15 Feb

Spirulina: The King Of Superfoods

Spirulina could be called the “King of the Superfoods”. It has some of the most concentrated nutrients you can find per ounce than almost any other food on the planet. But before jumping on the Spirulina bandwagon, there are a few things you should know.

Spirulina grows naturally in a few alkaline lakes around the world and has been harvested for thousands of years. The Aztecs & Mayans harvested it from lakes in the Central and South American regions. It is still grown and harvested in the wild in Chad (Central Africa).

Spirulina is a cyanobacterium, which is subject to contamination and mutation. Spirulina, like bacteria, can mutate to a pathogen or toxic compound producing form in one generation cycle. Modern Spirulina farmers have to test batches with every harvest to ensure safety, whereas wild harvesting Spirulina is not tested and can be very dangerous.

The original commercialization of Spirulina started in Lake Tezcuco, Mexico, during the mid-1970’s. Unfortunately these products were often contaminated with heavy metals and bacteria due to agricultural runoff. This led to the emergence of American companies such as Cyanotech (the product is labled as Gandalf in Canada and Nutrex in the USA.) and Earthrise, two of the highest quality Spirulina companies in the world. These companies are situated in Hawaii (Cyanotech) and California (Earthrise) and are widely considered the gold standard of the Spirulina industry. It is important to note that Cyanotech and Earthrise are the only companies producing Spirulina in Hawaii and California.

 

The Nutrients Found In Spirulina:

* 1 tablespoon of Spirulina contains:

* 20 calories

* 1 gram of healthy fat

* 4 grams of highly absorbable protein

* 40 mg of calcium

* 14 mg of magnesium

* 2 mg of iron

* 95 mg of potassium

* 40 IU of Vitamin A

 

This Means By Comparable Weight Spirulina Has:

* 3900% more beta carotene than carrots

* 375% more protein than tofu

* 300% more calcium than bovine (cow’s) milk

* 2300% more iron than spinach

 

Potential Health Benefits Of Spirulina: 

Over 200 studies have been done on Spirulina demonstrating numerous health benefits:

*It contains strong synergistic antioxidants: Potent free radical scavenger, Pinero et al, 2001

*It protects the liver: Hepatoprotective (Liver), Vadiraja et al, 1998; Gorban et al, 2000

*It protects the kidneys: Protection against renal damage (kidney), Farooq et al 2005

*It protects the brain: Reduced ischemic brain damage & improved post-stroke locomotor activity, (Wang et al 2005)

*It is anti-viral: Inhibits penetration of virus into host cells, Hayashi et al 1996a. Antiviral properties against herpes simplex 1 and HIV-1, Hayashi et al 1996

*It stimulates the immune system: Potentially useful botanical or pharmaceutical to improve immune function, Pasco et al, 2006

*It is anti-inflammatory: Reduced age related brain degradation and reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines, (Gemma et al, 2002)

 

Julie Daniluk on CTV's The Social 2014

Click here to watch me talk about spirulina on CTV's The Social.

Choosing A Brand Of Spirulina:

When purchasing a spirulina supplement or a product that uses blue green algae, be sure to ask for the source of the spirulina. There are many products that have been tested by a 3rd party lab that reveal an unacceptable level of contaminants even when they are certified organic. Organic certification does not include testing for heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead or mercury. It also does not include testing for bacterial contamination. This is a serious issue as heavy metals accumulate in the body and some bacteria can make you very sick! Ask to see the 3rd party lab results of the product you are buying. Companies such as Cyanotech have these lab results listed right on their website.

Whichever brand you chose, be sure to ask to see the heavy metal levels on the product. If they exceed these numbers, do not use the product:

*Lead < 0.2 ppm

*Mercury < 0.025 ppm

*Cadmium < 0.2 ppm

*Arsenic < 0.5 ppm

Note: Due to the radiation contamination of the Pacific Ocean, it is now important that we start to ask all companies to provide the radiation levels found in their products.

