When Should You Be Taking Spirulina For Maximum Health Benefits? RDs Weigh In
The hallmark of a healthy and balanced diet is variety, and while many of us choose to incorporate traditional produce, it's not likely you're also eating sea vegetables in the day-to-day. The term sea vegetable is a broad one that includes chlorella, seaweed, and kelp (among others), and another veggie with a great range of benefits is spirulina.
We spoke with registered dietitians Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, and Huma Chaudhry, R.D., of Dose of Nutrition to uncover everything you need to know about when to consume this vibrant sea vegetable to get the maximum benefits. Get ready to bring your diet to the next level!
What is spirulina?
Falling within the sea vegetable family, spirulina is a blue-green algae that absorbs its nutrients from the environment. "Spirulina has been called one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet," explains Cording. "It contains all nine essential amino acids (you'll get about 4 grams of protein in 1 tablespoon) and provides important nutrients like B vitamins, copper, and iron, plus some magnesium, potassium, and manganese, as well as other nutrients, including a tiny bit omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids."
It's unlikely you'll ever eat spirulina in its raw form, however, and the most common ways to consume it are pill, powder, or liquid.
When to take your spirulina.
With options ranging from sprinkling it in your morning smoothie or sipping it in your water at night, what really is the best time to take spirulina?
While information seems to vary, Chaudhry reveals that there's no bad time to take this sea vegetable to absorb the aforementioned health benefits. "Spirulina can typically be used throughout the day in smoothies, yogurt, mixed into water, oatmeal, and even in baked goods. It generally does not matter when you take it," she explains.
As for how you can sneak this algae into your diet, seeing as it comes in pill and powder form, perhaps the easiest way to take it is with your morning supplements or mixed into a smoothie for an added boost. Chaudhry even notes that the body absorbs spirulina more effectively in this form anyway, and a powder will be the easiest to digest.
If you're looking to capitalize on your sea veggie intake and want to include the whole range within your daily diet, a greens powder mix may be right for you for effortlessly integrating these nutrient-dense vegetables. Our pick? mbg's organic veggies+.
Packed with a range of organic ingredients from root vegetables to an array of fruits and even a fiber blend, this greens powder aids in both digestion and nutrient absorption while promoting a healthy gut microbiome, so you can get a mix of spirulina and more with ease.*
When taking organic veggies+, 1 tablespoon is the suggested serving size, but in terms of a pure powder spirulina, Cording notes that the standard dose is between 1 and 3 grams. "Sometimes you'll see up to 10 grams used. For reference, a tablespoon of spirulina powder is about 7 grams," she adds.
However, one thing to be aware of is that because spirulina absorbs its nutrients from the environment, it may also absorb heavy metals. Therefore, when you're looking to purchase a spirulina powder, you'll be best served opting for a high-quality powder from a reputable brand to ensure there are no contaminants, warns Chaudhry.
Health benefits of spirulina.
Sea vegetables on the whole boast a variety of health benefits, and spirulina is no different. Not only is it packed with vitamins and minerals that may be otherwise difficult to consume enough of, but spirulina is even a surprising source of protein, coming in at 4 grams per tablespoon. See the full list of benefits here, but the top line highlights include:
"Spirulina has also been noted to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Its main active component is phycocyanin, which also gives it that distinct blue-green color,"* explains Cording. What this means is that this surprising sea veggie fights free radicals and combats oxidative stress for an antioxidant effect.*
Blood sugar maintenance.
Your diet is one of the best ways to support your body on the whole, and spirulina has actually been shown to help keep your blood sugar levels steady.* "Several studies in humans have seen benefit to blood lipids1 with doses ranging from 1 gram per day to 8 grams per day, and studies have also noted improvement in blood pressure and blood sugar, but more research is needed in this area,"* Cording notes.
Vitamins and minerals can contribute to your energy levels throughout the day, and spirulina should become another mainstay as it is packed with a few to help you feel more alert and on your game. "It is filled with energy-supporting vitamins and minerals like iron and magnesium," Chaudhry explains. Since iron plays an essential role in delivering oxygen throughout the body, and magnesium is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions, they're key to healthy energy levels.
Impressive iron availability.
Your body requires iron to help maintain energy levels, keep your body temperature regulated, and even support cognition. And a sneaky benefit of spirulina? A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed through an in vitro trial that iron-fortified spirulina2 is actually an adequate source of iron for the body.*
If sea vegetables like spirulina aren't already a mainstay in your regular diet, now would be a great time to include them with really any meal for a whole host of health benefits. Taking spirulina in the morning versus evening seems to have no real impact on the nutrients it provides your body, so rest assured you're getting the benefits at any time of day.
For the full range of sea vegetables, organic veggies+ is an excellent option to add to your smoothies, baked goods, and even pasta sauce to nourish your body with organic goodness (spirulina included!).
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.