October 6, 2021

Spirulina Powder May Look Unappetizing—But the Benefits are Endless

Although it might not look very appealing to add something to your smoothie that is from an ocean or lake, it can help you improve your nutrition. According to Byrdie “spirulina” is blue-green algae rich in vitamins, minerals, including calcium and niacin.

Cathy Holligan is a certified holistic coach and founder of Intentioned Wellness. She describes it as an “amazingly powerful and beneficial superfood”. It has been around for a long time before humanity arrived on the planet. She explains that it may have helped promote additional growth because of its many nutritional properties.

If you’re curious about where the blue color comes from, she says that phycocyanin is responsible for the blue color and chlorophyll gives it its green color. Although phycocyanin and chlorophyll are both extremely beneficial for our bodies, they can be combined to provide a powerful health boost that is hard to match.


  • Keri Gans RDN is a nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet.
  • Cathy Holligan, a holistic health coach certified by Intentioned Wellness, is the founder of Intentioned Wellness.

Health Benefits of Spirulina

  • It is the food with the highest protein content. Holligan says that “Spirulina is the most protein-rich food.” Proteins are vital for many aspects of healthy living, as you probably know. Proteins can build muscles, strong bones, balance blood sugar, brain chemistry, and aid neurological health.
  • It is a full protein: Holligan points out that it is “a complete protein” and contains all eight essential amino acids as well as eighteen total amino acids. This makes it an excellent supplement for anyone looking to get a boost.
  • It is high in antioxidants. Holligan says that it is rich “to protect our bodies against free radicals”, which can damage our cells and cause a range of health problems.
  • It may help fight cancer. Chlorophyll is also a major reason why spirulina has so many health benefits. Holligan says that it is an “abundant resource” and Gans suggests that its anti-cancer properties could be due to its antioxidant contents.
  • It can detoxify the liver. Holligan says that spirulina’s high level of chlorophyll can aid in liver detoxification.
  • It can improve heart health: Gans believes that it may lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease and lower stroke risk.
  • They may help with allergies: Limited scientific evidence is available from animal and test-tube experiments that suggests that spirulina may provide protection against allergic reactions by reducing the release of histamines, which are substances that cause symptoms such as runny noses, watery eyes, hives and soft-tissue swelling.
  • Spirulina can help with weight maintenance: Not only is nutrient-rich at only 20 calories per serving but one of its amino acids–l-phenylalanine–has been linked to appetite suppression.
  • It is rich in antioxidants: Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals that can damage cells and cause various health problems.
  • It can make you look better. Holligan says that spirulina can help you look and feel better.
  • It might boost immunity: Gans also suggested that spirulina may be beneficial in maintaining healthy immune systems. There are several studies to support its use as an immunity booster.

Who Should Take Spirulina?

Although spirulina has many health benefits, there are some people who should not take it. Gans says that spirulina can contain toxic substances and should be avoided by pregnant women and those with auto-immune impairment. It can also affect blood sugar so it should be avoided by people with diabetes.

Holligan also stated that anyone with allergies to seafood, seaweed or other sea vegetables should avoid spirulina. Both Holligan and Holligan suggest that you consult your doctor before you start any medication.

How Do You Take Spirulina?

Gans advises that you only purchase a brand with national recognition and a third-party certification, such as USP Verified. She notes that although there is no recommended dosage, most commercial brands recommend three- to three-and a half grams daily.

There are many ways to consume it. She says you could add it to water or smoothies, soups, juices, or sprinkle it on top of a salad.

Before you start to dunk your food in the greenish blue powder, it is worth considering its flavor. Holligan says that although the taste of spirulina is mildly fishy, it should be used sparingly. I recommend starting with 1/8 teaspoon, and gradually increasing the amount by adding 1/8 teaspoon at each stage.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Holligan says that although consumption of spirulina in high doses is safe. However, our bodies process and react to food differently so side effects are possible. Gans states that the most common side effects of spirulina use include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. She adds that if the spirulina has a chance of contamination, side effects may include liver damage, shock and rapid heartbeat and possibly death.

Consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns after taking spirulina.

The Takeaway

Spirulina’s benefits far outweigh its potential drawbacks. It’s okay to have a small amount in your smoothies, soups, and on your salads, unless you are one of the few people who should not take it. If you don’t like the taste of it, then go light!