 

Spirulina As A Vegan Vitamin B12 Source

Spirulina is an organism that is, in some ways, similar to bacteria that create B12 in the soil, but it's actually an evolutionary branch-off. It's called a micro-algae or blue-green algae. It's basically something that isn't bacteria but isn't algae, think of it as plant based bacteria. The same formation of B12 can take place in Spirulina as a B12 (culture) laboratory vat. The primary issue with Spirulina is that it's usually grown for protein, EFAs, and anti-oxidants (like chlorophyll, not for B12 production. This means that without cobalt explicitly added to the growth pond (which is usually not the case) another B12 'analog' is formed.

Some manufacturers claim human form B12 is in their Spirulina product. Herbert et al. [1984 and 1988] explained that the B12 measurement when checking spiraling shows total coronoids--that is, true B-12 plus analogues (forms of B-12 that are not metabolically active in the body)--and the analogues have the potential to block the absorption of true B-12 by occupying B-12 receptor sites. Not all Spirulina makes cobalamin because of a lack of useable cobalt. That's why you see vegan pages saying it's not a dependable source of Vitamin B12. They don't know (or don't have the resources) to look at every brand and source.

What are your thoughts on Spirulina? Do you have a favourite use for Spirulina? Leave me a comment below or share your favourite recipe.

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Comments  

# Paul Borst 2014-01-27 09:48
Hi Julie. Great post as always. I wanted to follow up not so much on the heavy metals but the quality control for the cross contamination of liver and nerve toxins from non-spirulina blue green algae in spiralina. Specifically, do you know if Cyanotech and Earthrise have quality control protocols in place to assure that cross contamination doesn't occur with non-spirulina blue green algae? I guess that is a question for them. Dr. Greger has posted the following last August that gives me cause for concern. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/infant-seizures-linked-to-mothers-spirulina-use/ And what about chlorella as a substitute for spiraling? How does the nutrition from chlorella compare with spiralina? Thanks Julie. Again, great post! Paul
# Julie Daniluk 2014-01-27 12:18
Hi Paul,

Thanks for writing in. I agree it is very important to be sure that cross contamination does not occur. From my conversations directly with Cyanotech, I feel confident that they have high quality controls to detect cross contamination. I do not work for the company so I can only go on what they have told me. I know the product makes me feel excellent and I have personally never had a problem unlike a couple of other brands.

I have relied on Spirulina in my own health protocol over the years so it was important for me to find the best products possible. I have already dealt with severe food poisoning that almost killed me and the last thing I need is to be compromised by a rogue bacteria!

Beyond the lab reports, the biggest thing I look for is the bright colour, sweet smell and sweet clean taste. If a products smells fishy or bad or is brownish-gray in colour, throw it away!

My biggest concern about any Spirulina is finding a source that has not been contaminated by radiation. If you have a suggestion of a company or brand, please let me know.

Cheers, Julie
# Stephanie Shaffer 2014-01-27 10:15
I've been using the health force brand. Do you know anything about them or have an opinion ?
# Julie Daniluk 2014-01-27 12:07
Hi Stephanie,

I have not had any experience with the Health Force brand. I would contact the company directly to ask questions about the quality.

Cheers, Julie
# Lisa ham 2014-01-27 11:47
Thanks for the info. It would great to have information on how to include spirulina in your food prep and how to use it. Thanks
# Julie Daniluk 2014-01-27 12:19
Hi Lisa,

I will see what I can do about posting a recipe!

Cheers, Julie
# Jill Whalen 2014-01-28 00:11
Do you manly use it in green smoothies? Also where is it available? Would places such as Traspder Joe's and WholeFoods have it?

Thanks!
# Julie Daniluk 2014-01-27 09:26
Hi Jill,

Thanks for writing in. You can find Spirulina in many locations including regular grocery stores with health food aisles. But do be careful what you buy. Cheap brands are often loaded with heavy metals.

I like to use it in Spirulina nut balls and smoothies. High quality Spirulina tastes clean and sweet so you should have to mask it with heavy flavours.

Cheers, Julie
# Sylvia 2014-01-30 00:24
I use Pure spirulina called pure Hawaiian Spirulina distributed by Nutrex Hawaii Inc. Website www.nutrex-hawaii.com. I have used this one for a while and like the taste. Have you heard of this company. I found very good research on this one. Thanks.
Sylvia
# Julie Daniluk 2014-01-30 11:51
Hello Sylvia,

Yes Nutrex Hawaii is apart of the Cyanotech corporation and are considered the gold standard in spirulina production.

