Should we consume Spirulina Superfood as a part of remedial diet?

Spirulina has got a number of benefits, and the WHO has approved it as a healthy food but using it as a remedial diet is not totally accepted yet.

 

Spirulina, a biomass of blue green algae, is commonly found in water bodies such as ponds, lakes and rivers of Ukhrul, Moirang, Tamenglong, Thoubal among others in Manipur. Rich in nutrients, Spirulina is a single cell microalgae that are good for human consumption. It was said to be first found in the 16th century by the Aztecs at lake Texcoco, Mexico and now it is still harvested in Africa from the Chad Lake and stored in the form of dried cakes. It grows naturally in lakes, pond and salty water or oceans of subtropical areas.

Scientists placed it in the bacteria kingdom that is cyanobacteria phylum. At first, it was classified in the genus ‘Arthrospira’ but later moved into genus Spirulina.

What makes the superfood super?

Spirulina is packed with nutrient rich components of protein, calcium, iron, calories, vitamins and phytonutrients like–phycocyanine, antioxidants, carotenes, gamma linolenic acid, sulpholipids etc. The protein found in spirulina is a deep blue coloured pigment called phycocyanin. This pigment present in it helps improve our immunity and white blood cells or lymphocytes and prevent cancer diseases. The gamma linolenic acid in it helps prevent heart diseases, obesity, premenstrual stress and arthritis. One gram of spirulina equals to 150mg of phycocyanin. So, the quality of protein in it is better than that of cereals and pulses. Likewise, one gram spirulina has carotenoids equal to 1 kg vegetables and yellow fruits.

The composition of spray-dried spirulina per 100 gm is

Energy - 346 kcal

Carbohydrate – 16g

Protein – 65 to 71 g

Fat – 6.7g

Calcium – 658 g

Iron – 47.7 g

Beta Carotene – 3,20,000 micro gm

Tocopherol – 0.73 IU

Folic acid 176 IU

Why should we include spirulina in our diet?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), spirulina is a useful substance to be included in our diet as it helps in maintaining our blood pressure, weight gain, cholesterol level, mental stress and depressions and many more;

It is a great source of protein - The amount of protein contained in it is very high so it will be useful to the individuals suffering from malnutrition and vegetarian people. A single ounce of spirulina contains about 16gms of protein – that’s three times the quantity you will find in any meat. Protein contains in it helps repair and increase the growth of hair and tissues.

Being rich in calcium - It is good for the development of bones and teeth. Thus, helps prevent osteoporosis, arthritis and osteocalcin.

Anti-oxidant surplus - It is very rich in antioxidant and therefore can prevent fats from the oxidative damages. It is rich in anti-oxidant due to the presence of phycocyanin. Thus, it is good for the skin and also has an anti-inflammatory property due to the presence of omega 3 fatty acids. It contains four times more antioxidants than that of the blueberries.

It lowers the bad cholesterol - It can help trigger the good cholesterol and suppress the bad cholesterol.

Blood pressure - It helps maintain our normal blood pressure.

Purifies the blood - It can make anaemia free. Anaemia commonly occurs in the female group due to menstruation and pregnancy. Spirulina is rich in iron which helps increase the haemoglobin contained in our body.

Blood sugar level - It also helps in maintaining the blood sugar level.

Anti-depressant - It acts as an anti-depressant. It helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression, pain and gives mental clarity. This is due to the presence of tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps serotonin production. A decreased amount of serotonin level in the body leads to mental health issues.

Detoxifies our body - It is good for the liver as it detoxifies the impurities present in it. It counteracts with pollutants like mercury, lead, fluoride, arsenic etc. since it has an antitoxic property.

Good metabolism - Having a high metabolic activity helps become more energetic and thereby improves digestion and also helps burn calories adequately by aiding to weight loss.

Prevents risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Crohn's disease, colitis etc.

Reduce Allergic rhinitis – A person can be allergic to pets, pollens or dust and have a swelling nose. This reaction is known as allergic rhinitis. Sneezing, nasal congestion, running nose and itching are some common symptoms seen during allergy. This can be reduced with the consumption of spirulina.

Spirulina has got a number of benefits into it but one should consume it wisely. The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved it as a healthy food but using it as a remedial diet is not totally accepted yet. One should not take an excessive amount of it in order to gain extra nutritional benefits. A standard one to three grams or a dose of up to ten grams can be used and not more than that. It is advisable to check whether the product is from a trusted brand otherwise it will cause health problems due to contamination and cause nausea, insomnia, liver damage, vomiting, weakness, thirst, heartburn, shock or even death.  Avoid spirulina if one takes blood thinner, is autoimmune,  have blood clotting problems, pregnant, lactating, suffering from any other illness, allergic to seafoods or weeds etc. The best thing is to consult a medical practitioner before using it as a supplement.

Finally, being an excellent choice for preventing malnutrition, anaemia, mental problems, and diseases one should take into consideration the ill effects of using it unwisely. Always consult your family doctor, dietitian, nutritionist or a medical practitioner before taking a supplement or a diet. Spirulina is available in dried, freeze, powdered or tablet forms. It can be added into the food grains, drinks or be eaten directly as pills or tablets. Nowadays people cooperate it in cakes, pudding, cookies, smoothies, juices, ice creams etc.

‘We love superfoods because they are like the batmans of regular food.’

First Published:Oct. 31, 2020, 9:23 a.m.

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