The information contained in this book is intended merely for informational purposes only. It is not presented or provided as a form of medical advice. The data and information provided here include the beliefs and opinions expressed by the author. Anyone seeking for answers to their individual medical questions should consult a licensed health professional. The information in this book is not intended as medical advice or as a form of treatment or cure for any disease or condition.
Table of Contents
- 1 Chapter 1: What is Spirulina?
- 2 Chapter 2: Nutritional Information
- 3 Chapter 3: Uses and Effectiveness
- 4 Chapter 4: Spirulina and Other Super Foods
- 5 A Final Word
Chapter 1: What is Spirulina?
Super food is a term that refers to a certain class of foods that have a high nutritive value. You can usually find spirulina as one of these so-called super foods. Spirulina is an algae and it belongs to the same class of algae as wakame, chlorella, and aphanizomenon flos-aquae. It is a type of blue green algae that thrives both in fresh and salt water.
Its proponents hail it as one of the most nutritious whole foods on the planet. Some even claim that it has a lot of “nutritional wonders.” However, for some people all the descriptions you can read about it will sound inflated – exaggerations of its true potential. Skeptics on the other hand will just shrug their shoulders in disbelief.
Brushing aside all the hype, history shows that spirulina was already part of the dining table of human families for centuries. The idea of eating some kind of “seaweed” isn’t something new. In fact, the idea is a healthy one in some cultures.
A Bit of Food History
Centuries before the Spanish conquistadors marched through South America, the Aztecs have long prized these water algae as a food source. One record of its use dates back to the year 1519, although it should be obvious that these ancients from Central Mexico have been consuming them for much longer.
Bernal del Castillo describes spirulina cakes as being sold in the city’s markets pretty much the way the people of Europe bought and sold cheese. He notes that the locals called these cakes as tecuitlatl; but the soldiers that served under Cortes simply referred to it as some sort of blue green mud.
The Aztecs harvested the spirulina from the surface of the water using their nets. They would fill their boats with it before heading for the banks of the lake. Their harvest was then sun dried and was cooked in a variety of ways. At times it was made into a form of bread. Sometimes the dried spirulina was added to a stew or as an ingredient to some other dish.
The Aztecs were not the only civilization that thrived on spirulina and used it as a foundational food source. Other cultures such as the Mayas, the Toltecs, and the Kanembu people also have incorporated these algae into their diet. The Mayas are even known to cultivate it. The Kanembu on the other hand still have spirulina as a major source of their dietary protein today.
Recommendations made by health organizations at different times helped to boost the popularity of spirulina as a dietary supplement. For instance, the World Health Organization, back in 1974, said that spirulina can be fed to children (in various types of preparations of course) minus any possible risk. They even described it as a type of very suitable food.
The United Nations even created an institution back in 2003 that will oversee the use of spirulina to help with malnutrition. Both the European Space Agency and NASA even proposed the use of type of algae as a type of food source for long term space voyages. And of course there are the marketing campaigns from food supplement manufacturers that promote it as “the” number one food supplement or whole food in the market today.
Chapter 2: Nutritional Information
Spirulina is rich in vitamins and minerals, which is why it is marketed as a type of super food. Of course the term “super food” is not a medical term – it’s a marketing word to help promote and eventually increase the sale of a product that contains this ingredient. Nevertheless, the hype provided by manufacturers also has a basis in fact. There’s no denying it – spirulina is truly nutrient rich.
Blue green algae contain a lot of protein even more than other plant protein sources. It is estimated to contain an average of 60 percent of protein per gram. Well, its actual protein contain varies from 51 to 71 percent per gram. That means you actually get around 57.47 grams of protein for every 100 grams of dried spirulina.
Note that the proteins you get from it are complete proteins. You can’t get the same from any single plant source such as soya or other legumes. Of course, the quality of protein you get from milk, eggs, and meat will always be more superior. Because of this high protein content, it is used as a supplement for body builders and other athletes.
Another advantage of the protein you get from spirulina compared to other protein plant sources is that it is easier to digest. The difference is in the cell walls of those proteins. The protein cell walls of the proteins from spirulina are made of mucopolysaccharides, which make them easier to digest compared to the hard cellulose present in other plants. This means that spirulina is a better option for the undernourished, elderly, and other people with digestion problems.