Cheers, Julie
# Heidi 2014-02-02 22:36
Your answer above to Jill was "High quality Spirulina tastes clean and sweet so you should have to mask it with heavy flavours." Did you mean should NOT have to mask it? I'm confused....
Sounds like this is a product that would really help my fibromyalgia. Would you recommend it for that?
# Julie Daniluk 2014-02-04 09:50
Hi Heidi,

You are correct. I meant that spirulina should have such a sweet, clean taste that it does not need to be masked with a strong flavour. You can use it in smoothies and other raw recipes.

Fibromyalgia is a very complex condition that have many causes. You can add spirulina into your diet but this may not eliminate your symptoms. I would recommend a full work up with a holistic Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor to find the root cause of your condition.

Kind regards, Julie
# Michelle 2014-02-03 23:14
Thanks Julie

Really enjoyed this article , we have been taking spirulina for some time now but I will ask about the mercury etc content ... Did not know to ask this. So many thanks for that.

PS: Really enjoying your articles on here, it is so refreshing to know your information is honest and reliable. :) :)
# Julie Daniluk 2014-02-04 09:47
Thank you Michelle!

All the best to you.

Cheers, Julie
# Lynda 2014-02-04 16:13
Hi Julie,

What's your opinion of the Schinoussa brand of Sea Vegetables that contains Spirulina, Chlorella, and much more? It's a Canadian company. Do you trust it? Also, what are the benefits of a mixture of these greens, in a product such as Greens +, vs. Spirulina alone, or chlorella alone? Thanks!
# Julie Daniluk 2014-02-10 11:31
Hi Lynda,

I checked out their website but could not see where they source their raw ingredients from. If they are coming from China, I would be cautious. You might need to write to them to find out where their sources are from.

Cheers, Julie
# CB Danahy 2014-02-10 08:05
Is a product called Vega Chlorella part of the spirulina family?
# Julie Daniluk 2014-02-10 11:40
Spirulina and Cholorella are powerful superfoods that can be beneficial but they do differ physically. They are both types of micro-algae, but spirulina is a spiral-shaped, multi-celled plant with no true nucleus and chlorella is a spherical-shaped single-celled micro-organism with a nucleus. Spirulina can sometimes be up to 100-times larger than chlorella.

Chlorella is more difficult to process than spirulina, due to its indigestible cellulose wall. It requires processing before it can be made available for human consumption. It first has to undergo a complex process in order to mechanically break the cellulose wall. If the cellulose wall isn't broken, then the body won't be able to digest it. This process is not only complex, but it requires expensive equipment to perform. Therefore, the cost of the product is ultimately significantly higher.

Spirulina has a digestible cellulose wall, so it is immediately digested and absorbed when taken.

Cheers, Julie
# Lynda 2014-02-13 12:08
Julie,

Thanks for your great answers about spirulina and chlorella. To you health!
# Karen 2014-03-07 22:16
Does anyone on this thread have experience with the Prairie Naturals' spirulina products?
# Julie Daniluk 2014-03-08 11:52
Hi Karen,

I would suggest contacting the Prairie Naturals company directly to find out where they source their product. Contact info:

http://www.prairienaturals.ca/?page_id=14

Cheers, Julie
# Danielle 2014-04-16 20:49
Hello,

I use Earthrise, Spriulina Natural but I find I just do not care for the taste AT ALL! I have tried smoothies and even shots of spirulina with water and I still cannot take it! I end up forcing it down, not a very pleasant experience.

Any advice on a better way to consume the powder since I have a whole bottle of it?
# Jacqueline 2014-04-18 23:08
I have been making a morning smoothie with 1 TBS spirulina, a handful of spinach, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 - 1 banana, and 1 cup (or more) of brewed and cooled blueberry (or other fruit herbal) tea, along with stevia. I blend thoroughly and often make several portions and freeze them. I simply put the frozen smoothie out the night before, and it's defrosted and ready in the morning. I find the taste much more pleasant this way.
# Julie Daniluk 2014-09-02 14:26
Sounds great!

