Spirulina is sometimes touted as a superfood -- one with superior nutritional value and disease-fighting properties. And a September 2014 article in "The Guardian" noted that people in developing countries can use it as an inexpensive protein and micronutrient source to help fight malnutrition. You can't live on spirulina alone, however. You still need to follow a balanced and healthy diet to get all of the nutrients necessary for good health.
A 100-gram serving of raw spirulina has just 26 calories. In comparison, a cup of dried spirulina, or 112 grams, has 325 calories. You'd have to eat more than 6 cups of dried spirulina to provide enough calories for the day if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet. This would be essentially impossible for most people to do and quite a boring diet to follow overall.
- A 100-gram serving of raw spirulina has just 26 calories.
- You'd have to eat more than 6 cups of dried spirulina to provide enough calories for the day if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet.
Nutrients Lacking in Spirulina
Glycerine Vs. Glycol
Although spirulina is an excellent source of some nutrients, it doesn't provide all of the essential nutrients. For example, it doesn't contain vitamins B-12 or D. Even eating 6 cups of dried spirulina also wouldn't provide 100 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium or fiber. You need vitamin D, phosphorus and calcium for strong bones, vitamin A for proper vision and zinc for a healthy immune system. Fiber helps prevent constipation, selenium is important for forming DNA and vitamin B-12 is necessary for forming red blood cells.
- Although spirulina is an excellent source of some nutrients, it doesn't provide all of the essential nutrients.
- For example, it doesn't contain vitamins B-12 or D. Even eating 6 cups of dried spirulina also wouldn't provide 100 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium or fiber.
Potential Overdose Risk
If you only ate spirulina and ate 6 cups per day, you could also put yourself at risk for possible overdoses of certain nutrients. These include:
Niacin toxicity can cause
- stomach problems
- liver damage
- erectile dysfunction
Iron toxicity can cause liver problems, diabetes and skin pigmentation. Manganese toxicity can cause neurological problems, copper toxicity can cause Wilson disease and too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and increase your risk for a heart attack.
- If you only ate spirulina and ate 6 cups per day, you could also put yourself at risk for possible overdoses of certain nutrients.
Spirulina Side Effects
Spirulina may interact with medications meant to suppress your immune system. People with phenylketonuria, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus shouldn't take spirulina because it could make these conditions worse, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center 123. Blue-green algae, such as spirulina, may also be contaminated with heavy metals, a toxic substance called anatoxin or toxic substances called microcystins. Because of this, it isn't recommended to eat more than 50 grams of spirulina per day, according to the New York University Langone Medical Center 123.
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- University of Maryland Medical Center: Spirulina
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Spirulina
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamins
- Merck Manual: Overview of Minerals
- Park HJ, Lee YJ, Ryu HK, Kim MH, Chung HW, Kim WY. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study to establish the effects of spirulina in elderly Koreans. Ann Nutr Metab. 2008;52(4):322-8. doi:10.1159/000151486
- Man LX. Complementary and alternative medicine for allergic rhinitis. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009 17(3):226-31. doi:10.1097/MOO.0b013e3283295791
- Cingi C, Conk-Dalay M, Cakli H, Bal C. The effects of spirulina on allergic rhinitis. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2008 265(10):1219-23. doi:10.1007/s00405-008-0642-8
- Lee EH, Park JE, Choi YJ, Huh KB, Kim WY. A randomized study to establish the effects of spirulina in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. Nutr Res Pract. 2008 2(4):295-300. doi:10.4162/nrp.2008.2.4.295
- Mani UV, Desai S, Iyer U. Studies on the Long-Term Effect of Spirulina Supplementation on Serum Lipid Profile and Glycated Proteins in NIDDM Patients. Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods, 2000;2:3, 25-32. doi:10.1300/J133v02n03_03
- Mathew B, Sankaranarayanan R, Nair PP, et al. Evaluation of chemoprevention of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis. Nutr Cancer. 1995;24(2):197-202. doi:10.1080/01635589509514407
- Torres-duran PV, Ferreira-hermosillo A, Juarez-oropeza MA. Antihyperlipemic and antihypertensive effects of Spirulina maxima in an open sample of Mexican population: a preliminary report. Lipids Health Dis. 2007;6:33. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-6-33
- U. V. Mani, S. Desai & U. Iyer (2000) Studies on the Long-Term Effect of Spirulina Supplementation on Serum Lipid Profile and Glycated Proteins in NIDDM Patients. Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods, 2:3, 25-32. doi:10.1300/J133v02n03_03
- Miczke A, Szulińska M, Hansdorfer-Korzon R, et al. Effects of spirulina consumption on body weight, blood pressure, and endothelial function in overweight hypertensive Caucasians: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2016;20(1):150-6.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.