This superfood was first discovered by Europeans in 1520.
It wasn’t really talked about, researched, studied, or widely used until the 1940s.
In the 16th century, Mesoamericans called it “tecuitlati.”
Today, we call it Spirulina.
Aztecs and other pre-Columbian civilizations in Mesoamerica used spirulina as a food source. During the 1500s, it was cultivated and harvested from freshwater lakes, dried and packed into cakes, and sold as a food source.
It’s Easy to See Why this Superfood Was an Ancient Nutrition Staple – But it Was Nearly LOST Forever!
During the 1500s, the Aztec civilization was overrun by Spanish conquistadors.
As European settlement extended into Mesoamerica, the alkaline lakes where spirulina was cultivated were drained for land-based agriculture—little did the farmers know, but they were getting rid of what many today call the superfood “fountain of youth.”
In fact, modern Mexico City is actually built right on top of the ancient Aztec source of this superfood!
There is little record of spirulina in use as a food source after the 16th century—until French researchers in the 1940s learned of an algae-cake food consumed by an African tribe called “dihe.”
Dihe was spirulina: Dried algae containing a complete protein profile, dozens of vitamins and minerals, high concentrations of antioxidants, and more.
By 1966, the first complete chemical analysis of spirulina was complete and this superfood was “re-discovered” and praised as a “wonderful food source” by biologists around the world (including the International Association of Applied Microbiology).
By the early 1970s, spirulina was being cultivated again as a food source.
What Makes Spirulina a Superfood?
Dried spirulina is 5% water, 24% carbs, 8% fat, and around 60% protein. Some sources contain up to 71% protein.
It’s complete nutrient profile makes it an ideal food to fight malnutrition, providing a near perfect nutritional balance of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and amino acids required for optimal function.
In fact, spirulina is currently being studied as a dietary support supplement for long-duration spaceflight—including space travel to Mars.
Here are some of the nutritional benefits that make spirulina a superfood:
- 300% More Protein than Red Meat, Fish, or Poultry
- Workout-Fueling BCAAs
- 58x More Iron than Spinach
- 21 Vitamins and Minerals
- 28x More Antioxidants than Blueberries
There is ONE major downside to spirulina (we’ll talk more about it in a moment). But, in my opinion, it’s one of the most potent sources of vital nutrients and protein you can add to your diet.
Let’s talk about why:
4 Reasons You Should Supplement with Spirulina
Reason #1: Accelerates Weight Loss
When your diet is high in protein-rich foods, your body loses weight.
Protein-rich foods trigger metabolic pathways that use more energy (AKA – your body burns more calories).
Additionally, spirulina as a research-proven appetite suppressing effect similar to green tea and green tea extract, curbing cravings and reducing appetite for unhealthy foods.
Reason #2: Fast Energy and Performance Enhancer
The nutrient components of spirulina increase energy immediately.
Most people who begin taking spirulina notice an increase in energy, caused by returning to (or getting for the first time) a complete protein and nutrient-rich diet.
I started taking spirulina to “fill in the gaps” in my diet. Now I find that it helps fuel me during my workouts, early mornings, and later nights (awake with my 1-year-old!).
Reason #3: Circulation Booster, Blood Pressure & Cholesterol Reducer
There are several circulation-improving components found in spirulina that are beneficial to your heart and circulatory system.
Phycocyanin is a potent anti-hypertensive found in spirulina that led to numerous studies on spirulina’s effectiveness as blood pressure reducer. Here are some of the results:
- According to a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, spirulina supplementation reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by an average of 26% to 41% (depending on the dose).
- Researchers in the same study noted that intimal aorta surface decreased by up to 48%, lowering stroke risk.
- Additionally, this study was conducted in animals still eating a high calorie diet – this suggests a reduction in the negative effects of high calorie intake, without reducing calorie consumption.
This alone should be enough to consider adding spirulina to your diet.
Reason #4: Recover Faster from Workouts
Here’s the big reason I take it (and why I think you should too):
Spirulina is the perfect post-workout recovery supplement. It contains many of the ingredients we all look for in a post-workout drink, meal or pill:
- BCAAs to aid in muscle recovery
- Antioxidants to fight free radical damage
- Circulation boosters to get more blood flowing
- Sustained energy to get through the workout
- The complete protein your body is craving
- And More!
I could take 6 or 7 supplements after a workout (like I did when I was competitive swimmer) and still not get a fraction of what’s available in a single serving of spirulina!
But still, there are other reasons to take spirulina.
Research is clear on the dozens of other benefits of spirulina supplementation including:
- It has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants in ANY food, reducing the likelihood of DNA and cell damage while reducing cancer risk.
- One of the few natural sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Super high levels of energy-boosting b-vitamins.
- Contains inflammation reducing Vitamin E.
- Shown to fight anxiety, reduce stress, and researched to treat ADHD and depression.
There are DOZENS of reasons to add spirulina to your diet. Just make sure you get high quality spirulina from a trusted source.