Cheers, Julie
# Todd 2014-09-01 23:33
I have purchased spirulina by the pound twice now, and the second bag has a stench the first did not have. It is a Chinese product packages by Starwest Botanicals and sold by VitaCost. I wonder what signs are you cautious of when using foreign supply? Is this alarming odor a deal-breaker?
# Julie Daniluk 2014-09-02 14:29
Hello Todd,

Odor is definitely a deal breaker! Spirulina should smell sweet. The offensive odor is a sign that another type of bacteria is growing in the product and this can make you sick. Please send the product back!

Cheers, Julie
# Marilyn 2014-10-19 16:22
Would you or are you able to give or recommend some brands of spirulina that you feel are good quality If so that would be great. Thxs
# Julie Daniluk 2014-10-19 19:01
Hi Marilyn,

Thanks for writing in. The 2 brands I mention above are the ones I feel are the highest quality.

~Cyanotech (the product is labled as Gandalf and is distributed by Flora)
~Earthrise

Cheers! Julie
# Sam 2015-06-15 08:06
Should I refrigerate it after opening?
# Julie Daniluk 2015-06-16 10:48
Hello Sam,

Yes, refrigerate. You can also freeze it if you have purchased a large amount.

Cheers, Julie
# Dianherbs 2015-12-12 12:37
Thanks for your information,

I like this article and your blog.

Thx dianherbs
# Julie Daniluk 2016-03-09 16:21
Thank you Diane!

Cheers, Julie
# Shelley 2016-03-08 18:52
I have learned a lot from your blog. Thanks for all your information!
# Julie Daniluk 2016-03-09 16:21
Great to hear Shelley!

Cheers, Julie
# Lil 2016-05-30 08:52
Hello! Love all the information you give! So sensible and clear! I have received over 1000 units of blood during my treatment for leukemia, remission now for several years but recently I've found out that due to all these transfusions, I have high (a low-high) iron levels, (ferretin?)... And still am dealing with long lasting effects of chemo- fatigue and cognitive issues... Would spirulina help the fatigue and fog/memory issues? Would the iron in it cause me to have higher iron in my blood? Thank you!!
# Julie Daniluk 2016-05-30 09:10
Hello Lil,

I am happy to hear you are in remission. Spirulina can raise the iron level in your blood so I would recommend speaking to your holistic MD or Naturopathic Doctor before using this product. There are ways to naturally reduce excessive iron in your blood so see a practitioner in person so you can have a thorough assessment.

Also speak to your doctor about using a high potency Omega 3 oil. I recommend NutraSea for its purity. https://www.ascentahealth.com/product-info/nutrasea/

Wishing you all the best, Julie
# Josie 2016-05-30 17:03
I use Giddyoyo brand Spirulina. Their website says it is grown in the Andes Mountains. Is this brand safe? Thanks for this great article.
# Julie Daniluk 2016-05-31 08:57
Hello Josie,

I have not seen the 3rd party lab work on this product. Can you ask them for it and let me know what it says? I would be interested as I do like a lot of their products.

Cheers, Julie
# Rachel 2016-05-30 17:42
Hi Julie,
I use the Hawian Brand the one David Wolf advises
Do you know if this is a good one?
Thank you
Rachel
# Julie Daniluk 2016-05-31 09:01
Hello Rachel,

I do not know which brand he recommends but there is only one company that produces spirulina in Hawaii. The name of the company is Cyanotech (the product is labled as Gandalf and is distributed by Flora) There are some companies out there claiming to be Hawaiian spiruiina and have been found to be making a false claim. If David is recommending Gandalf, then yes, this is a Hawaiian product and yes it is the best on the market for purity and nutrient density.

Cheers, Julie
# Josie 2016-06-02 14:30
Hi Julie,
I have the PDF file of the COA sent to me from Giudyyoyo. Shall I email it to you? If so what is your email address. I would love your feedback on this. The lead count seemed high.
Thanks
# Julie Daniluk 2016-06-02 15:42
Hi Josie,

Yes, please send it to my admin (and sister) Lynn at info@juliedaniluk.com and we will look it over. What is the lead count?

