Spirulina has become incredibly popular as a potential superfood and way to improve health.
And, aside from the taste, spirulina truly is amazing.
It is an incredibly dense source of nutrients and a great way to get more of the healthy compounds you need, without taking in a lot of calories.
However, spirulina can also be challenging, partly because are so many different options on the market. So, which are the best spirulina brands if you want to maximize your health benefits?
That’s precisely what this post is going to look at.
But first, let’s consider why spirulina is worth it in the first place.
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What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a natural supplement that is touted as being incredibly healthy and loaded with vitamins and minerals. That idea isn’t all hype either.
Spirulina is produced from an organism that grows in both saltwater and freshwater. It is a type of blue-green algae, although it is technically considered to be cyanobacteria.
Algae is much like a plant in that it uses photosynthesis to produce energy from the sun. As a result, spirulina can be thought of as being similar to other plant-based supplements, such as Ceylon cinnamon supplements or Tongkat Ali.
But, the source and nature of spirulina also mean that it will contain different nutrients than most other plants. That aspect alone is a key reason to consider including it in your diet.
On a side note, there is also another similar supplement that you will see on the market, chlorella. This is another type of blue-green algae and as a result, the two are likely to have many of the same benefits.
However, the emphasis of this discussion is just on spirulina and the best spirulina brands, so I’m going to leave any conversation about chlorella to another day.
The Nutrients in Spirulina
Some of the key nutrients offered in spirulina include the following. Here, the % RDA is based on one tablespoon of dried spirulina (1):
- Copper (21% RDA)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) (15% RDA)
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) (11% RDA)
- Iron (11% RDA)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) (4% RDA)
At the same time, a 7-gram serving of spirulina powder has around 4 grams of protein and only comes to around 20 calories (2). There are also smaller quantities of other nutrients, including just about every nutrient we need, along with the essential amino acids (3).
The inclusion of amino acids makes this a particularly powerful source of protein. Now, you’re never going to get a large amount of protein from spirulina because of the serving size. Still, it is a good way to add to your protein intake.
The nutrients are a key reason why there is so much interest in spirulina. As a result, spirulina is an amazing addition to your diet, particularly when you compare it gram-for-gram with other foods or supplements.
The end result is that spirulina is incredibly nutritionally dense – perhaps more so than any other type of food on the planet.
Vitamin B12 in Spirulina
Spirulina is nutritionally dense but, despite many claims, it doesn’t actually act as a good source of vitamin B12.
Research suggests that spirulina does contain a form of vitamin B12 but this isn’t absorbable by humans (4). As a result, it would have no impact on health and you would need to find vitamin B12 elsewhere.
The nutritional profile of spirulina is certainly appealing and is likely to strongly contribute to health benefits.
One challenge is that there has not been a large amount of research into spirulina supplements, so we don’t fully know their implications for health. Furthermore, some of the research into spirulina has focused on the individual compounds only or has relied on animal and cellular models.
The end result is that we only have a partial picture of spirulina benefits.
Still, there is certainly some evidence and the nutritional profile alone is a reason to seriously consider spirulina.
Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
To start off with, spirulina has the potential to fight both inflammation and oxidation.
These two processes are part of the normal function of our bodies. However, they can often cause health issues, especially when there is too much inflammation or oxidation present (5).
For example, chronic inflammation is sometimes referred to as the ‘silent killer’ and may be responsible for the prevalence of many health conditions (6).
This includes diseases commonly associated with inflammation, such as arthritis and asthma (7,8), along with others that are not, such as some types of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease (9). The author Dr. David Williams offers more insight into the causes and effects of inflammation in the body.
At the same time, damage from oxidation can promote inflammation (10). As a result, finding natural ways to reduce inflammation and oxidation can be essential for health.
Spirulina is one such option.
In particular, spirulina contains the compound phycocyanin. This is an antioxidant and it is the main active compound in spirulina. Research also shows that it can fight oxidation and inflammation (11,12,13).
The antioxidant effect may also make spirulina relevant for improving endurance and muscle strength.
Indeed, two studies have found that spirulina supplementation can improve endurance and meant that it took longer for people to be fatigued (14,15). An additional study showed improved muscle strength from the supplementation, although it failed to find an impact on endurance (16)
Helps Improve Blood Chemistry
Blood chemistry is thought to play a significant role in health, particularly in relation to disease risk. This includes the levels of cholesterol in your blood, along with triglycerides and also blood sugar.
Keeping the various levels optimized can help to improve your health overall and potentially decrease disease risk.
Some of the research into spirulina suggests that it can do just that. This includes the following effects:
- Lowering total cholesterol
- Lowering LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol)
- Raising HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol)
- Lowering triglycerides
For example, one study found significant benefits with 2 grams of spirulina per day in patients with diabetes (17). A similar result was found for 1 gram of spirulina among people with high cholesterol levels (18).
At the same time, spirulina may prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized.
This is much more important than you may realize, as oxidation of cholesterol is a key component in disease development. In some cases, the process may even be more relevant than your cholesterol levels (21,22,23).
As a general rule, any antioxidants can help to reduce this effect.
