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What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a popular dietary supplement derived from a species of blue-green algae. And it is quite unique, being not just a supplement, but also a very nutritious food source for both humans and animals. Spirulina was known to many ancient cultures which lived close to lakes, like the Aztecs who used them as food. In modern times, it has been considered as a potential candidate in the fight against poverty and malnutrition by none other than the WHO and the United Nations.
Basically it is a dried mass of the cyanobacterium Arthospira. They are a kind of bacteria that behave like plants, using photosynthesis to produce energy and release oxygen. They played a great role in creating the atmosphere as we see it today on earth. Though commonly called as blue-green algae, Arthospira are not true algae. They are cultivated across the globe and their dried processed powder is what we know as Spirulina.
Ever since its “rediscovery” by modern science in the 1950s, Spirulina has continued to hold sway over the medical and scientific community with its amazing nutritional benefits. Even in its raw form with no additives, Spirulina is rich in numerous essential nutrients like:
- Complete proteins make up 60-70% or Spirulina
- 8 essential amino acids
- 10 non essential amino acids
- Rich in iron, manganese, calcium and phosphorus
- B vitamins
- Healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids like GLA, DHA, and EPA
Things to Look For in a Good Spirulina Supplement
Spirulina is a whole food, meaning it undergoes as little processing as possible, with little or no additives before it becomes ready for consumption. The following factors have to be considered before choosing your brand of spirulina supplement:
- Area of Origin: The Arthospira cyanobacterium is a hardy organism capable of growing in even the most dangerous and toxic waters. In such conditions it has been known to absorb toxic chemicals and even heavy metals. So when you look at spirulina supplements, your number one concern has to be their area of origin. If they originate in places like Japan (nuclear contamination from Fukushima), China and India ( heavy metal contamination) or from any natural lakes anywhere (Heavy metals, pollution, biological contamination), you should ensure that they have been tested for these hazards.
- Mode of Cultivation: the safest is organic spirulina grown without fertilizers, in clean and non-toxic waters with pure strains of the cyanobacterium. Those grown if untested sea water or lakes can contain high levels of pollution and toxins. Fertilizers can and do cause environmental degradation and some are known carcinogens as well. Lake grown spirulina can be dangerous due to potential contamination by other toxic algae and microorganisms.
How to Take Spirulina
Spirulina is usually sold in dried powder form, or as pressed tablets or capsules. Each has its pros and cons. Pure Spirulina powder has an intense, earthy and marine flavor that some may find off-putting. The tablet can make it somewhat easier to palate and does not usually contain any added ingredients either. The capsule form is the easiest to swallow for those who find the taste, smell or flavor of the substance extremely discomfiting. But as a small trade-off, it usually has added gelatin for the capsule.
You can easily swallow the tablets with a glass of water. The powder can be mixed with a glass of water or juice and consumed. Some people might find juice to be better than water. Since it is a deep blue-green substance, it will change the color of your juice to bluish black. Drink a glass of water after consumption to avoid any potential staining of teeth.
The daily dosage can be anywhere from 2 to 3g, and maybe even more, since pure spirulina has limited to no toxicity. But consult your doctor in case you are taking any medication, or have underlying conditions like autoimmune disorders, iodine sensitivity or phenylketonuria. And though it is nutrient rich, it cannot be considered a complete replacement for your regular diet.
Note: We recommend speaking to a doctor before taking any supplements.
Top 10 Spirulina Products
1. Now Foods Certified Organic Spirulina
- Organic spirulina in powder form, available in a big 1lb/ 454g pack.
- The product has been certified organic by QAI.
- The supplement has been tested for heavy metals and contaminants
- The ingredient is sourced from an organic production facility in South India.
2. Dr. Mercola Spiru-Blue
- Pure organic spirulina with high quality Astanxanthin, in tablet form, in a pack of 120 tablets (daily dose of 4 tablets).
- The Spirulina is sourced from a pristine and non-polluted village in southern India.
- Certified free of chemical fertilizers and manures, Chilean nitrate and manures.
- It does not have any radioactive contaminants and it is certified as non-irradiated.
- The antioxidant Astanxanthin used in this supplement is the premium Zanthin brand.
- The organic spirulina has been cultivated using natural and herbal fertilizers and pure artesian groundwater free from toxins and heavy metals.
3. Triquetra Health Organic Spirulina Tablets
- This supplement contains 100% organic spirulina tablets with added Astanxanthin supplement, 120 tablets in a pack, enough for 30 days (4 tablets per day recommended)
- This product has 4 organic certifications from major bodies, like the USDA, Ecocert, OCIA and Naturland.
- It is 100% vegetarian and has 3rd party certification in the following fields: free of heavy metals, harmful organisms, irradiation, GMOs, chemicals, toxic solvents, binders and even soy and gelatin.
- Sourced from organic farms in the remote South Indian countryside.
- The manufacturer also has ISO certification for food safety, environment management and quality management.
4. Swanson Organic Spirulina
- Another supplement with a Spirulina-Astanxanthin combination, in tablet form, 120 tablets in a pack.
- The spirulina is sourced from Parry Nutraceuticals in South India, a well known organic spirulina producer.
- The Astanxanthin used is the highest quality grade, the same kind used in eye health medication.
- The supplement is certified vegetarian, organic, and GMO free and also non-irradiated.
5. Healthforce Spirulina Manna
- A 100% organic spirulina powder, the Manna brand is sourced from California, and available in 16oz packs.
- This is one of the few brands that source their spirulina from USA.
- Each pack contains 69 servings.
- It is also available in tablet form.
- It is pesticide free and processed using low temperatures to better preserve the natural nutrition profiles.
6. Source Naturals Organic Spirulina
- Pure spirulina in dried powder form, without any binders, quantity of 4oz or 113g.
- The powder is organic and certified by the USDA.
- Spirulina in this brand is also available in the form of 500mg tablet, 100 in a pack.
- Other than the USDA certification, details regarding the product are sparse from the manufacturer.
- But they are a reputed brand who has been around since 1982.
7. Doctor’s Best Spirulina
- 100% pure organic spirulina tablets, each pack contains 180 tablets, each weighing 500mg.
- The supplier is yet again Parry Nutraceuticals from South India, a major organic spirulina producer and supplier several prominent spirulina brands in the West.
- The product is certified organic and contains 100% vegan ingredients.
- It is gluten free and contains no GMOs.
8. Solaray Spirulina
- This is something slightly different. Organic spirulina is still the main ingredient, but with added Vitamin A for extra anti-oxidant effect. The supplement comes in tablet form, each tablet containing 410mg.
- One pack containing 100 tablets and recommended daily dosage is 3-4 tablets.
- The source of the organic spirulina is not clearly mentioned.
- The company has comprehensive in-house checks to certify their products free from GMO and chemicals.
9. GNC Superfoods Spirulina
- Spirulina powder in enclosed in gelatin capsules, with 100 capsules each weighing 500mg in each pack.
- Other mentioned ingredients include cellulose and dicalcium phosphate.
- The label does not mention the source of the Spirulina.
10. SoTru Organic Spirulina
- This is organic spirulina without any additives, in tablet form, with one pack lasting 1 month on recommended doses.
- The Spirulina is sourced from Hainan in China.
- According to the manufacturer, the production facility is in a SEZ with pollution free tropical region with pristine waters.
- The supplement contains no soy, gluten, dairy, sugar or any artificial ingredients.