Spirulina is an increasingly popular dietary supplement that can be used by us humans and our pets: I add it to my dog’s home cooked meals every day. It’s been used as a nutritious food for centuries – it is known that the Aztecs consumed it and more recently, NASA began using it as a dietary supplement for astronauts on space missions. So what’s the big deal? What are the health benefits of spirulina and how can you easily incorporate it into your diet?
What is spirulina?
Spirulina is a bacteria, commonly classified as an algae. It is a nutrient-dense organism that grows in both fresh and salt water. Some of the many advantages of this superfood include:
- a high protein content
- excellent levels of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and E
- a good source of copper and iron
- omega-6 and omega-3 fats
- good amounts of magnesium, calcium, zinc and potassium, plus a little bit of most other nutrients that we need
What are the health benefits of spirulina?
What does spirulina do for our bodies?
So, knowing that it’s full of nutrients and vitamins, what is spirulina good for in terms of our health? It
- can contribute to increased energy levels
- is an effective antioxidant
- it regulates blood sugar levels
- is good for allergy and rhinitis sufferers: it inhibits the release of histamine
- helps to lower cholesterol, and therefore, lower the risk of heart disease
- has anti-inflammatory properties
- may have anti-cancer properties
How to eat spirulina
Spirulina has a seaweed-like flavour which some people don’t like. If that’s true for you – and I have to admit that’s my case – you might prefer to take it in tablet form. However, I just don’t ‘do’ tablets. Being a healthy-eating vegetarian, I prefer to get all of my nutritional needs from eating actual food. I LOVE eating, and since it’s one of those things that can’t be avoided in life, I try to make it enjoyable.
How to cook with spirulina
So, if like me, you choose to buy the powder and add it to your diet, be warned that it is a very fine, green powder that changes the colour of any food it is added to, to a very dark green. For this reason, I find it easier to mix it in with other green food, such as spinach based dishes such as lasagna, risotto, or pici pasta. Jamie Oliver has an easy recipe for pici pasta – I just add a heaped teaspoon of spirulina to his recipe.
If you’re into avocado, (how could you NOT be?) try it in my guacamole recipe. Great for dips, or spread on a slice of toast, this is a great pick-me-up food.
When I lived in Argentina I regularly made buñuelos – lightly fried little balls of chard in a n eggy mix – and these are perfect for adding spirulina to. I hardly ever fry food, but I had a lot of chard in my allotment and chard produces 2 things for me which are begging to be fried: Buñuelos and chard stem fries.
You could (very reasonably) argue that frying food makes it less healthy, but I bump up the buñuelos with chopped nuts, seeds and herbs which should make up for it a bit. The same can’t be said of the fries. That’s straight-up, fatty meal of the week. Apart from which, while the buñuelos are perfect to add spirulina to, the fries are not.
If you’re a smoothie fan, try masking the spirulina taste by teaming it with sweet, fruit. Just remember that it will turn into a dark green smoothie!
Are there any side effects of taking spirulina?
Studies to date show that spirulina is a safe supplement. However, given that some sources of it are contaminated with other toxic elements, it is important to buy a reputable brand.
Who shouldn’t use spirulina?
Whilst being a healthy dietary addition for most of us, there are a few groups of people who SHOULD NOT consume spirulina.
Spirulina’s potential to stimulate the immune system means that sufferers of auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or multiple sclerosis should avoid using it.
Likewise, people with phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid spirulina given its phenylalanine amino acid content, which sufferers of (PKU) can’t metabolise.
Pregnant or breastfeeding mums should avoid it, due to the risks of contamination of other elements in it.
Spirulina for dogs
As I said earlier, my pooches enjoy the benefits of spirulina for their health too.
As well as all the goodness listed above, Dogs Naturally Magazine also mention that including spirulina in a dog’s diet could reduce its tendency to eat grass.
Article Spirulina in Clinical Practice: Evidence-Based Human Applications. NCBI.
Healthline. 10 Proven Benefits of Spirulina.
BBC. The Health Benefits of Spirulina
Push Doctor. Health Benefits of Spirulina
DNM. Sea Vegetables and Their Health Benefits for Dogs