Likewise, studies in animals indicate that spirulina could help improve blood sugar control (27,28,30). One study in humans supported this effect (31). However, that study was small and only lasted 2 months.
As a result, more evidence is needed to truly know the impact of spirulina on blood sugar.
May Lower Blood Pressure
Doing so can be another way to reduce the risk of disease development.
The mechanism behind this may be that spirulina can increase the production of nitric oxide, which then plays a role in the relaxation and dilation of blood vessels (34).
Could be Significant for Allergies
Many theories also suggest that spirulina works well as a way to fight allergies. Indeed, this is a key reason why people take the supplement and there is no shortage of people that advocate for this effect.
There hasn’t been extensive scientific research on this area but early studies do suggest that this outcome may occur (35).
One key study highlighted the connection between spirulina and allergies, showing that supplementation with 2 grams per day could reduce a range of symptoms, including sneezing, itching and nasal congestion (36).
Other Health Benefits
Spirulina is often promoted as a superfood and there are many other potential health benefits associated with it.
In most of these cases, much more evidence is needed before we can be certain of any effect. Indeed, some of these topics have only been the subject of one main study.
For example, one potential benefit is to help remove the heavy metal arsenic from the human body (37).
Spirulina may also help with a specific form of anemia, where the red blood cells are reduced (38).
Now, research into cancer is always tricky, as there are so many variables. At the same time, the potential to reduce tumor growth (or similar outcomes) is mostly irrelevant for the general population.
Even if such an impact is proven, spirulina would end up being used as part of cancer treatment, rather than on its own. For that matter, the chemical makeup of spirulina would be the emphasis, rather than simply supplementing the compound.
At the end of the day, spirulina acts as a nutrient dense supplement, one that is particularly powerful for fighting oxidation and inflammation. Those elements alone are likely to contribute to significant health benefits, even if the research hasn’t been done yet.
How to Take Spirulina
One of the biggest challenges with spirulina is the taste. Many people find that it basically tastes like pond water, which isn’t especially appealing. However, there are a few ways around this and the taste partly comes down to the form you pick.
- Spirulina powder
- Spirulina supplements
If you're using spirulina in a powder, you can simply mix the powder with water and take it straight – which some people do.
But, if you drink it that way, the taste truly is horrible. Many people cannot stomach it or hate every second of it.
How to Use Spirulina in Smoothies
The best alternative is to add spirulina powder to a healthy smoothie. For example, you might make a smoothie using protein powder, frozen fruit, honey, milk, bananas or similar ingredients. Minimalist Baker offers a powerful spirulina smoothie recipe to get you started.
Some other recipes include the following:
If you can’t stand the taste even then, or just don’t want to be drinking smoothies, you can also take spirulina in the form of a supplement. This masks the taste somewhat but it is still present.
For example, some reviewers do find that they get nauseous from the smell of the supplement.
It's particularly important to find high quality spirulina if you're taking it in supplement form. Still, there are many spirulina products to choose from.
The Best Way to Take Spirulina
So, which should you choose? The answer is simply whatever works.
You need to actually consume the spirulina to get the benefits - and the best solution for that will depend on you. My personal preference is a smoothie, as it lets you add in other powerful ingredients at the same time. But, it's certainly not the only option.
For people that are incredibly sensitive to the smell or taste of spirulina, there may simply not be a solution. However, for most, you would find that you get used to the flavor over time, especially if you are adding the powder into smoothies or taking it in tablet form.
Best Spirulina Brands
As with most products, there are many good options for spirulina and even more bad ones. This always makes it hard to figure out the best spirulina brands, especially if you’ve never tried the supplement before.
More than anything, it is important to focus on quality.
Because spirulina is grown in the water, you should be looking out for brands that are grown in areas where the water and the air are clean. Additionally, the best brands will be organic.
There are two particularly good options that stand out as the best spirulina brands.
The first of these is Zhzou Spirulina.
This brand has a strong emphasis on providing high-quality spirulina and also provides information about how it is produced and the system that is involved. As a result, it is a very reliable brand.
At the same time, the product tends to get high reviews, with many customers loving it.
It’s also worth noting that the brand produces powder and supplement forms of spirulina. So, you could go with whichever form that you preferred.
The other company that can be considered one of the best spirulina brands is Pure Hawaiian.
The product here is actually in the form of powder, although that isn’t obvious unless you look closely at the bottle.
Of the two best spirulina brands that I’ve mentioned, this one actually sells better and it is a larger container as well (16 oz, versus 6 oz for the Zhzou option). Indeed, the popularity of this particular brand seems to be connected to the combination of price and quality.
At the end of the day, spirulina is an amazing supplement, regardless of whether you take it in pill or in powder form. The nutrient density alone is likely to offer significant health benefits, especially if you happen to be low in any nutrients.
Additionally, the price is reasonable enough that you could simply try out the supplement and see whether it whether it works for you.
Now, there are probably many other examples of best spirulina brands on the market and you might have your own favorites. However, these two options are a great place to start and you can be sure that you’re getting high-quality spirulina for your health.
Have you tried spirulina? Did you find it beneficial?
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