Four Benefits of Spirulina Protein - Nutritional Facts and Market Trends
Spirulina, a blue-green algae, is considered to be one of the oldest life forms on earth. Initially used by the Aztecs to help boost endurance, spirulina became popular when NASA proposed that it could be grown in space for astronauts.[i]
Spirulina has now gained a superfood status and is an all-in-one source of nutrients with protein levels comparable to eggs.[ii]
Contemporary research supports several benefits of spirulina and continues to study its potential as a competent supplement ingredient to support human health. This blog explores spirulina’s potential as a protein supplement along with its nutrition facts, benefits, and market trends.
What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a type of cyanobacteria that belongs to a family of single-celled microbes – often called blue-green algae. Similar to plants, cyanobacteria are capable of producing energy from sunlight through a process known as photosynthesis.
These filamentous, multi-cellular, blue-green microalgae grow naturally in alkaline waterbodies like ponds, lakes, and rivers in warmer regions. They can be harvested, processed, and used for human consumption as they offer a high macro and micronutrient profile.
Spirulina contains a powerful plant-based protein called phycocyanin – one of the main reasons for its use as a protein supplement.[iii]
Spirulina Nutrition Content
Spirulina is packed with nutrients, and a single tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder offers:
- Calories - 20
- Protein - 4 grams
- Fat - 1 gram
- Carbohydrate - 1.7 - 2 grams
- Sugar - 0 grams
- Fiber - 0 grams
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) - 11% of the RDA
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) - 15% of the RDA
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) - 4% of the RDA
- Copper - 21% of the RDA
- Iron - 11% of the RDA
Spirulina also contains a decent amount of potassium, manganese, and magnesium and traces of almost every other nutrient that your consumer might need. Gram for gram, spirulina may be the most nutritious food to be found on earth.
Seven grams of spirulina or one tablespoon has been shown to contain 1 gram of fat with both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in an approximately 1.5-1.0 ratio.
Moreover, spirulina's protein quality is commendable and almost comparable to eggs. Spirulina has also been found to contain all the essential amino acids that the body needs.[iv]
The claims that spirulina contains vitamin B12 are false. Arguably, it contains pseudovitamin B12, which isn’t effective for humans.[v] [vi]
What Are the Popular Spirulina Forms?
Spirulina is often available in powdered, capsule, and tablet forms.[vii] Consumers have also shown interest in purchasing spirulina protein powder, owing to its immense benefits.
A standard daily dose of 1-3 grams is recommended, but doses of up to 10 grams a day have been found effective. This may differ based on age and gender. That being said, there isn’t enough scientific data to support spirulina’s recommended dosage, and further research is required to back this up.[viii]
Is Spirulina A Complete Protein?
Yes, spirulina can be called a complete protein as it contains all the nine essential amino acids. This is a rather unique quality found in proteins derived from plants, as most have been found to lack some of the essential amino acids.
Not all proteins are created equal. Proteins are composed of amino acids, and the body consumes 12 such important amino acids. The other 9 are required to be consumed from food. These 9 that need to be consumed from external sources are called “essential” amino acids. Food sources that contain all the 9 essential amino acids are called “perfect” or “complete” protein sources. One of these sources, indeed, is spirulina.
Spirulina has been found to contain several crucial nutrients – but one of its most important benefits is found in its protein content. By weight, spirulina has been shown to contain approximately 60% protein. This makes it a good source of all-important nutrients required by the body for proper functioning.
Moreover, its status as a plant-based protein source makes it an impressive choice for the vegetarian or vegan consumer segment. Spirulina protein supplements can also be an excellent choice for consumers looking to increase their protein intake without consuming more calories in the process.[ix]
What Are the Benefits of Spirulina?
Spirulina is extremely high in several nutrients, including important antioxidants and protein. Here are a few benefits of spirulina:
Impressive Antioxidant Properties
Oxidative damage can be harmful to cells. Spirulina, an impressive source of antioxidants, has been found to help protect against this damage. It also contains an active component called phycocyanin. This component lends spirulina its blue-green color and is mainly responsible for its antioxidant effects.[x] [xi]
Found to Support Healthy Weight Management
A small amount of spirulina powder added to the diet may assist people in healthy weight management without the loss of nutrition. Spirulina is also believed to be a high-nutrient, low-calorie substance with an impressive nutritional profile.[xii]
Shown to Support Healthy Cholesterol Levels
A 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis indicated that consuming spirulina supplements may be linked to a positive influence on blood lipids (fats in the blood). In this study, spirulina was found to help support healthy cholesterol levels already in a normal range. Another 2013 study found similar results after 3 months of use.
Such studies can be linked to spirulina’s capability of promoting healthy cholesterol levels.
May Help Improve Endurance and Muscle Strength
Several plant-based foods have antioxidant properties that help athletes and health-conscious individuals minimize oxidative damage that causes muscle fatigue. Studies have pointed towards spirulina’s effects for nutritionally supporting muscle strength and endurance.
Two studies revealed that spirulina helped enhance endurance and increased the time taken by people to become fatigued.[xiii] [xiv]
Apart from this, spirulina has the potential to help provide relief against allergies, aid healthy blood pressure already in the normal range, and nutritionally support cardiovascular health.[xv] [xvi]
Spirulina Market Trends
The global spirulina market size in 2018 was USD 348 million, and experts predict it will reach USD 779 million by 2026 at a CAGR of 10.5% from 2019 to 2026. Apart from containing a high amount of protein and iron, these little plants contain over 20 other essential nutrients, making it an impressive green superfood with substantial market potential.
There has been a growth in the cyanobacteria demand as it appears to support healthy weight management. Additionally, the increasing number of health and fitness clubs is predicted to boost the spirulina market growth in the future.
Another segment includes the skin and hair care market, where spirulina powders are in demand to help support several treatments associated with anti-aging, grey hair, wrinkles, allergies, etc.
The growing awareness around the health benefits of spirulina as a superfood among customers and the variety of natural colors produced by spirulina are regarded as the major growth drivers of the spirulina market.
NutraScience Labs Capabilities in Manufacturing Spirulina Supplements
Brand owners can tap into the growing potential of the spirulina supplement market by investing in its protein supplements. This includes capsules, powders, and tablets. With 120+ years of supplement contract manufacturing experience, our team of experts can help you create a high-quality spirulina supplement that stands out in the market. Backed by our turnkey services, including award-winning FDA-compliant packaging and labeling, and fulfillment services, we can support your supplement’s journey – from initial concept to finished product! Call us at 855-492-7388 or send us your request to receive a free nutraceutical manufacturing quote today to get started!