The Food With the Highest Protein Content – Presenting Spirulina

By | November 14, 2015


You may have never heard of spirulina but it is a healthy food that has been consumed for centuries. It is one of the most dense nutrient foods known to man with high protein content that puts fish and meats to shame. It also is a complete protein source with all nine essential amino acids. Spirulina has proven beneficial to athletic performance and is eaten regularly by both the Cuban and Chinese Olympic teams.

But What is It?Cyanobactéries_au_barrage_de_Haute-Vilaine

Spirulina is a blue-green algae (cyanobacterium). Yes its an algae. It grows naturally in high-salt alkaline water reservoirs in warm climates. This healthy food was harvested from lake Texcoco by Mesoamericans and Aztecs up until around the 16th century. It was used dried and then made into cakes called “tecuitlatl”. A soldier with the army of the famous Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes even described this Aztecan food in writing. Besides the Americas it has also been harvested in Chad, Africa by natives for hundreds of years, where it is used to make cakes as well as broths for various meals.

Today spirulina products can be bought in the form of powder, tablets, and capsule. Powder spirulina can be used in drink mixes and smoothies.

Well How Much Protein is in Spirulina?

Dried spirulina’s protein content has been reported to range anywhere from 51 – 71% of its total weight. According to the USDA, for every tablespoon (7g) you can expect 4g of protein. That means it is 57.1% protein. Compare this to some foods you may be familiar with:

  • Beef (85% lean)- 85g (3oz) contains only 22g protien = 25.9% protein contentbicep
  • Salmon – 198g (1/2 fillet) contains 40g protein = 20.2 % protein content
  • Chicken – 140g (1 cup) contains 38g protein = 27.1 % protein content

As you can see spirulina’s protein, making up 57.1% of its content, is no match for meats and fish.

And There is More

Besides the protein and its essential amino acids, spirulina is also a great source of vitamin B1 (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), iron, and beta carotene. In fact this super food has 10x the beta carotene concentration of carrots and one tablespoon will provide you with 11% of your daily recommended dose of iron (just one).

Because of its overall health benefits NASA as well as ESA (European Space Agency) recommended spirulina as a food for space missions. Also at the United Nations World Food Conference of 1974 spirulina was declared the best food for the future. Soon after the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition (IIMSAM) launched to promote spirulina to aid malnutrition throughout the world beginning in the 1970’s. Its operations are still ongoing today.

Exercise Research Studiestreadmill

Knowing that the Cuban and Chinese Olympic teams supplement spirulina and believe in its performance benefits, a group of Taiwanese scientists (Hsueh-Kuan Lu , Chin-Cheng Hsieh, Jen-Jung Hsu, Yuh-Kuan Yang, Hong-Nong Chou) set up an experiment to determine whether science would back up these old claims. The purpose was to see whether the supplementation of spirulina would reduce skeletal muscle damage during exercise.

Sixteen students volunteered to be the test subjects of this study, each of whom were given either spirulina or soy protein to supplement. Soy protein was given as a placebo due to its high protein content in order to eliminate psychological factors and inaccurate results. They supplemented 2.5 g of spirulina (or soy protein) 3 times daily for a duration of 3 weeks. Thats a total of 7.5g per day, which is even a rather low dosage. They underwent BRUCE incremental treadmill (used to assess endurance, very intense) exercises which were followed  by  venous blood sample tests 30 minutes post workout.

Results (1)
  • Spirulina group
    • Significant decreases in MDA (metabolite of phospholipid per-oxidation) levels
      • MDA serves as an index for living body oxidative damage
      • caused by increases in SOD, which are anti-oxidation enzymes
    • Significant increases in LA
      and TE (time to exhaustion) levels (after the 3 week supplementation period)
    • Average time to exhaust increased
      • 713 increased to 765 seconds
    • Decreased LDH activity
      • LDH serves as an index for the degree of LA metabolism
        • LA is the lactate concentration
      • decreased LDH means decreased lactate = more muscular endurance
  • Soy protein goup
    • Slight increase in MDA (index for oxidative damege)
      • also showed increase in SOD (anti-oxidation enzymes), however not enough to counteract the oxidation from exercise

The results from this study show that spirulina can increase your muscular endurance. Besides this study, it has also been proven that spirulina can decrease free radicals in the blood (2). Excessive free radical concentrations can increase oxidative injury and muscle fatigue, diminishing physical performance. Spirulina counteracts this.

Dosage

Spirulina can be and is used for many different health reasons. For muscle perfomance it is recommended that you take anywhere from 2 – 7.5 g per day.

Safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted multiple studies on the toxicity of spirulina using mice test subjects. One of which studied the toxicity effects on mice with the ingestion of 10,000mg of spirulina per kg of body weight. The results showed no toxic effect and that is a lot of spirulina. A 10,000mg (10g) per kg of body weight dose for a 200lb person would be about 90g or spirulina.

Buying Spirulinaspirulina

If you are thinking about purchasing this super-food you need to consider what form you want to purchase. It can be bought as a powder, in capsules, or tablets.

It can also be bought with or without added nutrients.

By clicking the link below you can see top rated spirulina products of all forms. One is sure to meet your liking.

 

Click to View Top Rated Spirulina Products

 

 

Don’t forget to comment below.

 

 


Studies:
1) Hsueh-Kuan Lu, Chin-Cheng Hsieh, Jen-Jung Hsu,
Yuh-Kuan Yang, Hong-Nong Chou (2006) Preventive effects of Spirulina platensison skeletal muscle damage under exercise-induced oxidative stress. Eur J Appl Physiol 98:220–226
2)Powers SK, Deruisseau KC, Quindry J, Hamilton KL (2004) Die-
tary anti-oxidants and exercise. J Sports Sci 22:81–94

 

7 thoughts on “The Food With the Highest Protein Content – Presenting Spirulina

  1. Emily

    hi Kyle!
    For a vegetarian who works out like me, spirulina sounds amazing! What a great source of protein! You are right, meat and fish come no where near spirulina! It seems to be used as a supplement right? I mean there is no way to eat this as part of a meal if the meal is not a shake. But I could see using the dry form of spirulina as part of a shake in the morning before or after I work out. Does it have any kind of taste at all?

    Reply
    1. Kyle Post author

      Well natives of Chad, Africa use spirulina in broths and they make it into some sort of small cakes. But normally nowadays it is just supplemented as you said.As for the taste I do not know yet. I actually just ordered some though and will update the post after I try it.

      Reply
  2. Christian

    I had heard of sipriulina before but had forgotten about it. Thanks for writing this. I’m really curious about what the broths taste like, so I’d like to order some in its natural form. I know you mentioned that you could buy it in capsule, tablet or powder form. Is powder the most natural way you can purchase it? I’d imagine the broth is made by simmering the algae, but I’ll have to look into that too. Do you have any idea?

    Reply
    1. Kyle Post author

      Yes you can purchase spirulina powder that is completely raw and natural, no additives or anything. As for making broths, I would have to look more into that.

      Reply
  3. Hristo

    Very well structured article, well done Kyle. It is the first time I hear of this protein. Will definitely include it in my menu now, thank you!

    Reply
  4. Yvonne

    Hi, I remember I took Spirulina tablets many years ago. I don’t really recall if it had any effects on me but one thing I remembered clearly was that it had a ‘fishy’ smell. Lol! Spirulina is a superfood that I would consider as a dietary supplement. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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