Carbohydrates and Other Nutrients
One teaspoon of spirulina (approximately three grams) will contain from 17% to 25% of carbohydrates. It will also contain 4 to 6 percent lipids as well as 8 to 13% minerals. It is also rich in glycogen, sulfolipids, and other healthy enzymes.
Vitamin and Mineral Profile
They will not call spirulina a type of super food if it did not have an impressive mineral and vitamin profile. It is a 100% source of vitamin A (11,250 IUs for every 3 grams). It contains vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, and vitamin E. It contains 60 mcg of vitamin K1 and 15 mcg of vitamin K2. The same dose will contain 4.5 mcg of pantothenic acid, 6.2 mcg of folic acid, 0.5 mcg of biotin, and 1.7 mcg of inositol.
The same dose will also have 400 mcg of manganese and 90 mcg of zinc. It will also contain other minerals such as iodine, selenium, copper, boron, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Spirulina is also a great source of phytonutrients. 1 teaspoon of spirulina will contain 6.8 mg of beta carotene, 9 mg of zeaxanthin, and 30 mg of chlorophyll. Other than that, the same dose will also contain 240 mg of C-phycocyanin and 1080 units of superoxide dismutase.
Controversy over Vitamin B12
There is an issue about spirulina and its vitamin B12 content. You may have seen or read an ad describing these blue green algae as the number one source of vitamin B12. Now that fact is highly disputable – and the advertisers who still push that angle just to sell spirulina tablets and supplements are outright making a fool of the public.
Now, here’s why. If you ask whether or not these blue green algae contain vitamin B12 then the answer should be affirmative. However, if you ask further if the type of vitamin B12 it contains is useful to humans then the answer should be negative. They actually contain pseudovitamin B12 – a type of vitamin B12 that is inactive to humans. You can consume it, yes, but your body won’t be able to use it. The American Dietetic Association confirms this fact in a position paper they submitted several years ago.
The next question is whether that will diminish its nutritive value? The answer of course is that it will not. Spirulina is still a healthy natural food source.
Chapter 3: Uses and Effectiveness
Just like many alternative treatments today, not all the claimed health benefits of spirulina can be 100% confirmed. The studies are too few and the data is still a bit limited at the moment. There may be a growing interest in this food supplement but admittedly, a lot of work is still ahead before any conclusive results can be reached.
But that doesn’t mean that there are no health benefits that can be garnered from taking spirulina tablets. With the little results that can be used to date, more people in the scientific community are seeing the medical significance of ingesting blue green algae.
Treatment for Mouth Lesions
For instance, a study was published back in 2014 that compared the effects of spirulina and lycopene as a kind of treatment for mouth lesions or specifically OSMF (Oral Submucous Fibrosis). The actual study was conducted from March to July of 2013. The study involved 68 patients where one group was given spirulina while the other group was given lycopene.
At the conclusion of the study, it was found that significant improvement in the conditions of both groups has been found. This means that their mouth ulcers improved significantly and visible healing can be observed on both groups. The group that was treated with spirulina showed better improvement. However, both spirulina and lycopene did not have any effect in the pain associated with OSMF – only significant healing was observed.
This and other similar studies seem to point out that spirulina is no less than promising as a treatment for mouth lesions. But that isn’t the only study that was conducted. Another study back in 2001 found the potential of blue green algae for decreasing yeast infections. Another study in 2004 seemed to indicate the potential for using it as a treatment for HIV; this study was conducted by the Harvard Medical School.
In 1995 another study was conducted to find out if spirulina can be used to treat patients with pre-cancerous mouth lesions. The study reported that 20 out of the 44 patients that underwent trials had a complete regression of their lesions. The patients were only given one gram of spirulina each day for a total of 12 months.
Much of the other studies usually involve only early research. That means that there is a lot more evidence necessary in order to come up with acceptable conclusions.
An early study that involved menopausal women showed promising results. The women were given 1.6 grams of spirulina for a period of eight weeks. The results of the study show that blue green algae may be helpful in lowering depression and anxiety symptoms.
