If you’ve done some work researching about the best superfoods that can help improve your health, you’ve undoubtedly come across all the bold claims about spirulina and all that it has to offer. And considering that spirulina is basically a type of green algae, it says something when many call it one of the most nutritious foods you will ever find on supermarket shelves. But then again, are all the things that you ready about spirulina really true or most of it is just marketing hype?
Spirulina: A Nutrient Dense Superfood
That last question is an important one; after all, if you truly want to embrace a healthier diet in order to do your body some favor after years of abuse, you need to know which “nutrition facts” are true and which ones is pure marketing ploy.
Take the following as an example; according to a website on the internet, spirulina has the following nutritional facts:
- 300% more calcium than whole milk
- 400% more protein than tofu
- 2200% more iron than spinach
- 4000% more beta carotene than carrots
If those facts were true, then indeed spirulina is a miracle food that one must have on their dining tables. Sadly, these are inflated numbers that are true in some respects, but actually are not telling the whole story. Often when you see these types of numbers, what the seller or website does not tell you is whether or not these are calculated per serving or per calorie or per gram. Therein lies the source of the misinformation.
What you need to know are the facts that are not sugarcoated for marketing purposes. From there, it’s easier to gleam the corresponding health benefits that you can take out of the nutritional facts. The nutrition facts about spirulina form the most important foundation over which all other discussions on health benefits can be done. Without it, you can’t really be sure about the information that you have.
This post is all about spirulina facts, specifically the nutritional content of spirulina as a food source. There are no marketing ploys, no salesman terms; everything that you will read here is for the simple purpose of informing the reader.
So let’s get started by first talking about serving sizes.
Establishing a Common Reference: The Serving Size
One of the first things nutritionists, dieticians and doctors teach us when we want to count calories in order to lose weight is to learn how to read the labels. A bag of potato chips may say it contains about “180 calories” but what it’s actually saying is that there are “180 calories in a serving” of that brand of chips. The next obvious question is: how many servings are there in a pack? If you’re munching on a jumbo pack that contains 6 servings and you ended up consuming the whole pack, you basically ate 180 x 6 or 1080 calories worth of potato chips, not 180 calories. There is a mighty big difference in those two numbers.
This idea applies to spirulina as a nutritional supplement or food source. Spirulina is often commonly sold as a powder or even in pelletized form. Each pellet is often about 10 grams in weight. A typical spirulina serving is also about 10 grams in weight. Spirulina may be extremely healthy and rich in nutrients but you can’t eat 300-grams of it like you do with a chicken leg, a slab of steak, or a cup of rice. The size of the serving limits the actual number of nutrients that you get out of spirulina.
This does not diminish its value but it establishes a very important point when talking about nutritional facts: you need to know the serving size when comparing nutritional information between different types of food.
For purposes of this article, all quoted nutritional facts in succeeding paragraphs are referenced to the equivalent of 100 grams of spirulina, about double the prescribed amount needed to mix one green smoothie.
The Nutritional Facts about Spirulina
Below is a chart containing all the nutritional information in a 100-gram serving of spirulina as reported by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
The tables are broken down into 4 sections each listing the general nutritional information, the lipid content, the vitamins and the mineral content of spirulina as referenced to the serving size already described.
In addition, spirulina also contains eight essential amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins in the body. These amino acids are essentially used to synthesize all the necessary protein tissues needed for the body to work effectively. The eight essential amino acids in spirulina include isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenlylalanine, threonine, tryptophane and valine. There are also 10 non-essential amino acids in spirulina including alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, proline, serine and tyrosine.
The Nutritional Value of Spirulina as a Superfood
Clearly, spirulina excels in three critical nutritional areas which helps establishes its importance as a superfood.
Spirulina has high protein content
More than 40% of spirulina is protein and the fact that it contains all 8 of the essential amino acids and 10 of the 12 non-essential ones make it one of the most complete food sources for protein. This becomes a particularly important fact if one hopes to cut down on their meat intake and are looking for ways to substitute the protein that will no longer be available because of the reduced meat intake.
Spirulina is rich in vitamins
Spirulina has excellent vitamin content particularly when it comes to thiamin and riboflavin. Our diets today often lack these vitamins and we try to make up for the deficiency by buying and drinking multivitamin supplements. In recent years, spirulina has seen increased usage in tablet form as a supplement, replacing many of the branded pills and tablets that we rely on for our daily vitamin and mineral needs.
Spirulina is one of the more complete food sources available
Of course, it does not have all the nutrients that we need daily but it has many of the more important ones. This also helps support the idea of drinking spirulina instead of purchasing vitamin and mineral supplements from your local pharmacy.
Incorporating Spirulina Into Your Daily Diet
First up, it is important to recognize that spirulina is not going to be the answer to all of your nutrient needs. That can only be achieved by embracing a balanced diet, one that is rich in vegetables, fruits, and other fresh and natural produce.
With that being said, adding spirulina into your diet is a great way to complement what you’re already eating. It essentially becomes your blanket of sorts, covering the nutrients that may be missing in the foods that you are eating.
So how can one do this effectively? There are some options.
Spirulina as a smoothie
If you’re a fan of wheatgrass or you’re keen on drinking smoothies and green shakes in general, then you already know how this works. You can juice fruits, green vegetables, and then add powdered spirulina into the mix. It’s a great morning power smoothie or a relaxing beverage after a very tiring day. And the best part of it is that it’s so easy to prepare, you actually can do it within a matter of minutes.
Spirulina as a supplement
Many sell spirulina in pellet or tablet form. Simply take it as you would any normal multivitamin pill. Take it in the morning before going to work or in the evening before going to sleep; it works just as well and is in fact better since it’s not of the synthetic and artificial variety.
Spirulina as an addition to salads
When sold, spirulina is often packaged in dry form like a pasty cake or in powdered form like a juice drink. For salads, it is best that you buy the pasty cake form. Before adding it to your salad, re-hydrate with water for about 2 minutes to give it some bulk and texture. Mix into your salads as if mixing in a vinaigrette or a salad dressing.
A Final Caution on Spirulina Nutrition
Spirulina isn’t cheap! This is due to two reasons: one, it needs to be cultivated and that takes time. Two, the commercial marketing of spirulina has inflated its price to near unfair levels. When taken together, spirulina can be very taxing on the wallet particularly if you don’t source out your purchases properly.
This is important because we all weigh nutrition and money together in order to get the right value of a food source. In some cases, spirulina can be so much more expensive than fruits and vegetables and using it defeats the purposes of economical nutrition. When this is the case, you are certainly better off buying fresh produce from the market and relying on those instead for your daily nutritional needs. Only when you find affordable spirulina can you consider using it as a supplement to your diet.
All things considered, there is tremendous nutritional value in spirulina if you know what you’re looking for. If you have the money, you should most definitely try it! If not, it pays to assess your situation so you can weight how you can optimize your budget towards a healthier diet without burning a massive hole in your wallet.
All of you who have used spirulina in the past, take a moment to tell us if you have seen any tangible changes in your health status, weight or your general well being.