August 29, 2016

nutrition spotlight - spirulina


This post is a spotlight on Spirulina, why it is nutritious, how it supports your body, and how it can elevate your wellness. I recently started using Spirulina more as I am healing from eye surgery. I have been increasing the nutrients I get every day to help my body heal and keep up my energy. Spirulina is one food I use daily. As I research and learn more about it, I am fascinated with how nutritious it is.



Spirulina is a blue-green algae. It is grown in warm water. Although I did just see you can get a kit to grow your own!  Spirulina contains amino acids, iron, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals. 


Spirulina Nutrition Facts

Spirulina contains trace amounts of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Some of the nutrients it contains in a significant amount are the following:

2 Tablespoons:
Protein - 8 grams
Omega 3 fatty acid - ~100 mg
B1 - ~ 22% of the recommended daily amount (RDA)
B2 - ~ 30% of the RDA
B3 - ~ 8% of the RDA
Vitamin E - ~ 4% RDA

Protein

Spirulina contains all the amino acids. In order for our bodies to work properly, we need to get all the amino acids of which there are 20.  Some of those amino acids our body can produce. However there are 9 essential amino acids that we must get from food, we cannot make them ourselves. Those amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Spirulina contains all these amino acids. The amounts that they contain are not large enough to supply you with all you need throughout the day, but it can be a supplement to everything else you are eating daily.


Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids, like essential amino acids, are fats that our bodies need but cannot produce themselves. Commonly they are referred to as Omega 6 and Omega 3. Most of the time, we consume plenty of Omega 6 fatty acids. You can find those essential fatty acids in eggs, poultry, nuts and grains. Omega 3, on the other hand, is harder to obtain from the diet.  Most people are lacking in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s can be found in fish oil, flax oil, flax seeds, seafood, walnuts and a few others, as well as spirulina.

The recommended daily amount of Omega 3 for an adult is about 500 mg. I tried to find an average amount of omega 3 fatty acids found in spirulina, but there was a lot of conflicting information. Even on google scholar and pubmed. So although there are omega-3s and consuming spirulina can contribute to your daily intake, I do not believe there is a high enough amount to rely only on to get in all your omega-3s.

Prebiotic

Our intestines have good bacteria - called probiotics - that work synergistically to help our bodies digest food and absorb the nutrients. Probiotics are often mentioned and commonly found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.

There are foods and substances however that these probiotics feed off of. These are called prebiotics. They are basically food for this good bacteria in your gut.

Spirulina is a PREbiotic. It helps repopulate your intestine with the good bacteria so that it can proliferate. By helping your body balance out the good bacteria, it can fight the bad bacteria - like a yeast overgrowth. 

Supporting Detox & your liver

Your liver is your main organ (and I would argue most important) for helping your body detox from all the chemicals it is exposed to daily. Spirulina supports your liver and it’s ability to detox all the chemicals we are exposed to daily. There are substances in spirulina, carotenoids and antioxidants, that protect the liver and provide antihepatotoxic effects - in other words, it is anti (against) Hepato (liver) toxic effects.  There have been many studies conducted that support this as well. 

Spirulina contains an antioxidant called zeaxanthin.  Zeaxanthin is a very important antioxidant that supports eye health. It is mostly located in the macula region of the retina. This antioxidant helps filter harmful blue wavelengths of light and helps maintain healthy eye cells.

It is estimated that we spend ~7 hours every day looking at a computer screen or smart phone screen. These screens emit blue wavelengths.

Most notably, the display screens of computers, electronic notebooks, smartphones and other digital devices emit significant amounts of blue light. The amount of HEV light these devices emit is only a fraction of that emitted by the sun. But the amount of time people spend using these devices and the proximity of these screens to the user's face have many eye doctors and other health care professionals concerned about possible long-term effects of blue light on eye health. http://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/blue-light.htm
Besides cutting down on the amount of time we are at the computer or looking at our phones, we can also support our eye health by consuming foods that help the health of ours eyes, like spirulina.

Allergies

Spirulina may also help those suffering with allergies. Studies have shown that spirulina significantly improved allergy symptoms such as nasal discharge, congestion and sneezing.

The effects of spirulina on allergic rhinitis

Cautions

So now that you want to run out and buy some spirulina right now to include it in your daily nutrition regimen, which one to buy. Because spirulina comes from the ocean, it could be contaminated with heavy metals and other pollution. You want to ensure you do your research and buy from reputable sources that test for those contaminates. Don't look for the cheapest one and don't be afraid to call the companies and ask where they source and what test they do to ensure their spirulina is clean. 

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