The results of different studies on the effects of spirulina on malnourished children are mixed. In some tests, undernourished children and infants had shown significant weight gain. They were fed eight weeks with spirulina in meals that had peanut, soy and millet. However, another study did not yield the same results. More studies should be conducted in this regard.
High Cholesterol Levels
Results so far have been inconsistent when blue green algae treatment was tested if it has any effects on a person’s cholesterol levels. In some tests it only lowered the LDL cholesterol. In another study, it was able to lower the LDL cholesterol and increase the levels of HDL cholesterol. In some studies the treatment only worked for people with slightly elevated cholesterol levels.
The research that deals with the possible effects of blue green algae on patients with hepatitis C also yields mixed results. Some patients showed improved liver function after taking spirulina for 6 months. They were given 500 mg tablets three times daily. The strange thing is that another test group did not fare as well after undergoing the same treatment. They, on the other hand had worsened liver conditions after treatment with spirulina.
Spirulina appears to be a bit promising when it comes to treatment for diabetes patients. A study conducted involved the provision of 1 gram of spirulina for a couple of months. The patients were given blue green algae twice a day. After about two months the patients’ blood sugar levels decreased.
Chronic Fatigue Styndrome
Early research on the effects of spirulina on people with chronic fatigue syndrome is quite promising. Research shows that taking one gram of blue green algae three times daily can improve fatigue symptoms in adults.
Not only that, it appears that the old stories of Aztecs running for 100 miles at a time while snacking on spirulina cakes has some truth to it. Early research shows that runners who have taken six grams of spirulina daily for four weeks have improved their endurance.
Early studies on the effects of blue green algae on patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder seem to be promising. The studies show that if it is taken in tandem with other ingredients such as lemon balm, brahmi, gotu kola, peony and others then it can improve symptoms of ADHD.
Note that a lot of these studies are not yet 100% conclusive. Results still vary from one study to the next. A lot of other studies and controlled tests still need to be performed to date.
Chapter 4: Spirulina and Other Super Foods
The health benefits of spirulina can be compared to the benefits that can be gained from other healthy food sources. Most of the time, these natural and healthy foods complement one another. Here some of the healthy foods today; some of them may not be super foods but they don’t need to be one to bring you good health. Note that some of the herbs and plants mentioned here are a bit controversial so care should be taken before using them. You should only use them with proper advice and consultation from your doctor.
Even though we call it a nut, the coconut isn’t really a nut just like a walnut or a peanut. It’s actually a fruit – not a nut. So, the coconut is actually the fruit of the palm tree, which is a pretty common sight in many tropical countries. The tree itself has a lot of different uses and a few people even call it the tree of life.
The coconut has a lot of cultural and religious significance to many people around the world. In many countries, all the different parts of the coconut tree, fruit and all, have its use and purposes (and not just for food). Some uses are for construction and utility while others are of course for food.
Nutritional Value of the Coconut
Coconuts have an edible flesh (the white part) and the also an edible liquid, which everyone refers to as coconut water. The coconut water can be a big help when you’re trying to flush out bladder and kidney issues. Note that coconuts are full of nutrients such as zinc, protein, iodine, phosphorus, iron, vitamins A, B, C, calcium, and dietary fiber.
Advantages of Eating Coconuts
A daily consumption of 2 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil can help reduce your risk of many health problems that are common today. Coconut oil can be used to improve skin’s elasticity; it’s a big help for people with dry skin. It can also be used to treat acne since the oil has natural anti-fungal properties. Its vitamin E content is a big help to improve overall skin health. It can also be used to treat eczema and damaged skin.
Adding coconuts to your diet also helps prevent the formation of liver spots on your skin. Coconut oil can also be used as a type of topical treatment for psoriasis. Note that coconut is a natural anti-inflammatory.
Coconut oil can also be applied on the scalp and hair to promote hair growth and prevent thinning hair. Coconut oil prevents protein from the hair from getting washed away when you shampoo your hair. Coconut milk can also be used to strengthen hair strands.
Adding coconuts to your diet can help with nutrient absorption. Coconut oil can also be used to help with constipation and other digestive problems. Coconut meat is also effective for destroying intestinal parasites.
Downsides of Coconuts
Coconut oil can increase blood cholesterol levels. You should also note that the white meaty part of the coconut has high protein yet it is also high in calories. Eating too many coconuts can lead to weight gain. Remember to eat coconuts in moderation.
