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What is the one superfood that has been used by both the ancient Aztecs and NASA? The answer is Spirulina, the superfood whose popularity has endured for thousands of years.
Ancient Aztecs and Inca warriors reportedly used this amazing little plant to achieve their legendary endurance and strength.
NASA did research on using Spirulina as a food substitute for astronauts as far back as 1988 and had said that 1kg of Spirulina has the nutritional value of 1000kg of fruits and vegetables.
In 2003 the United Nations recommended the use of spirulina to combat malnutrition in developing nations.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a blue-green microalgae that can be found in nearly all freshwater lakes across the world, thriving in warm environments where there is a lot of sunlight. It is packed full of protein, 8 essential amino acids, 10 Non-Essential amino acids, beta-carotene, vitamin B-12, calcium, iron, phosphorus, etc. It has 51 to 71 percent protein which is higher than any other food source on the planet.
You can buy spirulina fresh or grow it yourself if you live in a warm climate, it is also popular in dried forms and many different supplements because it does not lose any health benefits when it is dried and crushed into supplements. This is due to the unique flash drying process used that locks in the nutrients during the preservation process.
There is a huge number of health benefits to spirulina, but here are just 10 to get you started.
1. Antioxidant Power
Spirulina has several powerful antioxidants that protect the body against the free radicals that build up in the body over time.
These free radicals are also known as toxins and can do a lot of damage to the body at a cellular level. Antioxidants like those contained in spirulina can rid the body of these dangerous toxins and help your body function like normal.
2. Decrease Allergic Reactions
No matter what you are allergic to, spirulina can help minimize the harmful effects that these responses have on your body by taking it every day. It helps because it blocks the release of histamines.Histamines are the chemicals that are released during an allergic reaction that causes the swelling, itching, and sneezing when you come into contact with things you are allergic to.
3. Heart Health
Spirulina has been proven to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels: A study, the results of which were published in 2013, tested spirulina on 52 adults with a median age of 47.
The subjects consumed 1 gram of spirulina per day for 12 weeks, at the end of the study blood samples were compared, and the results were that subjects’ Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol had dropped by 10.1% on average. LDL is the bad cholesterol which can cause blockages in your arteries.
4. Cancer Prevention
Spirulina contains some of the highest levels of beta-carotene of any food source. Unlike other foods, it contains alpha, beta, and gamma carotenes as well as yellow xanthophylls.
These compounds all work with the body to promote and protect the production of antioxidants, many of which are responsible for ridding the body of embryonic cancer cells. The natural version of these carotenes is significantly more effective than synthetic versions.
5. A source of extra Protein
Spirulina contains 51 – 71% protein and is very low in fat; it is a great way for people to get all the protein they would normally get from animal flesh without the additional fats and cholesterol.
This makes it especially important for vegetarians and vegans who don’t always get enough protein in their diets. Also, spirulina is more easily absorbed by the body compared to other sources of protein which means it will not add as much to your body weight.
6.Helps to manage type 2 diabetes
A study by Ewha Women’s University, South Korea, tested Spirulina on type 2 diabetes patients over a 12 week period: 37 patients were split into 2 random groups; a test group and a placebo group. The subjects were asked to keep to their regular diet and not to use any other dietary supplements. The study concluded that:
Spirulina is a promising agent as a functional food for diabetes management.
7. Increase Blood Cell Production
Spirulina contains high amounts of chlorophyll , which is one of the essential parts of red blood cells. It also contains iron which the body needs to create more red blood cells. Red blood cells are vital to your overall health as they deliver oxygen to cells and remove cellular waste. People who are lacking in red blood cells have anemia which causes feelings of weakness and excessive fatigue.
8. Weight loss
There are several ways in which spirulina can help you lose weight. First of all, it can be used as a replacement for meat because of its high concentration of protein and low amounts of calories.
These easily digestible proteins will also reduce hunger cravings as you will feel fuller for longer, and you will notice an energy boost that can help you get out there and exercise.
9. Improve Digestion
If you are like most people, you have had problems with your digestion. Most digestive problems can easily be corrected by balancing out the levels of good and bad bacteria. Spirulina can help with that because it contains chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll helps give the good bacteria a boost while it suppresses the harmful bacteria. It also helps keep the digestive system moving and increases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
10. Boost Your Immune System
In addition to its potent antioxidant properties boosting your immune system by repairing and preventing damage done to cells, spirulina also contains compounds that stimulate the body’s production of antibodies and cytokines. Both of these regulatory proteins are essential when your body is fighting off a disease.
You can certainly find all the vitamins and minerals that are in spirulina in other supplements created by vitamin companies. However, these companies have attempted to copy nature by creating synthetic versions of essential vitamins and minerals.
Studies have shown that these synthetic versions are not absorbed or used by the body nearly as well, which means a natural source like spirulina is much better for you and can be taken in smaller quantities for the same effect. Whether you choose to get it in its raw form or in a supplement, taking spirulina daily can help your body in a number of ways.
Reference: A randomized study to establish the effects of spirulina …(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20016733