Cheers, Julie
# Josie 2016-06-03 07:47
The lead count is 2.5ppm in the Giddyyoyo Spirulina. Isn't that high? I'm wondering because I've been using this brand for months now.
Thanks again Julie.
I will email the COA now.
# Julie Daniluk 2016-06-03 09:12
OMG! That is very high! I'm shocked. Thank you for sending it over.

Cheers, Julie
# Josie 2016-06-03 10:03
Hi Julie,
Now that I know how high the lead count is in the Giddyyoyo Spirulina, I will stop using it. Since I was using 2 tsp of it per day, should I be concerned about any side effects?
Thank you
# Julie Daniluk 2016-06-03 10:30
There are tests that your doctor can order to find out your heavy metals levels. I have done this in the past and found out that I had a high mercury count and it was affecting my health. This is the reason why I am so careful now.

Here's some information about lead poisoning: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lead-poisoning/basics/definition/con-20035487

Wishing you all the best! Cheers, Julie
# Elizabeth King 2016-08-22 10:47
Hi Julie,
Great information on Spirulina. I didn't know it should be refrigerated after opening. If it hasn't been refrigerated would it still be good & what is the shelf life?
Thanks.
# Julie Daniluk 2016-08-22 12:59
Hi Elizabeth,

I prefer to keep my tablets in the fridge and powder in the freezer to make sure they stay as fresh as possible. Keeping the product in a cool dark place is best as repeated heating will reduce the shelf life. The biggest issue is oxidation so when you close the bag, remove as much air as possible. Gandalf uses excellent packaging that was created to optimize storage. If you kept it in the freezer, in a sealed container, your spirulina's shelf life would probably be indefinite provided it was fresh when it first went in.

Cheers, Julie
# Joanna 2016-09-06 18:19
Hi Julie

I have read and I know that Gandalf is the best but there are other companies like that one below and they also produce spirulina at Hawaii just please have a look and maybe you have some comments on it?
I tried to dig their website and I can't find any research about content of heavy metals but how they state this is region which is not using any pesticides so maybe they are also good?
http://www.nutrex-hawaii.com/
# Julie Daniluk 2016-09-08 20:35
Hi Joanna,

The Nutrex company is owned by Cynotech. They distribute under the name Nutrex in the US. All good! The product is pure.

Cheers, Julie
# Vallerie Hitchens 2017-02-15 17:48
Hi Julie

Have your book and enjoy your contributions on The Marilyn Show!!!
I have twice become violently ill consuming products containing spirolina and chlorella. Both were purchased greens drinks containing these. One was a Bolthouse product. My husband drinks them regularly without problems but I avoid these two items like the plague as it was like a food poisoning experience - extreme nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, severe headache. Could you comment please on my sensitivity.
# Julie Daniluk 2017-02-16 09:28
Hi Vallerie,

I am sorry to hear you became ill! I too have become ill when using a spirulina product that was contaminated with bacteria and heavy metals. That is the primary reason why I wrote this blog.

Your husband may have a stronger constitution or you might be intolerant or allergic to spirulina or another ingredient in the product. The only spirulina products I use are the ones listed in my blog as I have personally gone to the manufacturing facility and seen how they make it. I have also reviewed the 3rd party testing on the products.

Wishing you well, Julie
# kai 2017-02-16 13:27
hi Julie:
can you recommend places in Canada to buy the spirolina powder you like please.
# Julie Daniluk 2017-02-16 15:43
Hello Kai,

Most health food stores carry the brands I mention above. If your local store does not have them, they can special order if for you.

Cheers, Julie
# kai 2017-02-16 17:10
thanks Julie, will have a look
# kai 2017-02-19 16:22
hi Julie:
i'm wondering if you would recommend reliable sources for heavy metal testing.
thanks
# Julie Daniluk 2017-02-19 19:51
Hello Kai,

Your regular MD should be able to perform many of the for free. Also most Naturopathic Doctors have access to a thorough heavy metal testing procedure. They would most likely use both blood and hair analysis.

Cheers, Juile
# kai 2017-02-20 12:04
thanks so much Julie.

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