The Pros and Cons of Ginger
If you wanted to make your home cooked meal taste a lot more like Asian food then one quick remedy is to add some ginger root. Ginger root is a pretty common spice. Other than that, it’s one of the traditional folk remedies that have been used for hundreds of years. It has been a go to medication for respiratory infections, nausea, upset stomach, morning sickness, and a lot of other kinds of stomach complaints.
The Nutritive Value of Ginger
Just like spirulina, ginger has been a part of traditional diets since time memorial. The Chinese in particular have been using it for more than 2,000 years. The big difference is that the use of ginger has spread to more countries in the known world. It has been used as a main ingredient for many recipes including ale, beer, and tea.
Not only has it been used in different cuisines, it is used as a cure all for many health problems. It contains zinc, magnesium, and chromium. It also contains a few essential oils such as farnesene, shogaol, gingerol, and zingerone. It contains vitamin B6, vitamin B5, copper, manganese, and potassium.
Health Benefits of Ginger
Some early research that ginger may have a positive impact on patients experiencing menstrual pain. A certain extract from ginger (zintoma) will be able to help reduce the pain symptoms when it is taken four times a day for three days. The administration of the extract will begin at the start of the menstrual period. The extract is administered four times each day. 62% of the people who were administered say that the amount of menstrual pain they experienced has been reduced significantly. Tests show that its efficacy is comparable to medications such as mefenamic acid and ibuprofen.
Studies also show that ginger may be quite effective in reducing dizziness, vomiting, and nausea. One study showed that ginger can help reduce up to 38 percent of these symptoms. However, it appears that the extracts from this herb won’t be effective in the first three up to six hours after a surgery.
Studies also show that ginger extracts may also be helpful for people experiencing osteoarthritis. Some tests and early studies show that ginger may also help women experiencing morning sickness. However, taking any form of medication during pregnancy is a huge decision. Make sure to consult with your doctor before taking ginger extracts or any other form of medication during pregnancy.
Other Precautions and Side-Effects
Some studies seem to indicate that high doses of ginger may make heart conditions worse for some patients. Some studies also indicate that ginger can lower a patient’s blood sugar. This means that some diabetic medication may need to be adjusted when taking ginger extracts.
As stated earlier, you should consult your doctor before taking ginger extracts during pregnancy. You should treat it the same way as you would any other form of medication. There is a report that a pregnant woman had a miscarriage after using ginger to treat her morning sickness.
Ginger may also cause other minor side effects such as stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and heartburn. When applied to the skin, ginger extracts and oils may cause some form of skin irritation.
Health Benefits of Eating Grapefruit
You may have heard of the grapefruit diet – one of the many fad diets that have come and gone. Well, grapefruit by itself is a really nice thing to add to any kind of diet. But to live off grapefruits or to have a diet that centers only on grapefruit is ridiculous. Some people may swear on it but before you try the grapefruit diet, you should consult your doctor or healthcare provider.
However, grapefruit itself is a great and healthy fruit. It has a lot of vitamin C. It’s also rich in other minerals and nutrients. Its nutrients have a lot of cancer fighting properties. There are lots of reasons to add grapefruit to one’s diet.
Health Benefits of Grapefruits
Grapefruit can help lower cholesterol levels. One study showed that red colored grapefruit is more effective at lowering LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Of course, you can take any type of grapefruit to achieve desired effects. However, red grapefruit has an added benefit – it can lower triglycerides very well; much better compared to white grapefruit.
Note that studies show that both white and red grapefruit variants can have positive impact on blood cholesterol levels. The only difference is that the red variant is twice as effective compared to the white variant.
Eating grapefruit also positively influences the amount of protective anti-oxidants in the blood. By simply having grapefruit in one’s diet for about 30 days, you may already experience a lowering of your blood LDL to about 15 percent. Some patients experience an average of 20% lowering of their LDL cholesterol and triglycerides lowering down by 17.2 percent.
One study also points out that adding grapefruit to your diet can help add protection from cancer. The nutrients in grapefruit have been found to reduce the activity of certain enzymes that can cause cancer – note that these are the very same chemicals that come from tobacco.
