centuries, as have inhabitants of some regions of Africa. This algae inhabits brackish lakes naturally, and they can also be easily cultivated to increase a yield of algae. Historically, people used this algae to dress their food and to supplement meager diets, and it continues to be used for this purpose in some developing nations. Health food fans eat it because they believe it is a valuable food supplement, consuming spirulina tablets, powders, and drinks.

Depending on the growing conditions, spirulina can be as much as 70% protein, and the protein is complete, rather than partial, as is the case with most proteins of plant origin. It also contains vitamins and nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B, magnesium, zinc, and beta carotene, among others. However, one must eat a significant serving of algae each day to really benefit from its nutritional value, rather than having a small sprinkle now and then.


Numerous claims are made about the miraculous abilities of this algae to treat a range of medical problems. The National Institutes of Health in the United States generally give a “C” grade to most of these health claims, meaning that there is “unclear scientific evidence” to support use of spirulina to treat things like viral infections, malnutrition, diabetes, high cholesterol, and eye disorders, among others. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that eating it is a bad thing, and most health food stores make it readily available in an assortment of forms for people who want it.

Pure spirulina has a slightly mossy flavor, and it can taste a bit marine, depending on how it is cultivated. Some people enjoy the flavor, along with the texture, which tends to be a bit clumpy. For people who aren't as into the flavor, smell, and texture, it is possible to find tablets and gelcaps, which allow people to ingest spirulina without tasting it.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 2

Jesus is the best answer to your question. Naturally, though. Various nuts and beans are usually high in protein content. You just have to be an avid label reader and researcher when you buy food. When we know what we are putting in our bodies, then we can know what to expect out of our bodies.

Post 1

I used to drink very heavily and have damaged my liver and now I quit drinking (hooray and had to) and my doctor has put me on a high protein diet. I read that Spirulina is high in protein and I take a supplement each morning, but my feet still swell. Can I take more than one a day without any health risks?

Any other advice on what to eat that is high in protein and will not put weight on? To make matters worse I shattered my ankle and cannot walk and have also quit smoking so I am a raging lunatic right now and I just want my life back! Please suggest anything that could assist me with my goals. Thanks for reading and have a blessed day.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?