The nutrients contained in grapefruit can also boost the enzymes found in your liver – which will eventually help reduce the amount of carcinogens in your body. It basically helps to increase the amount of detoxifying enzymes in your liver (i.e. the ones that get rid of toxic compounds that enter your body).
Grapefruit is also rich in flavonoids that help repair your body’s DNA – specifically in the damaged prostate cells. This is according to the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
Downsides to Grapefruit
Unfortunately, consuming a lot of grapefruits also has its own downsides. If you have too much grapefruit juice in your body it may hinder the liver from performing its job properly. It may get too busy breaking down the grapefruit nutrients that the liver will not have enough enzymes to break down any medication that you have taken.
This means that grapefruit juice can interact and block other medications. In December of 2004, the American Journal of Nursing published a list of medications that grapefruit is known to interact with. Included in this list are a few drugs that you should be aware of:
Note that this is not in any way a comprehensive list. There are other medications that may interact with grapefruit. You are advised to check with your physician before taking any substantial amounts of grapefruit along with any meds you may be taking now or will be taking in the future.
Lemons and Limes – More Than Just a Sailor’s Cure
Lemons and limes have been around for centuries. Both are citrus fruits and it is believed that they hail from Asia. Limes for instance are believed to have come from Southeast Asia and were brought into the trade routes via Arab traders. It was introduced to Europe through Spanish trade back in the 13th century. It was said that sailors depended on limes to prevent the onslaught of scurvy on the entire crew.
Limes actually have a special place in both Persian and Indian cuisine. Not only is it part of their cooking, it is also used as a type of medicine. The true origins of lemons are rather unknown. It is still unclear where exactly did they come from though some researchers believe they actually hail from southern India.
Lemons actually made it to Europe during the 1st century. It was brought in through Italian trade. Back in those days people only considered them as ornamental plants. The first time when lemons were cultivated for food purposes was in the 15th century.
Note that people should consume both lemons and limes in moderation. They may be healthy but health experts recommend that they should only be consumed in moderation.
Health Benefits of Lemons and Limes
Both lemons and limes are rich sources of vitamin C, which is their main nutrient so to speak. However, both of these citrus fruits also have a lot of phytochemicals. Thus they also provide a lot of anti-bacterial properties. Other than that, limes also have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties as well. There was one study in West Africa that demonstrated how consuming limes on a regular basis can provide protection from cholera.
Different preparation methods and the creation of different solvents using lime often produce antimicrobial solutions. Both the tincture and oils of lemon and lime have different properties that can be useful for health care. Both these fruits are capable of lowering the risk for inflammatory polyarthritis.
Preliminary studies into the effects of citrus fruits as a type of cancer treatment seem to be quite promising. It appears that the phytonutrients contained in both lemons and limes can help prevent the advancement of certain tumors. Some studies even point to the possibility that these phytonutrients causing the death of these tumors or apoptosis.
Of course, this is still a subject for further testing and research. In fact, there are studies on the beneficial properties of these citrus fruits to prevent obesity, prevent cancers, and counter viruses.
Downsides of Eating Lemons and Limes
You wouldn’t think that lemons and limes would have any negative effects on the human body. Well, come to think of it, they’re just fruit – but too much of a good thing can also turn out bad for anyone. For instance, remember that both of these fruits have a lot of citric acid. If you have any gastric ulcers then you should know that eating a lot of citrus can worsen your condition.
Lime juice can also interact with other medications that you may be taking. For instance it can interact with fexofenadine, itraconazole, and lovastatin. Other downsides include exacerbating an acid reflux and eroding your teeth’s enamel.
Irish Moss, Next Super Food
Irish moss is dubbed as another super food – well, you’re not eating “moss” per se. It is actually a type of seaweed. Many people from different cultures have made seaweed a part of their cuisines. Irish moss, obviously, has been part of dinners and suppers in Ireland for many centuries. However, do take note that Irish moss also grows in some parts of Asia.
It is used as part of many raw food recipes. Today it has gained some degree of popularity among raw vegan dieters. This seaweed is flavorless, so it won’t taste like anything. It also has no color but it provides a lot of nutrients, trace minerals, protein, and fiber.
Health Benefits of Irish Moss
Irish moss can be used topically or externally. When applied directly on the epidermis, it tends to smooth the skin’s surface and soothes it. It can be used as a patch under the eye bags and removes dark circles. It is also an effective treatment for rashes, psoriasis, eczema, and chapped skin.
Since it has a lot of ionic minerals it helps improve thyroid function. Its antioxidant content helps get rid of free radicals in our bodily systems. It also has a mild laxative effect. It can actually help with many respiratory problems including pneumonia as well as bronchitis.
Downsides of Irish Moss
Irish moss, even though it seems innocent, has also come under controversy. The very first downside of this seaweed is its taste. Although it doesn’t carry its own taste, it does taste somewhat like “fish” or seafood (well, how else should it taste or smell like?).
If you’re new to eating raw seafood or raw seaweed for that matter then Irish moss will smell and taste kind of “fishy” so to speak. You can add it to your favorite drink or some other recipe to mask the taste until such time you get used to it. In that small regard, you can say that Irish moss is indeed, at least to some degree, an acquired taste.
The controversial part about Irish moss is not about the seaweed itself. It contains a chemical compound called carageenan. There have been journal studies that show that this substance can prolong any inflammation in the intestines of some lab animals.
The counterargument of course is that those were lab animals and it isn’t sure if the carageenan that was used in those experiments were from Irish moss. Besides, the carageenan used in those experiments were chemically processed, unlike the raw one found in Irish moss.
The Medina Plant
The medina plant from Jamaica is hailed as an old folk’s aphrodisiac. There isn’t much information about this herb. It is also known as the Chaney Root and some folks even call it as the God Bush – which may be due to the fact that this herb is meant to boost male virility.
Health Benefits of Using the Medina Plant
Well, other than improving a man’s sexual performance, those who market and use this herb claim that it has a few medicinal properties. Note that these claims have not been 100% confirmed in any laboratory and information about this herb is sparse.
The locals of Jamaica have been using the Medina herb as a remedy for fevers and the common cold. Its leaves are usually made into a tea and often sweetened to taste. It is also used to treat joint pains and lower back pains. It is also said that the tea can help relieve fatigue symptoms. Some even claim that it can also be used to cure hernia, but that claim is unfounded.
Downsides of Using the Medina Plant
The locals themselves as well as the marketing companies selling this herb caution against over use. The label on the package of this herb warns that overuse may result in lower sperm count. Part of the warning also states that it may even put extra strain on the heart. People with hypertension, diabetics, as well as pregnant women are cautioned against the use of the medina plant.
Maca is a plant that is sometimes referred to as the Peruvian ginseng. A few people may consider it as a form of super food, of course, there are no hard and fast rules that identify which foods are “super” and which ones are not. Although maca has been grown and used by the Peruvians for many years, it was only recently when it was commercially sold as a food supplement.
The maca root of today is usually sold in powder form. No matter what form it may be, it still retains its nutritive properties so you don’t have to worry about the commercially sold maca powder – it’s still as potent as ever. Note that you can use it as it is in its powdered form or you can add it as an ingredient to a pastry recipe of your choice.
Benefits of Using Maca Powder
Maca is used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome. Its nutrients have the potency to enhance a person’s memory, athletic performance, stamina, and energy. Some local Peruvians use it to treat menstrual problems and female hormonal imbalance.
Some people use it to treat symptoms of depression, tuberculosis, and erectile dysfunction. It is also used as an aphrodisiac.
Precautions on the Use of Maca Powder
Health experts today say that maca powder is safe for consumption. However, they also caution against taking maca in larger amounts. It is said to be safe if you intake about three grams per day. Most people tolerate it without getting any kind of side effects.
Special precaution is given to pregnant women as well as those who are breastfeeding. Remember that there is very little medical information about the actual benefits of maca powder. Until such studies are made, the claims and health benefits of maca cannot be confirmed.
A Final Word
Spirulina truly belongs to the class of super foods. It offers its own set of health benefits and it provides a different set of health giving nutrients. Just like other super foods, much of the evidence in support of spirulina and other healthy alternative ingredients are in the form of initial studies and research as well as personal experiences provided by the people who have tried them.
Take all possible caution before trying any of them out. Remember that some of their components can interact with medications that you may be taking right now. Always consult with your doctor before including them in your diet.